More than just quality coffee in Nicaragua
Warren Armstrong, Aldea Global
In the mountainous regions of northern Nicaragua, a not for profit association is working with 1,457 small scale farmers to produce Fairtrade and organic coffee. Asociación "Aldea Global", in Jinotega, produces coffee for export, as well as fresh produce for national markets.
The organization also provides its members with micro-loans, technical assistance and value-added commercialisation services. We recently spoke with Aldea Global’s general manager, Warren E. Armstrong, an American national living in Nicaragua since 1985, who joined Aldea Global in 2000.
What makes Nicaraguan coffee different from say, Costa Rican or Brazilian coffee?
“I don’t think many people are aware that coffee has actually been grown in Nicaragua for more than 150 years. Jinotega produces 60% of the nation’s coffee. Coffees from countries like Brazil and Costa Rica are more well-known as they are very well branded.
In 2002, two small farmers from Aldea Global actually won Nicaragua’s first Cup of Excellence award, which has contributed to Nicaraguan coffee being more widely recognised as quality coffee. It’s also used in a lot of different blends, which consumers often don’t realize.”
What makes Aldea Global different from other coffee producers in Nicaragua?
“The organization is made up of over 1,400 farming families, around half of which farm coffee and the other half vegetables and other consumables. But I think what really makes us unique is our credit facilities. We provide our members with timely working capital to start or grow their rural businesses. Our goal is to ensure quality and increased productivity on small farms, so loans are adapted according to individual farmers' investment plans, payment capacity and willingness to pay.”
What is Aldea Global’s relationship with its farmers?
“Farmers join our organization looking not only for credit, but also for somewhere to sell and market their products. Members also want to feel included: they want to be part of a transparent process and that’s what we provide. Aldea Global also tries to contribute to poverty reduction of our farming members through financial training, credit management, as well as community organization and gender equity.
We want members to feel supported, so we provide small scholarships for members’ children to study beyond high school, as well as a medical emergency fund for families. Aldea Global also promotes small initiatives like portable water filters for member’s homes, and even uniforms for a local baseball team.”
What services does Aldea Global offer women?
“Gender equity is one of the core values of the organization. We recently changed our by-laws so that at least 40% of our general assembly consists of women. We also provide training for women’s small enterprises, so that women can earn their own income.
In Nicaragua, around 85% of land titles are in the names of men, so Aldea Global provides funds to assist women in legalizing property in their own name or jointly with their partner. Our institutional gender equity policies make our business model more sustainable. ”
Aldea Global has been a partner of Oikocredit since 2007 and is recognised for its positive social outreach, scoring 91/100 in Oikocredit’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) scorecard evaluation. It has established strategic alliances with coffee importers in the US and Europe and is a well-recognized organization in the coffee market.