Seminar Series: V. Ernesto Mendez

V. Ernesto Mendez of the University of Vermont will present "Environmental Conservation in Smallholder Coffee Cooperatives of Mesoamerica:  Challenges and Opportunities."

This presentation will draw on 13 years of participatory research on agroecology and environmental conservation with smallholder coffee farmers of Mesoamerica. More specifically, it will analyze the challenges and opportunities that smallholder coffee farmer cooperatives face when assessing their role as 'conservation actors'. Cooperatives face a series of challenges related to governance and their goals as organizations. One important factor relates to cooperatives assuming an identity and responsibility as a commercialization agent for their members. This initial goal was embraced by most cooperative leaders and members in the 1990s, and focused mainly on securing better markets and market conditions for its members. However, cooperatives have evolved into multifaceted organizations that also manage international and national rural development and conservation funds and projects. In addition, some may manage communal or collective landholdings that could have high conservation value. Environmental conservation has been gaining increasing importance in many coffee farming landscapes of Mesoamerica, as governments and environmental organizations assess the value of shade coffee for conservation goals. In addition, coffee farmers face new environmental challenges, such as growing coffee and food in a changing climate. The presentation discusses evidence of promising initiatives related to biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation in coffee cooperatives of Mesoamerica, as well as the challenges that they face in becoming more efficient conservation agents.