Archive for February, 2013

Raúl del Águila Hidalgo, General Manager of Equal Exchange’s trading partner COCLA and a leader in the international fair trade movement, died suddenly on February 13.  EE’s Tom Hanlon-Wilde shares this memory:

Raul de Aguila and Tom Hanlon-Wilde welcome EE buyers Megan Thompson, Sanya Brown, Judy Harper, Larry Crabb

Raul de Aguila and Tom Hanlon-Wilde welcome Equal Exchange’s Food Co-op buyers Megan Thompson, Sanya Brown, Judy Harper, Larry Crabb

This is how I remember Raúl – kind and patient as in the photo, intelligent and inspiring as in the video.

I first met Raúl in 1998 in Quillabamba, Cuzco, Peru.  He had recently left a comfortable, important government job for an uncertain and quixotic task — re-building the Agrarian Cooperative of La Convención and Lares.  COCLA, the acronym the organization is known by, was founded by farmers who had been among the first sharecroppers in South America to revolt against the fedual conditions on the large plantations.  When they had won land rights, those farmers organized COCLA and and by the 1970’s grew it into one of the four largest co-operatives in Peru. But in the economic chaos of the 1980s, the organization had disintegrated.  Village by village, farmer by farmer, Raúl re-built trust and encouraged differences of opinion to re-engerize the coop. Within a decade, COCLA was once again one of the top coffee exporting organizations in Peru.  As other co-ops sought to learn from COCLA, Raul spurred the creation of the National Coffee Board of Peru to bring together all the coffee co-ops in Peru to advocate for political change.  Within half a dozen years, that group forced changes in two laws to benefit co-operatives.  Working internationally, Raul was a leading voice of the Coordinating Body of Latin American and Caribbean (CLAC) fair trade organizations, eventually helping to create a separate farmer-controlled fair trade certification organization (FUNDEPPO and the Small Farmer Symbol – SPP).

Today when small-scale farmers meet in villages across the Global South, they have a more resources to use thanks in part to Raúl.  When parishioners discuss social justice in church basements across the Global North, they have a few more options thanks in part to Raúl.  I will miss Raúl’s kindness, patience, and intelligence but will carry his inspiration into tomorrow.

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The following was an email sent to us by Anna Canning from our Portland office where our first shipment of cashew nuts from the small farmer co-op, Aprainores in El Salvador arrived yesterday.

Shawn and Tyler receiving our first shipment of cashew nuts!

Shawn and Tyler sending our first shipment of cashew nuts to our customers!

Here are the first boxes of cashew nuts going to customers, sold by Rafael, and shipped by Tyler. Love the way the boxes all stand with small farmers–big change indeed!

The candid shot is unfortunately blurry, but it captures the pace things are moving around here today.

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Go Nuts!

Where do your nuts come from?  Our very first container of organic, Fair Trade, small farmer cashew nuts has just arrived from the Aprainores Co-op in El Salvador!  Soon to be sold at a food co-op near you.  Look for them!  Enjoy them!  Let us know how you like them!  Read more about Aprainores here.


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The following was written by Becca Koganer, Natural Foods Sales Representative, Equal Exchange

Escolastico Perez Gomez picking coffee.

Escolastico Perez Gomez picking coffee.

Coffee growing is the most intense work I have ever witnessed. I can’t really put it into words.

The trek to the actual communities where the farmers members of the CIRSA co-op live is indescribable to begin with;  imagining having to figure out transport from these isolated places where the roads wash out and can send you over a cliff in an instant; it had my mind spinning. In the  moments when I found myself being totally present, I could take in the beauty of the place. IMG_0175We got a ride with board members and 2 technicians. It’s the technicians’ job to check every member’s farm for the standards and practices that are required, this is an incredible amount of work. The work of a board members is also unbelievably challenging and they sleep at the office 4 days a week, leaving behind their farms and families. Victor Hugo, board member, told us how at age 19, he took back a hacienda from a rich German land owner with 29 other companeros in 1994 and split it up collectively to farm. Camarino was hoping we would get to his family’s community because he hadn’t seen his parents since last November. Julio Cesar, the other technician, took photos and videos of us throughout the trip, to share at CIRSA’s annual meeting- to show the strong partnership between our two organizations, co-operatives both. The 5 of us Equal Exchangers, our photographer, Julia, and the folks from CIRSA stood in the back of the truck holding on as we passed across mountainsides and through communities, passing corn, corn, and more corn. Between the corn there were incredible views of valleys, more mountains, communities with farm animals and colorfully dressed women holding babies. People were drying coffee on rooftops, depulpers were visible from the road. (more…)

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The following article is from our friends at Fair World Project:

Can you tell which of these “fair trade” coffees was grown on an estate? And does it matter?
Allegro french roastBel Canto Estate Grown Coffee
You may have heard that coffee carrying a fair trade label was grown by small-scale producers. Last year, for the first time, Fair Trade USA (FTUSA) allowed a fair trade label to be placed on coffee grown on large-scale coffee “estates,” in this case a 500- acre farm with 110 workers in Brazil. The logic promoted by Fair Trade USA is that workers often face unsafe working conditions and low wages. In one example of the way this argument is conveyed, a father works as part of a fair trade co-op, but there is not enough land available for his son then needs to work on a large farm as a farmworker. “Shouldn’t the son also benefit from fair trade?” asks FTUSA.
Read more.

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Don Leopoldo

Don Leopoldo Alfredo Abrego with a cashew nut fruit

We just got word that our first order of organic, Fair Trade cashews from the small farmer co-operative in El Salvador, Aprainores, have arrived! As soon as they are released from customs, we’ll be shipping them out to food co-ops across the country. Look for them soon in the food co-op nearest you!


They’re delicious!

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