Founded in 1997 by four women and fifteen men, RAOS is now a group of 200 members - 144 men and 56 women. Participation of women in leadership positions is seen as critical. During the 2010-2011 coffee season Just Us! received RAOS beans from 15 farmers– 14 of which were women farmers.
“Co-operatives function as economic and social systems, based on meeting the needs of the community. The union of the members in solidarity achieves greater strength, a just sharing of profits, and the support of people facing common problems.”
— Miriam Elizabeth Pérez, Manager, RAOS
Coffee is becoming an important element of local economies in Honduras, more than 100,000 people and 237,000 hectares of coffee is grown in 15 of the 18 departments of the country. The industry generates one million direct and indirect jobs and contributes about 14% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The coffee is great and we’re able to work with a co-operative that shares our passion for excellence. RAOS is now sharing its expertise in growing high quality coffee with other coffee producers in the region. Quality is not RAOS’ only strength. This co-operative has pioneered organic farming, overcoming doubt and lack of information to unite their producers in the commitment to organic, sustainable production for all communities, the region, and the country.
Most RAOS members farm on extremely steep terrain. Shade trees, including fruit and native forest species, are used to improve biodiversity and promote soil conservation. An interesting fact is that the Lenca are one of the largest and most organized of the indigenous people in Honduras. Many of the RAOS farmers are Lencan. These people often live in remote mountainous areas that lack services such as running water, roads or transportation. Although the Lenca have not retained their language, they are working to retain their cultural heritage. Fair Trade coffee is a key component to their cultural, economic, and social future.
Access to fair trade and organic production has become a project of life for the men and women of the cooperative RAOS, strengthening the practices, knowledge and maximizing the benefits of the cooperative. .
Name: Regional Co-operative of Mixed Organic Agriculture of the Mountains (RAOS)
Date Established: 1997
Members: 200 members (24% women)
Agricultural assistance for farmers
Women’s development organization which addresses social issues including domestic violence, the abuse of women and gender equity