COAGRICSAL, an UTZ certified cooperative of over 2,000 coffee and cocoa farmers in northwest Honduras, has taken a particularly active approach to tackling the issue of child labor in their communities. Showing how farmer groups can invest their time and resources in more than just good agricultural practices, they are setting an example for what farmer groups can achieve within a community, and a country. Roberto Lopez (32), sustainability manager at COAGRICSAL, shares more about their forward-thinking approach with us.
“Child labor is an issue not just in Honduras, but around the world. I’ve seen first-hand how many coffee farmers use their kids to increase their household income, sending them to work as pickers during harvest time,” says Roberto Lopez. “We realize that the problem is not just the farmer, but the community itself as a result of poor economic conditions.”
To change this reality in communities, not only where their coop members are located, but all over Honduras, COAGRICSAL has taken it upon themselves to raise awareness and campaign against child labor across the country. In addition to their work implementing sustainable farming practices and certification requirements, including banning child labor on their farms, they also publish TV and radio ads about the benefits of children going to school, give talks, distribute leaflets and host events in local communities. Furthermore the cooperative provides children with school supplies, such as backpacks and students with scholarships so they can study and COAGRICSAL has built classrooms around the country.
“We tell the producer: ‘If your child has access to good education, your farm will be more profitable in the future.”
COAGRICSAL funds these initiatives through the premiums they receive for their certified coffee and cocoa, with specific funds they manage to get from time-to-time from their partners and buyers as well as through donations. Careful never to overspend, they plan their activities purely on the amount of funds they have available at any given time.
And what are the results Roberto Lopez is hoping for?
“We already see that more kids are going to school and new generations are becoming interested in developing more sustainable practices and technological advancements for coffee farming,” says Roberto.
But for Roberto, the real impact comes through on the happy faces of every farmer, child and person in a community that benefits from their work.
As he sees it: “We don’t just produce coffee and cocoa but also the hopes and dreams of our farmers.”
Read more about COAGRICSAL and watch the video about how the cooperative works on fighting child labor (2 mins):