“Like Equal Exchange, we want to improve the lives of our small farmer members,” said Hildebrando Cárdenas Salazar, general manager of Oro Verde. The co-op was founded in 1999 with 56 members, and now there are 1,200 members.
Founded in 1952, the Multi-service Cacao Co-operative of Bocatoreña (COCABO) was the first agricultural co-operative established in Panama. COCABO is an organization of 1,500 small-scale cacao farmers, mostly of the Naso and Ngöbe peoples, in the Bocas del Toro province. Along with marketing cacao and implementing Fair Trade projects in local communities, the co-operative supports its members through technical assistance to increase crop yields and quality. The organization has diversified its business through sales of bananas and pineapples, ownership of five hardware stores and the operation of a saw mill. Located on the outskirts of the Amistad Forest Reserve, COCABO offers crucial support for economic and community development through alternatives to traditional economic activities that have often led to deforestation in this critical habitat.