Setting sights, and sails, on international coffee markets

Boosting Women-Led Coffee Producers in Mexico

Large bags of coffee beans from Anepaan O' Deput coffee cooperative
Isabel Camacho is a smallholder coffee producer from Chiapas. Here she holds coffee beans from the cooeprative she leads.

Isabel Camacho is a smallholder coffee producer from the state of Chiapas in Mexico. She leads the coffee production cooperative Anepaan O ' Deput. Credit: Raquel Salgado, Conservation International

Isabel Camacho, 35, is a smallholder coffee producer from Chiapas who uses sustainable agriculture practices. She is one of a number of coffee producers in Mexico who have faced challenges sustaining their businesses; they lack direct connections to coffee roasters so they can get a fair price, and they have difficulty accessing markets to sell their product.

But recently, Isabel and the coffee production cooperative Anepaan O’ Depüt that she leads have reached an important milestone - they have begun to break through barriers to sell their coffee beyond national markets.

So how did this come about?

USAID partnered with a consortium led by Conservation International on a project in rural parts of Oaxaca, the Yucatan Peninsula, and Chiapas to develop sustainable and inclusive value chains that help small farmers integrate into markets that value good stewardship of the environment. Working with organizations such as Anepaan O’ Depüt, this project has created commercial linkages between producers and buyers.


Isabel Camacho inspects the coffee beans from the Anepaan O' Deput coffee cooperative.
Members of the Anepaan O'Deput coffee cooperative standing in a coffee farm. The cooperative encourages members to conserve the area's diverse species alongside growing their coffee. Anepaan O'Deput's coffee production is certified organic with the CPO Mex, USDA Organic, Organic EU, and Fair Trade certifications.

The Anepaan O'Deput cooperative brings together 12 communities in 4 municipalities located within La Reserva Del Triunfo biodiversity hotspot, making it an ideal area for growing coffee. The cooperative encourages members to conserve the area's diverse species alongside growing their coffee. Anepaan O'Deput's coffee production is certified organic with the CPO Mex, USDA Organic, Organic EU, and Fair Trade certifications. Credit: Raquel Salgado, Conservation International

Working directly with partners who will provide value to coffee producers, such as coffee roasters or coffee importers, rather than through brokers is important for producers in the field  like Anepaan O’ Depüt, as they get to keep a higher percentage of the revenue. 

Some of the project's work with Aneepan O’ Depüt was strengthening the group’s marketing skills. The project was making sure the cooperative was ready for the type of larger scale partnerships it could facilitate.

As a result of this technical assistance, and due to their coffee's great quality and taste, Anepaan O’ Depüt successfully signed an agreement with Grain de Sail, an environmentally conscious French coffee roasting company. 

“This opens the door to another market, a market of clients who have an interest in buying directly from producers, who appreciate differentials, aligned with what we are preserving and promoting. Usually, this gets lost within the market chain. Therefore, this impact does not reach producers in the rural areas”, Isabel said. This deal with Grain de Sail will benefit 413 producers in Chiapas, 152 of which are women, working to conserve 932 hectares.

Anepaan O’ Depüt was able to close this deal through a contract mechanism called contract farming, which provides reassurance for both producers and buyers, because the risk is a shared one. Contract Farming changes how business is done because it transfers the risk from producers only to a shared one with the buyer. Buyers who are willing to share the risk with producers are essential to promote climate-resilient economic growth.  

Javier Sanchez, minkadev’s Emerging Business Lead who handled this deal through the project commented, “This contract farming deal means trusting the cooperative and trusting the project. The project provides support to the cooperatives, so that buyers realize the cooperative is not alone. As everyone’s fear is breach of contract, when they see us backing them up, they see there is someone accompanying them until the relationship is strengthened. What we are attempting is for them to start a relationship amongst themselves, then we nurture the relationship, and they can eventually continue without our support.”

For her part, Isabel is excited about this opportunity. And the cherry on top is that this shipment of coffee through Grain de Sail–traveling by sailboat vs. container ship–will be net-zero. 

Graphic showing that a container ship carrying coffee emits 2,700 grams of carbon dioxide, whereas a sailboat carrying the same amount of coffee beans only emits 112.2 grams of carbon dioxide. This is a 95.85% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

About this Story

This USAID-funded project, called Sustainable Landscapes Ventures, includes a consortium led by Conservation International with partners such as minkadev, El Buen Socio, and SVXMX, to name a few. The project innovates on what it means to produce while preserving nature, through development of sustainable, inclusive, and scalable value chains that are market driven and investor ready. The project aims to capture more than 1.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and conserve 27,000 hectares under improved or sustainable practices that mitigate deforestation, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and make the land more sustainable. To learn more, watch this video or visit this website.


About the Author

Andrea Valdés works in Conservation International Mexico as the Communications Coordinator of the USAID’s Funded Sustainable Landscapes Ventures Activity. Edited by Hope Burk, Senior Coordinator, Grants Management, Conservation International; Oscar Agusil, Development Outreach and Communications Lead, USAID Mexico; and Jessica Hartl, Senior Communications Advisor, USAID