Nestled in the northern jungle of Chiapas, Mexico, lies a community of innovation and collaboration– the Yomol A’tel Cooperative. Part of the COMPARTE Network, this initiative brings together social and solidarity companies that produce organic and sustainable coffee, honey, and soap in an effort to transform the lives of their members while preserving the cultural heritage of the region.
The cooperative’s story began over 20 years ago when the Jesuits partnered with a group of Tseltal coffee growers to improve economic opportunities and combat environmental degradation. United by a shared determination to uplift their people, they established the Yomol A’tel Cooperative, which translates to “Working Together” in the local language.
The cooperative members draw inspiration from their traditional practices, ancestral knowledge, and respect for nature while integrating the best of modern techniques and technology in their production of coffee, honey, and soap.
Local Responses to Global issues
Lack of market access and the effects of climate change on coffee and honey production challenge Yomol A’tel members’ ability to make a living. To improve the economic livelihood of its members, the community is working toward broadening its ventures and learning even more crafts.
- The women who lead the soap businesses have begun expanding their products to cosmetics, shampoo, and even traditional embroidered clothing.
- The honey producers are researching the market trends for their products and are looking to create sweeteners and preservatives made from honey.
- New laboratories and work spaces are being planned that will allow Yomol A’tel to expand their business ventures, learn new skills, and offer more quality products.
To strengthen the production, and commercialization capacities of the group and its members, the cooperative group of Yomol A’tel is building a processing facility that also serves as a meeting space, called “Modulo Integral Yomol A’tel (MIYA), in the rural town of Chilon, Chiapas. The MIYA aims to promote the production, commercialization and capacity building of the organizations and its members to improve the families’ livelihoods.
Currently the MIYA is finishing the second stage of construction. With previous support the land was purchased and registered, the office area for coffee certification was renovated and the meeting room, bathrooms for men and women, a computer laboratory, and a dinning area were all built.
This second phase of the project responds to the greatest needs of the Yomol A’tel community in order to expand their ventures and strengthen their community ties. The four main goals of the project is to design and construct a honey processing plant, an essential oils and cosmetics lab, textile and embroidery workshop, and purchasing materials and an area for vehicle access.
Who will be impacted by the construction of the MIYA
The Yomol A’tel community is made up of more than 350 families from 110 indigenous Tseltal communities. The new facilities will be used by a multigenerational group of men and women who will benefit from the cooperative’s new capabilities.
The project will help an estimated 1,913 people, including 947 men and 966 women, from the youngest members of the community to the elderly.