In the late 1970s Martha Angélica Quezada died. A 17 year old Nicaraguan, Quezada was killed in the fight against the Samosa dictatorship. In 1979 a group of mothers, widowed in the revolution, formed a cooperative in an attempt to support their families. They named the cooperative in honor of the girl. More than thirty years later, members still sew clothing and uniforms for their fellow Nicaraguans.
Recently the cooperative decided to join the Flor de Nicaragua, a network of co-ops working towards social equality and economic and environmental sustainability in western Nicaragua. Supported by the Italian development organization Cooperazione per lo Sviluppo dei Paesi Emergenti (COSPE), the network currently boasts five member coops. From soccer jerseys to bread to fish to wine, the network produces a range of goods. The five cooperatives have pooled their resources in order to increase distribution and visibility throughout the region and the country. Women make up the vast majority of members and Flor de Nicaragua seeks to make the often invisible work of women both visible and valued. Each co-op also focuses on renewable and organic production methods.
Currently providing technical support and training to Flor de Nicaragua, COSPE is no stranger to the work of enhancing business in developing countries. After 30 years and with programs in 33 countries, the organization knows the ins and outs of fostering growth and learning. They also know that every case has its own concerns, talents and pitfalls.
It will take some time for Flor de Nicaraguas cooperative nature to reach full potential. The years and years of violence and political upheaval that lead to Martha Angélica Quezadas death play a central role in the challenges to Flor de Nicaragua. The people in the western departments of Nicaragua often resist economic cooperation with those outside of tight-knit family groups. Though the country, and even the region, boasts several enduring, successful co-ops, political discord undermined many ventures in the areas past.
However the 110 members of the Flor de Nicaragua have begun to trust those in their network. Like most processes that lead to long-term, lasting change, the going will be slow and not always steady. However, after only a few months the group has moved towards finding an identity. They have a logo, a brand, 3 stores (with air-conditioning) and a lot more training and know-how. COSPE and Flor de Nicaragua have great reason to hope that the flower that adorns all their cooperatively produced goods will come to represent a new era of prosperity, recognition of hard work and trust in the support and cooperation of ones neighbor.