For María Esperanza López and the rest of her family, coffee has always been part of their history. “I remember my father looking over our coffee plantations and watching my mother craft brooms from remnant farm material to sell at the local market.” María is a 40 year old coffee farmer and business woman from Corquín, Western Honduras. María, together with her husband, Hector Urrea and two sons, live in small but very diverse coffee farm in the highlands of their village, Hichozal. Home to many wildlife animals and bird species, the farm is recognized for its favorable geographic location and close proximity to springs, allowing the Urrea family to successfully grown high quality coffee and other crops such as banana, plantain and oranges.
María, her husband, Hector, and youngest son in their coffee farm
Mountain hills in Corquín, Honduras
When María grew up, her parents made sure to involve her in all of their family business activities as they did with her older siblings. Her daily responsibilities included supervising areas of the coffee farm and overseeing family finances next to her father, who taught her the basics on how to become a good administrator at an early age. By the age of 18, she finished her secondary degree in business administration and founded the first coffee cooperative in her community, COPRANIL, at 21 years old.
Described as an optimistic, hardworking, and confident woman with an uplifting spirit, it is no surprise that her name, Esperanza, means “Hope”. Often referred to as the “Hope of COPRANIL” by everyone in the coffee cooperative, María has worked timelessly to make the organization grow, improve their members coffee quality and develop strategic partnerships and technical trainings to help them expand their work. After 10 years of continuous hard work, María is now the general manager of COPRANIL; she supervises 8 people in managing positions, oversees coffee commercialization and is part of the 140 members that make up the organization.
María overseeing coffee quality and commercialization in COPRANIL
Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) has been a key implementer of programs in the Trifinio Region over the past 10 years and continues to work in the region with an increasing focus on women and coffee cooperatives. In 2018, when HRNS began a program together with the initiative of coffee&climate as part of its gender component, María decided to take this opportunity, eager to learn how it would influence and benefit her family’s business and coffee cooperative.
María attended meetings and trainings promoted by HRNS that supported her both at home and within her cooperative on topics of gender sensitization, entrepreneurship, income management and climate adaptation. She developed new agronomical knowledge which led her to establish an innovative system on her farm promoted by the initiative for coffee&climate for income diversification, 5×1 spacing system and implementation of climate-smart agricultural practices such as temporary shade. She also established a microenterprise that offers organic fertilizers within the cooperative to generate additional income for members of the organization, mostly women and youth.
I’ve been able to equip myself with further knowledge and expertise that I am now able to apply within my household and coffee cooperative. In order for coffee cooperatives to strive, we need strategic alliances with organizations like HRNS that will allow us to improve. As my father used to constantly say, “if you don’t learn something new during the day”, you were not in a day, you were not productive.
After one year, María continues to manage the coffee farm firmly with her husband Hector and oldest son Hector Emilio, who is currently studying agronomy. They’ve been able to improve the quality of their coffee significantly, sell their coffee through the cooperative with certification and diversify their income with other crops and salary from the administrative position María holds within the cooperative. Most importantly, Maria has been a role model and great leader for many women in her community. She has guided and worked closely with them to further enhance the skills learned during the project to make them reach the highest benefits and profitability for their families and farmer organizations. Accompanied by the unconditional support of her family, the Urrea Family strive to improve the overall living condition of coffee farming families in the region.
María, Hector, and two agronomists from HRNS whith whom they have closely worked with
María teaching a group of women, part of the coffee cooperative, about fish farming