Maintaining close relationships with our partners at origin is a priority for us, along with recognizing the achievements and success of our partner co-ops. One such co-op is CAC Pangoa, in Peru.
CAC Pangoa is a well-established farmer-run co-operative, situated in the rugged and remote mountains on the edge of the Peruvian Amazon Basin. Originally formed in 1977 with just 50 members, the co-operative is now 800 members strong, 200 of which are certified organic. In addition to coffee farming, the CAC Pangoa is unique in that they also produce organic cocoa and honey in the lower elevations of the Basin. Since its formation, the co-op has seen its fair share of ups and downs, but it has come a long way under the leadership of its General Manager, Esperanza Dionisio Castillo.
Esperanza visited Vancouver a few years back, and we were able to connect with her in person and learn more about her background. When I asked her what her proudest achievements as General Manager of the cooperative were, she first mentioned her pride in having formed a strong governance structure within the co-op, which facilitates clear responsibilities, creates accountability, nurtures democratic decision-making and, ultimately, has helped her achieve another important goal—gaining the trust of the producers.
When Esperanza became manager in 2001, they were tens of thousands of dollars in debt, there were various conflicts within the co-op and they had no idea how to find clients to sell their newly-acquired fair trade certified coffee to. Ten years later, they are fiscally solvent, have formed a strong administrative team, have diversified their products to include honey and cocoa.
The co-op is involved in the lives of its members beyond the purchasing and selling of their coffee. From promoting education to gender equality to a better quality of life, Pangoa provides an exemplary model of fair trade. The Women’s Development Committee (Comite de Desarrollo de la Mujer) works to benefit the female members, wives, and daughters The committee is an integral part of the cooperative and strengthen it by forming new leaders and members with a new vision of development that supports its female members.
We’re inspired by Esperanza’s drive and leadership skills, and are grateful for the hard work that she and the CAC Pangoa members bring to their coffee everyday.