Follow us back to 2019. COOSEMPODA, a Nicaraguan cooperative, produced about 80% of the cabbage sold in Nicaraguan markets. They dreamt of increasing their crop offer. Yet, they couldn’t afford to invest in washing facilities needed to clean other produce. As a result, they had no option but to sell their other produce to intermediaries, instead of bringing it directly to the market themselves.
Rikolto has been working with COOSEMPODA since 2016, to increase their profitability and sustainability by considering the wellbeing of their members, the community, and the environment.
Follow-up SCOPE assessments in 2019 showed an increase in professionalism scores. The cooperative was ready to grow, but access to finance was a major blocker. This was Rikolto’s sign to facilitate a connection with Belgian social impact organisation Kampani. Coosempoda applied for the funding by presenting a solid investment plan backed by the results of the Scope assessments and the experience of working with various actors in the Nicaraguan and Central American horticulture sector and… Enter Kampani, with a long-term loan of USD 215,000.
Kampani’s loan to COOSEMPODA would help the cooperative to make the type of investments that they could not do in the short run: a new washing facility, a seedling production facility and a refrigerated vehicle. Yet, it was 2020.
Operationalising the loan was challenging to say the least: the pandemic significantly slowed down life, prices of agricultural inputs increased by up to 30%, importing a new washing and drying machine took much longer than expected, and Eta and Iota, two category 5 and 6 hurricanes, hit Nicaragua a week apart, causing the loss of production of several food products.
Fast forward to 2023. Meanwhile, COOSEMPODA has acquired a new washing facility, allowing them to process, besides cabbage, also roots, tubers and lettuce. With some delay, they also acquired a refrigerated truck to transport produce requiring refrigeration directly to supermarkets in Managua.
The cooperative has also been able to invest in the construction of mesh houses for the commercial production of tomatoes and peppers, and in greenhouses for the production of seedlings to increase quantity and quality. This has been quite profitable: in April 2023, some 300,000 seedlings were distributed to farmers, both members and non-members of the cooperative.
Thanks to these changes, COOSEMPODA has been able not only to sell its members’ products at a premium price but also to enhance the quality of the marketing and financial services it provides to members and non-members alike. This translates into increases in its membership: the cooperative now has 102 active members, of which 14 women.
And the cooperative continues to demonstrate its ambition: in addition to producing high-quality vegetables for the local market, COOSEMPODA members produce coffee as well and were successful in selling four containers of coffee to the US in 2022.
“When agricultural enterprises have access to the right type of capital for growth, they can generate significant and lasting benefits for the communities they serve, and this is clearly the case with Coosempoda.” Kampani Annual Report, 2022
The progress made has significantly benefited not only the farmers who are members of COOSEMPODA, but also their larger community. As COOSEMPODA’s business is growing stronger, they have started strengthening community ties by donating to schools, sports facilities and churches. Besides financial targets, Kampani has also set social targets for the cooperative, which include an increase in female and youth participation and a continuation of current efforts to promote environmental health, amongst others through recycling efforts.
As part of our Good Food for Cities programme, Rikolto continues to support COOSEMPODA on its growth path. This support is structured around three strategic pillars that guide Rikolto’s work: sustainable production, inclusive markets and enabling environment. In 2022, we worked with COOSEMPODA members to set up 3 model coffee farms that showcase the principles behind agroforestry systems and good agricultural practices. We also continue to support the implementation of good agricultural practices in vegetable production, amongst others by working on the importance of collecting empty pesticide and fertiliser containers, which risk to contaminate the nearby Lake Apanás. In 2022, COOSEMPODA collected a total of 671.5 kg of containers from its members.