The cooperative PROISCH ARIC (Productores Indígenas Serranos de Chiapas Aric) was founded in 1991 and consists of 12 subgroups of honey and coffee producers. ARIC is located in the Sierra Madre District of Chiapas, Mexico. The region is marked by lush native forests, a beautiful mountain landscape and the poverty of its inhabitants. The many coffee and honey producers of the region are often unable to provide for their families through crop sales alone, yet the region offers few other employment opportunities. As a result, many coffee and honey producers are forced to leave their homes and emigrate in search of work and income. The lack of higher education makes it additionally difficult for the indigenous people of Chiapas to qualify for work outside of agricultural activities. Approximately 70 percent of the coffee and honey producers in the region have received only a primary education, and the remaining 30 percent of the inhabitants have never attended school. In 1995 ARIC became a member of the “Commission for the Development of Indigenous Villages,” which strengthened the organization and allowed it to benefit from a micro-credit program run by the commission. The cooperative received Fair Trade certification for coffee and honey in 2006 to further improve the situation of its members. ARIC also hoped to gain better access to the international coffee and honey markets and build sustainable long-term relationships with buyers in the U.S. and Europe. Both of these hopes have become reality, and these improvements have resulted in a more stable and reliable income for ARIC’s members. Besides Fair Trade certification, ARIC also holds organic certification, making its products even more attractive to overseas buyers. The members of ARIC own an estimated 90 to 150 beehives each, which matches the regional average. These beehives are located in remote, thickly forested areas that are difficult to access. Most beekeepers travel by bus as far as possible and then walk through the forest to harvest their honey. They remove the honeycombs and transport them back to their houses where they fill 305 kilo containers provided by importers. The individual beekeepers then transport these containers to the cooperative and receive a receipt as evidence of the transfer of ownership. The cooperative provides a warehouse and prepares the shipment of honey on behalf of its members. ARIC has especially profited from the Fair Trade requirement that cooperatives receive pre-financing for honey and coffee sold to overseas buyers. The cooperative, therefore, pays part of the price to members immediately, which is an incentive for members to sell to the cooperative rather than middlemen.
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