De la Gente

De la Gente: Economic opportunity for small-scale coffee farmers

Framingham, United StatesCiudad Vieja, Guatemala
Year Founded:
2014
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Established
Budget: 
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

De la Gente sells high quality coffee from cooperatives of small-holding farmers directly to buyers and consumers. We deliver a great product with a compelling story, and provide market access and higher income that provide farmers and their communities with a way out of poverty.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

...smallholder farmers could lift their families and communities out of poverty through coffee?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Small-holding coffee farmers produce some of the world's best coffee, and yet most of Guatemala's small-scale farmers live in poverty. Most farmers sell off the raw harvest of their coffee fruit to local intermediaries, at times earning less than their production costs. Despite the quality and value of their coffee, tens of thousands of small producers in Guatemala are excluded from the wealth the coffee industry generates and remain poor.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

De la Gente enables farmers to benefit from the value of their high quality product by delivering this coffee to customers in the context of a business model that is self-sustaining. We have created an integrated supply chain that stretches all the way from the farm to the end buyer or consumer. We import, market and distribute coffee from our partner cooperatives throughout North and Central America. Because we are selling a value-added product direct to those purchasing, we generate much better value and can pass that on to our farmers, who earn 50-250% more for their coffee compared to their next best option. We make it simple for coffee drinkers and roastersto enjoy great coffee while improving the lives of those who produce it
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Timoteo is member of his local coffee cooperative. He harvests 2,000 lbs of coffee each year, but without access to markets or consumers, he has to sell to the local intermediary, who pays a paltry $1.20 per pound. With his $2,400 in earning, he finds it impossible to cover his costs and provide for his family of 7. When his cooperative starts working with DLG and gains access to our markets, Timoteo’s coffee ends up in the hands of specialty roasters and consumers abroad. Timoteo is now able to earn $3.50 per pound, which gives him $7,000 to grow his coffee and support family. He can now send his daughters to school, provide for basic family needs, and continue to invest in his coffee production. *A true story

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Quantitative: • Sourcing from 5 cooperatives representing 350 total farmers, 1,300 indirect beneficiaries including family members. • In 2015, sales of 65,000 lbs of coffee for over $240,000 in revenue • In coffee sorting season, employment for over 500 women each harvest season. • Due to income for local people, ripple effect economically, $3 in local spending. • Each farmer on average 2 other jobs for people who they hire to harvest, sort. Qualitatively: A palpable increase in motivation and sense of empowerment. At this year’s annual gathering of cooperative representatives, all spoke of their new-found hope for the future, and belief that the progress achieved thus far proves there are real possibilities for the future. In the future we aim to continue expanding to provide more income to more farmers.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We believe that our model can be scaled up and are working toward significant growth to expand our impact. We dream of involving cooperatives from all around Guatemala, and distributing coffee throughout the coffee-consuming world. We envision that in 5-10 years, we will be a multi-million dollar organization that provides income for thousands of farmers and tens of thousands of family members across Guatemala. To do so, we are aggressively pursuing new market opportunities and developing our customer base, as we work with cooperatives to ensure production quality and quantity.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

De la Gente's operating costs are covered by program revenue from our coffee business and community tourism program. Our long-term plan for financial sustainability is for all of our overhead to continue to be covered this way. Support from individuals and institution is directly exclusively to our cooperative assistance programs (training, financing, professional development).

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Most approaches to improving incomes for coffee producers have gone for either scale or impact, one at the exclusion of the other. Fair Trade certification has existed for more than a decade, but the consensus among cooperatives is that it provides only marginally improved prices. Some companies buy direct from cooperatives, but that tends to be one-off and not replicable. De la Gente's precise approach aims to be flexible but powerful, making it so that any customer or roaster can buy from us as easy as they would from a conventional company, but with unconventional impact.
Team

Founding Story

Small-holding coffee farmers possess a dedication to their work and pride in producing high quality product that rivals that of any craftsperson. After spending time with cooperatives and their members in Guatemala, we realized that we could turn that passion into a source of economic progress. And once we heard the enthusiastic reception from coffee drinkers and farmers alike, we knew we'd hit on sometime powerful. Since then we've been working hard in turning that dream into reality.

Team

Our team is a diverse group of highly motivated people with experience in their respective fields (coffee, tourism, marketing, fundraising, finance) and dedication to getting the job done. We currently have 7 full-time staff, plus part time staff for and contractors specific projects. We foster a collaborative culture that emphasizes teamwork and respect alongside efficiency and effectiveness. We will continue to grow the team to meet new needs. Detailed bios can be found at dlgcoffee.org/who-we-are/. Our team members come from 4 different countries, and have a mix of experience, from the corporate, government, and non-profit sectors. We spend a lot of our time working directly with our producer partners as well as our clients, as well as coming up with new ideas on how we can creatively address the issues we work on. We plan to continue to grow the team as we expand.
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Email

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Executive Director

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Responsible Consumption and Production.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.
Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

We have consulted closely with established leaders in the coffee industry and other industries to provide guidance and support. These include (but are not limited to) Les Stoneham (Deeper Roots Coffee), Rob Hoos (Nossa Familia Coffee), Mike Lueder (University of Wisconsin Oshkosh), and Bob Halagan (Halagan Law), not to mention all of our clients and funders.