How coffee changed the lives of a group of women in Costa Rica

Mon Dec 22, 2014 9:25am EST
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By Lisa Anderson

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Samanta Urena Arauz, an agribusiness management graduate, could have launched a city career but chose instead to join a women-run coffee cooperative in her remote Costa Rican village that has changed her life and that of her neighbors.

Raised picking coffee beans before school, Arauz was brought up by a group of uneducated, rural women who broke into the coffee industry to provide a livelihood for themselves and their families and education and health care for the community.

The story of these uneducated but determined women is the subject of a documentary, "A Small Section of the World", that has been screened at several film festivals and opened in New York this month.

"I am what I am because of coffee," said Arauz, who now runs the coffee mill in Biolley, a small rural community in the scenic, lush Talamanca Mountains.

The venture dates back to 1997 when many of the men and boys of Biolley left to find work in the capital San Jose, a bone-jarring eight-hour drive away, or in the United States.

Left with meager resources, the women of Biolley decided to come up with a plan to support themselves and their families.

"The families were disintegrating and we had to do something," said Ana Laura Quiros Montoya, who was abandoned by an alcoholic husband and had five young children to support.

About 30 women brainstormed for business ideas. Most had no experience but housekeeping and the village didn't have much but it was in an area surrounded by coffee plantations.   Continued...