SOPPEXCCA: Empowering Women Coffee Farmers in Nicaragua
SOPPEXCCA is a Fair Trade and organic-certified coffee cooperative located in the jungles of Jinotega, Nicaragua, where 65% of the nation’s coffee is grown. This business is known for its emphasis on gender inclusion and the empowerment of women farmers—40 percent of its members are women.
Helping Women Achieve Independence
SOPPEXCCA is a well-recognized name in the Nicaraguan coffee industry. Run by a charismatic woman, general manager Fátima Ismael, the organization has played an important role in helping affiliated female farmers gain titles to land and to produce, manage, and market their own coffee.
“A woman’s independence can only be achieved through economic autonomy and awareness,” says Fatima. “Credit is essential in order to survive.”
To that end, SOPPEXCCA produces Las Hermanas coffee, a Fair Trade-certified brand supplied by women producers. Profits from sales of Las Hermanas coffee are invested in prevention programs for cervical cancer, directly benefiting women in the cooperative and their families. “Through SOPPEXCCA, many of us have benefited and our lives have changed,” says cooperative member Adelila Lumbí Hernández.
Ana María González Narváez is a member of the Cooperativa Julio Hernández, another cooperative that supplies coffee beans to SOPPEXCCA.
Before she was involved with SOPPEXCCA, she says, “I was very humble. I didn’t want anyone to ask my opinion. Now, I dare anyone to try and stop me!”
Ana María stands on the land where she plans to build a new house with financing from a three-year loan from SOPPEXCCA. Previous long-term loans from SOPPEXCCA enabled her to buy cattle, sheep, and additional land.
“The challenge is to continue to raise women’s awareness,” says Norma Gadea Paiva, a member of SOPPEXCCA. Before joining the cooperative, Norma rarely left her house. Now she has benefited from trainings and workshops in her community and has opportunities to play a leadership role. “When women are not organized,” she says, “it’s easy to get forgotten. It’s nice to have a place where I have a voice."
Investing in the Next Generation
As part of its emphasis on members’ wellbeing, the organization finances scholarship programs for members’ children and also organizes music and art classes. In order for a cooperative to belong to SOPPEXCCA, 100 percent of its members’ children must finish primary school. SOPPEXCCA has constructed three rural schools, and has established and managed a music school in two communities. The business also works toward strengthening the financial health of its producer members through social projects, including farm renovation.
María Elia Castillo Román, a cooperative member, has four sons and one daughter. Her daughter recently received an educational scholarship from SOPPEXCCA, and María Elia herself has benefited from the cooperative’s education programs by receiving health training. She has volunteered for three years as a health promoter in local communities to raise awareness of women’s health issues. "If I can be of service, I serve."