When UMF first arrived in Bernardo’s village of Las Peñas and the other villages of La Unión, he saw that we began by asking questions and getting to know the community—the opposite of most outsiders that had come to his village before. Bernardo attended a meeting to hear more about us and found out that we were giving microloans, instrumental to agricultural production, to farmers like him. He filled out a loan application, was approved, and joined a loan group.
He attended weekly meetings of the loan group. At these meetings, he learned better ways to grow his coffee. He learned about why it is important to look at his farm like a business. Although he had been a farmer for his entire life, this was the first time he thought about how much money he was spending or making. More than that, he worked with UMF to develop a five year vision for his life. He decided that the most important thing to him was to protect his family from malnourishment and keep his children in school. He envisions growing high quality, organic coffee as the best way to do this.
Pastor Bernardo always knew he had good coffee but, with no other options, he had sold it at a low price to local intermediaries every harvest. When he learned that we help farmers like him sell coffee to the United States, he gave us a sample, and then sold us 200 pounds of coffee. To his surprise, it was entered in the North Central Regional Barista Competition in Chicago! With a newfound pride, he took special care of the rest of his coffee, knowing that he would be paid more for it. He is looking forward with anticipation to next year’s growing season.
Although Bernardo is only one of 126 coffee, corn, bean, and horticulture farmers that worked with Unión MicroFinanza in 2010, he exemplifies our vision. Through our work, it is our vision to see the people of La Unión grow in prosperity, pride, education and hope. We did not create this vision on our own. It has been developed in partnership with farmers just like Bernardo—listening to their ideas and problems, learning from their lives, and working side by side with them. We believe that providing farmers with the resources they need will put the future in their hands.
In 2011, it is our vision to work with 275 farmers. We aim to increase farmers’ production by distributing 179,000 pounds of fertilizer, hundreds of agricultural tools, 5 coffee solar dryers, and 9 grain silos. We envision a training and quality control center where farmers can learn innovative agricultural methods and we can improve the quality of their harvests through proper processing. And, we will buy 40,000 pounds of coffee above Fair Trade prices, transferring all proceeds back to La Unión.
To learn more about our vision, visit unionmicrofinanza.org/vision.
We are determined to achieve this vision, but we cannot accomplish it on our own. It is our goal to raise $117,000 before April 1, 2012. Phase I of this campaign is to raise $41,000 by June 1, 2011. Please take a minute to look at how you can support our vision and make it become a reality. Together, we can help more farmers like Bernardo improve their lives.