As part of the University’s long-standing relationship with the Cafeiere et Cacouyere du Nord’Ouest (COCANO) coffee cooperative, St. Thomas University business, communications, theology and political science students have spent the last four years importing Café Cocano in a fair/direct trade relationship. The partnership provides students with a hands-on learning experience of importing and marketing a product from the developing world, while providing rural Haitian farmers with increased profits for their production. The cooperative has grown to include over 300 farming families in its work, has begun providing social services to rural NW Haiti, and has brought living wages to hundreds in the region. (See www.cafecocano.com).
New to this Fall’s delegation were representatives from STU’s School of Science studying agronomy and plant biology. As part of the STU School of Science’s collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture, the STU team was exploring ways plant science faculty and students could support the coffee farmers by researching pressing issues in coffee disease and insect management.
Said Paulina Sicius, an STU first-year student interning with the Center for Community Engagement and with an interest in international development: “The trip completely blew my mind. To be able to see the real possibilities for development in Haiti, and witness the amazing leadership of the farmers on the ground, gave me a whole new appreciation for this work.” Leynet Cornelio, an STU Junior studying plant science, concurred: “The delegation showed me how my research in science can be applied in a way that can make a true difference in one of the poorest regions of the Western Hemisphere.”
Coordinated by STU’s Center for Community Engagement, and integrating faculty research, courses, and internships from a variety of disciplines, the STU/Café Cocano project has become a national model for leveraging university learning into international development.