El Salvador is one of the countries with fewer COVID-19 cases in Latin America and the Caribbean. The government decreed prevention measures early and the population has been in quarantine for more than a month.
The Fairtrade certified organizations stopped their operations to comply with the prevention measures established by the government. To help their associates, some have provided food suppliers or financial support to deal with the emergency caused by the pandemic.
ATAISI and El Sunza cooperatives have provided food supplies to their associates, more than 500 people between the two organizations, using funds from the Fairtrade premium, obtained from sales of Fairtrade coffee and sugar.
“We are very grateful to God and Fairtrade for giving these associates these foods and also for the sales of sugar that they have had as Fairtrade, so we thank all the people who are in this because we don´t have to go out to streets and contaminate ourselves with coronavirus,” said Nelson Alonzo Raimundo, in charge of the San Isidro area of ATAISI, upon receiving his food supply.
The cooperative had programmed to give food supplies in June, but it was brought forward to provide support to the 324 members, retirees, and workers of ATAISI, explained Josué Mira, purchasing manager of the organization.
Ernesto Mestizo, manager of ATAISI said that “as a cooperative, we had to take new options, we had to emphasize and point out that we, thank God, have a little fund from the Fairtrade premium from the sale of sugarcane in 2019 and we had to take those funds to be able to give food supplies to associates and retirees. ”
El Sunza had scheduled three food deliveries during 2020 for its 219 associates and workers, said Máximo Armas, manager of the cooperative. And they decided to give the first one out during this time of quarantine.
Meanwhile, the Los Pinos Cooperative Association for Agricultural Production (ACOPALP) has provided financial support to its members who have not received wages as a result of the emergency. In keeping with the principle of solidarity, financial support was provided to partners who did not receive the $300 subsidy from the government.
The Las Colinas cooperative is also paying the salary to its members over 60 years old. Furthermore, the Los Pinos cooperative has a program through which it provides retirement pensions to 25 associates over 60 years of age who have worked all their lives in the cooperative, which are paid with the Fairtrade premium funds. This initiative launched three years ago, made it possible to protect one of the most vulnerable groups to the coronavirus, older adults, since they already have social protection during the pandemic.
“If it had not been for that feasibility that Fairtrade international gave for the use of the premium we would have a very complicated situation at Los Pinos, because we had to stop tourism, and in the last four years tourism has highly leveraged the cooperative in its operation,” said Rigoberto Rojas, president of the Salvadoran Coordinating Association of Small Organized Producers (CESPPO) and tourism coordinator of the Los Pinos cooperative.
Cooperatives have also reinforced measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. ATAISI has supported the establishment of a sanitary cord, which consists of a handwashing station and a tunnel to sanitize passers-by and vehicles entering the town of San Isidro and Colonia Llano Grande, communities where the cooperative operates. Meanwhile, El Sunza has donated sanitary equipment, masks, alcohol gel to the medical dispensary established by the cooperative.
All cooperatives certified Fairtrade in El Salvador had already finished the coffee and sugar harvests, and some are working on preparing coffee shipments to Europe and the United States with reduced staff. The main challenge they now face is obtaining credits to continue operations once the quarantine is lifted.
Rojas explained that the quarantine began at the time that the cooperatives were applying for loans with state banks, a process that generally takes several months to complete, and that is necessary to supply liquidity into the organizations. These efforts have been delayed due to the closure of the state banking entities.
The president of CESPPO highlighted the importance of belonging to Fair Trade in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic since it has allowed the Salvadoran cooperatives to help their members and to strengthen prevention measures in their communities.
“For us, belonging to Fairtrade International and Fair Trade gives us hope to help our organizations and to see how we recover once we restart our activities,” said Rojas.
“I want to ask our buyers abroad and consumers to continue buying coffee from our Fairtrade organizations and to help us with any contribution they can make to continue to give sustainability to our organizations, on the environmental, social, and economic issues,” he added.