In 2007, the women's sewing co-op (the Fair Trade Zone) sales had grown tremendously but, the co-op lacked a consistent supply of both organic and conventional cotton cloth to meet increasing demands. This is one reason the CDCA began working to set up a spinning plant to spin organic cotton into yarn.
The Genesis spinning plant cooperative will be an important link in the production chain, buying organic cotton at fair prices to support cotton growers here in Nicaragua and the cotton gin,and spinning cotton which it can sell to the Fair Trade Zone, helping the sewing co-op reduce its costs and turn-around time for its clients.
18 Heads of household (15 women + 3 men) from Ciudad Sandino make up the Genesis spinning cooperative, and have been working since February 2007 to become the cooperative members, using their labor in the construction of the building as their sweat equity buy-in to the cooperative. With the exception of the electric installation, work on their 15,000 ft2 building is essentially finished. Members of Genesis, along with volunteers, built their factory by hand from the ground up, working more than three years for no pay. They would work mornings at the cooperative then go out to sell bread or cosmetics door to door, sell juice or cooked beans, take in washing or work as security guards... all to help feed their families while working for a better future.
While financing for the Genesis Cooperative's building came through loans from the CDCA's Vida Fund, financing for the machinery had to come from a commercial loan at a much higher interest rate - 14% annual interest! Genesis made a down payment on used machinery in the fall of 2009, but a series of delays has meant that the machinery has still not arrived and meanwhile interest in accruing. For more up to date information see our blog at jhc-cdca.blogspot.com/2010/08/send-email-help-genesis-co-op-now.html.
The co-op now has legal status in Nicaragua, and members have also received 40 40 hours of cooperativism training and 40 hours of business management training. But it isn't all about work. It is about building community. So they celebrate during their breaks and on special occassions.
We and the Genesis Cooperative hope the spinning plant will begin production in early 2011. The co-op will move into full operation as soon as possible, hoping to employ 45 heads of household full time in the production of organic cotton yarn.
Prospects for their market look excellent; In 2009 organic cotton garment sales were up 35% over 2008, despite worldwide recession. The Genesis spinning co-op has letters of intent from three different companies to purchase more yarn than Genesis will be able to make! In 2009 Genesis received Fair Labor Practices and Community Benefits certification, increasing its niche market access.
The organic cotton will be sourced from Nicaraguan farmers, revitalizing Nicaraguan cotton production as well as converting more acres to organic crops by creating a demand for organic cotton. The cloth will be knit and finished in Costa Rica or Nicaragua and made into garments at the women's sewing co-op, allowing the co-ops to keep their entire vertical production chain in Central America. The jobs created will benefit those employed by the co-op, the farmers, and thus their families and communities.
We still need funding for this project and can use all the help we can get!
If you're interested in helping us raise the funds for the Genesis spinning plant cooperative, please contact us.
Genesis also has their own website on-line: www.Genesis.jhc-cdca.org Check it out with lots of new photos, and practice your spanish in the process!
For more information on the environmental effects of conventional (non-organic) cotton, see Beyond Organics: Environmental.