My Experience at GARBO Cooperative: Auto-ethnography about Fair Trade and Rural Tourism in Peñas Blancas, Nicaragua

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The Ohio State University

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Los Guardianes del Bosque (GARBO) is a small, 80-member coffee cooperative in the northeastern mountains of Nicaragua. The cooperative boasts Fair Trade (FLO-CERT) and Starbucks certified coffee and a new rural tourism project in the community. FLO-CERT and Starbucks certification appear largely the same for GARBO farmers; and contrary to popular definitions of Fair Trade, the relationship between GARBO and its coffee buyers is not direct or relative to the community’s development project (tourism). Neither certifier requires or assists the cooperative in maintaining organic production. The following account is auto-ethnography about one researcher’s experiences with five families involved in the rural tourism project. The researcher compares ideas about gender and (rural) community values between families. She also explores the changes induced by tourists’ presence at GARBO: changes to families’ homes; greater inequality between families, created when some families receive tourists in their homes and others do not; reinforced stereotypes by local and foreign people; and the created challenge of who is accountable for tourists. The researcher also examines her own identity as a guest in the community and how that might demonstrate the potential of tourism in the community.



fair trade, rural tourism, Nicaragua, ethnography, gender