Community Agroecology Network (CAN)’s week of events features Darling Betsabe Campos Rayo of Nicaragua
If you’re part of the 54 percent of the American population that drinks coffee, it’s likely you had a cup this morning. But how likely is it that you also pondered about the hands that produced your cup of coffee, and questioned how it came to end up in your hands?
Community Agroecology Network (CAN) is a Santa Cruz-based organization that encourages consumers not only to ask these questions, but also to answer them. They collaborate with small coffee farmers in Central American communities to research methods to grow sustainable coffee and create an alternative and more direct market in which producers receive a fairer share of the profits. To help jumpstart the dialogue between coffee consumers and coffee producers, CAN will be hosting a series of events this week, May 10 through 14, featuring Darling Betsabe Campos Rayo from their partner community in Matagalpa Nicaragua.
Rayo grew up in the advent of the 1985 Nicaraguan agrarian reform, in which land was redistributed to the landless to form cooperatives. The reform held people together in a time of political instability, national violence, and mass poverty. Rayo’s mother, an organic coffee producer and a member of a coffee cooperative, single-handedly raised Rayo and her seven brothers and sisters after their father died in war when Rayo was eight.
Then, in the late ’90s, the coffee crisis struck. The price of coffee dropped so unprecedentedly low that small coffee farmers throughout Central America, who had traditionally been able to support their families, were forced to abandon their farms and migrate. Rayo realized then that the system had to be changed. In Nicaragua, she says, many people believe that “los sindicatos hacen fuerza.” Unions make force.
Now 21 years old, Rayo is a leader of one of the 21 unions of coffee cooperatives of UCA San Ramon, to which 1,080 members belong. With the money and benefits they receive from selling their coffee to CAN, UCA San Ramon is able to create various programs that benefit the community.
To further discuss UCA San Ramon, their work and their partnership with CAN, Rayo will be at the Fair Trade Market Place Monday, May 10 in the Bay Tree Quarry from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.. Afterwards, there will be the Education for Sustainable Living Program (ESLP) Food Systems Night at 7 p.m. in Classroom Unit Two. On Tuesday, May 11, Rayo will be available for a one-on-one talk from noon. to 3 p.m. in building A2 of The Lower Quarry. Later that night, she will also be attending the FoCAN student meeting, which meets every Tuesday night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in building A3 of the Sustainable Living Center in the Lower Quarry. And on Wednesday, May 12, Rayo will be appearing at the Downtown Farmers’ Market from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
CAN Program Director Katie Boone says that while many Santa Cruz residents understand the injustices of the world in abstract terms of data, statistics, and charts, that isn’t enough. “In a time when walls are being built to keep other people out, having a network that builds bridges with communities in different countries is so important and enriches our lives here in Santa Cruz,” she says. CAN hopes the community will participate in the week’s events, all aimed at bridging this gap.