Posted by Runa Juhanisdotter
This year’s ReThink Festival, on July 1 in Prinzessinnengärten, will be in dynamic collaboration with COMSA (Café Orgánico Marcala S.A., Honduras) and the themes will be coffee and education.
On June 25, eleven representatives from COMSA Fairtrade Coffee Co-op and International School arrive and will be our guests in Berlin. You will have the opportunity to meet them in person, hear their inspiring story, learn about their philosophy and successful methods, and enjoy their exquisite coffee. After Berlin, we will travel on to Hamburg, Veilje (Denmark) and Gothenburg plus Borås (Sweden).
In February, Ela Roth, Angelica Vehmas and I went over to meet with Brian Olson – our ReThink team member and director of the film ‘La Finca Humana’ – and some very special coffee farmers and teachers. It was amazing to step right into the film and talk to all the people in real life and see all the places with our own eyes.
The trip was mindblowing! In the heart of a country rich of natural resources and breathtaking landscapes, but brutally ravaged by corruption, gang violence and poverty, grows a solid, peaceful movements for change. Our friends at COMSA run a very impressive operation and are determined to plant a new society in Honduras. The scale of the operation, their history, the work behind it and the vision are very impressive and we are excited to be able to host COMSA at the ReThink Festival and share La Finca Humana with you.
Meanwhile here’s an introduction…
”It all started with an idea, a big vision and four determined farmers getting together to talk in a garage.”
The garage-meetings led to the foundation of COMSA in 2001. A constellation of 60 farmers (12 women and 48 men,) with the mission to empower small farmers in the La Paz region, to earn a dependable income through sound business and sustainable agricultural practices. Today 1200 members are registered.
It happend as a reaction to the impossible conditions and a doubt towards conventional, chemical farming. At that time coffee was sold to local middle-hands, often at prices that did not even cover the farmers production costs. One of the primary founding objectives of COMSA was to seek out and promote new ways of thinking – both in production, moving from conventional to organic production; and in markets, moving from commercial to specialty buyers.
The transition from conventional to organic farming, as well as moving from commercial to specialty buyers, was hard for some farmers and many of the initial members dropped out of the cooperative. COMSA came to understand that they would need to recover the life in the soils that they had previoulsy been killing with toxic pesticides and fertilizers, before they could expect improvements in organic production, and began experimenting with micro-organisms.
Successes with micro-organisms encouraged the members to be more open to innovative organic practices, and led to the application of micro-organisms in compost, exploring the use of minerals, and the production of fermented live molecules.
Organic farming is at the heart of COMSA’s core values, consistent with their holistic vision:
“To be a competitive company, viable and known for quality coffee, managed with total transparency, gender equality and harmony with nature contributing to the improvement of living conditions of our members and their families.”
The heart and brain of the operation is the demonstration farm Finca La Fortaleza. It is a living, breathing model of how a coffee farmer can create closed loop systems to fully sustain their families through agriculture.
On the large, beautiful property there is coffee thriving under the shade of fruit trees, a coffee plant nursery, a fish pond, an animal farm, vegetable garden and green house, a facility for producing fertilizers and a chromatography lab to create organic fungicides and pesticides. Local farmers can bring in soil samples for analysis, and learn exactly what inputs their land needs to be optimally productive. There is an office, a hostel, a self-sustained restaurant and a lecture room where COMSA technicians educates farmers and school teachers from all over Latin America.
COMSA also runs their own bank and a store located in the town of Marcala. The store provides the COMSA community with a place to sell coffee, produce, warm lunches, treats, craft and various organic compost materials. They operate their own wet mill – where the coffee beans are separated from the cherries, washed and dried on flatbeds – a dry mill – where beans are dried mechanically – and a roastery and cupping facility – where the coffees are tested and scored. But their mission goes way beyond running a self-sustainable coffee cooperative and producting excellent coffee. It’s a movement.
The movement is rooted in the philosophy of Elías Sanchez La Finca Humana (The Human Farm) that advocates a shift in how we use our brains, and how we raise and educate our children. In order to plant a new society, we humans need to start observing, reflecting and thinking for ourselves. Not blindly repeating and copying. We need to learn how to collaborate and share instead of competing, and to avoid getting stuck in negative patterns and think positively and forward.
COMSA talks about the necessary 5 M’s – the organic Matter, Micro-organisms, Minerals, fermented live Molecules and the gray Matter – the human brain. This is where the changes needed are located. This is why they speak of organic agriculture as The Human Farm.
Firstly, COMSA wants to achieve changes in the producer, and to help them understand that they need to cultivate themselves.
“We realized and understood that organic agriculture was not just a coffee farm. To not only produce with organic soil, but that we had to have an attitude change. We had to intend to take care of the environment, the nature, the rivers, the trees, the forests, the birds, the animals.”
“First, we need to plant the seed in the human mind and then in the farm.”
Planting a new society, means giving children hope and opportunities to create and be innovative, to learn to think and collaborate. Since September 2016, COMSA runs their own bi-lingual school, where the children are in the center and everybody is learning in their own pace. Everybody is equal, values is on the schedule (honesty, solidarity, love, diversity, respect) and progressive methods like Glenn Doman’s flashcards are put into practice. Creative and innovative problem-solving and team work, open-air lessons, movement, art, music, play, positive thinking, sharing and hands-on gardening classes are key elements in the education.
The atmosphere in the class rooms is happy and filled with love, curiosity and trust. Children that cannot afford to enroll are sponsored with scholarships. COMSA supports other smaller social school initiatives in the La Paz Valley, like the outdoor kindergarten in Santa Cruz. Here children create art with flower petals, while listening to poetry, opera and music in foreign languages, and learn how to read with flashcards.
COMSA is also empowering families in impoverished and dangerous neighborhoods in the cities, by creating educational programs and giving them hope of a different future than joining a gang.
“When you put positive into the earth, you get positive in return. When you put negative into the earth, you get negative in return.”