The Las Lajas agricultural cooperative near Sonsonate, El Salvador produces coffee and dairy products. It provides employment for 3,000 people in three villages. Enviro-Stewards is helping the cooperative to design and implement sustainable development practices.
Environmentally Sustainable Development:
- Feeding pulp and husks from the coffee fruit to the dairy cows to reduce wastewater loads and increase milk production,
- Composting cow manure and wastewater treatment solids to generate soil for the coffee plants,
- Use of shade trees increase coffee quality, provide secondary crops, and reduce pesticide usage (due to bird habitats), and
- Reuse of pretreated wastewater to irrigate crops.
Following the Mission of Mercy, the co-operative established a humanitarian organization called Masada. This organization served as the delivery agent and provided resources for the Mission of Hope 2002. Other social initiatives under development include:
- Providing good wages,
- Providing community resources (agricultural fields, tools, libraries),
- Equipping schools with computers and staffing medical clinics,
- A preschool nutritional program and a youth soccer league,
- Loans to start home businesses, and
- Safe and clean water, air and soil.
The above-described environmental and social measures must be economically sustainable. The world price of coffee has decreased from over $2.6US/lb in June 1997 to less than $0.45US/lb today (due to a surplus of factory farmed (non-shaded) coffee). This price is lower than the production cost of shade grown coffee.
In order to be economically sustainable, the co-op will need to market a higher priced coffee based on superior quality (arabica beans, wet processed, shade grown, less pesticides & fertilizer), their environmental sustainable production practices, and their allocation of a portion of sales to social sustainability initiatives.
They will also need to diversify their agricultural products and develop markets for other products such as their carved furniture (see right).