Posts Tagged ‘Fair Trade coffee co-operative’

Our coffee co-op partner, CECOVASA has just received an award for the impact their work has had on promoting and protecting bio-diversity in the region.  The award was presented to them by Alan Garcia Perez, President of Peru.  We have just received the following press release about this impressive accomplishment which we have translated below from its original Spanish. For more information about CECOVASA, click here.



On World Environment Day


On June 5 at the National Palace, Cecovasa was awarded first place in the category for businesses dedicated to biotrade. This competition was organized by the Ministry of Environment and participants included 152 different businesses and communities located in 19 regions around the country. Cecovasa won the prize in the category for businesses, the Junín Pablo de Ucayali community and the San Juan Bautista (Loreto) municipality won prizes in the categories for communities and local governments, respectively. The prize was awarded by the Peruvian President in the presence of the Minister of Environment, Ambassadors, Congress people, and hundreds of intellectuals and individuals that are well known for their defense of the environment and promotion of sustainable businesses.


The Minister of Environment, Antonio Brack, said that this is the first time that the competition is being held. He said that Peru has a rich biodiversity that allows for the country to generate wealth and move its people out of poverty.


The President (though we don’t believe it) said the following: “the environment is a fundamental issue for the future and, therefore, a fundamental issue for the government.”  The Chief of State, Alan Garcia Perez, highlighted the work that is being done by those who promote biodiversity using biotrade and added, “this is included among the government’s objective—the defense of Peru’s biodiversity.” He then said that our country is an “extraordinary bank that allows us for an almost infinite amount of goods, some domesticated throughout history, others built by the original population of Peru, and others in the process of investigation and recognition.”


In speaking with the press, Cecovasa president Agustin Mollinedo Trujillo expressed satisfaction for this recognition. “Cecovasa is made up of small producers. We are farmers that work the land; but we are winners. We have an average of 2 hectares ( less than 5 acres) of coffee and we have created the most successful biotrade business in Peru.  Small-scale agriculture is not only possible, it is sustainable when there exists an economy of scales and an effort to reach markets that pay more money and demand higher quality.”  Mr. Mollinedo asserted that, during 2008-2009, exports reached US$14,876,118. Of this amount, US$8,448,958 was generated from sales of organic coffee gathered by the 1,934 members that participate in the Organic and Sustainable Coffee Program.




Upon being asked about the needs of the producers, the Cecovasa President expressed that what is most needed is communication channels that are in good condition. “We spend as many as 18 hours traveling 350 kilometers to transfer coffee from Putina Punco to Juliaca. If the Sina-Yanahuaya highway were built, this trip could be made in 12 hours. Mollinedo congratulated the producers and leaders of the grassroots co-operative, the leaders of the Organic Program, and the Technical Department—especially Leonardo Mamani, head of Projects. The Cecovasa president said, “our members have children who have become professionals and this is providing us with results that are favorable for everyone.”


Mr. Leonardo Mamani said that the prize awarded to Cecovasa is in the amount of US$ 15,000, but this has not been given in cash, rather it will be used for trainings and for the purchase of equipment in accordance to the plan that we presented.” Mamani said that in order to achieve this award, we have undergone a rigorous evaluation. “The inspectors traveled to the production zone and saw the work in the fields, the work of the technicians, the work of the cooperatives. The verification process then moved to Lima, where they saw the dry processing that, though it does not belong to us, is in accordance with environmental standards and good treatment of workers. Leonardo concluded, “We are champions in biotrade, we are Cecovasa: Quechua and Aymara coffee from Peru.”

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The following article was written by Phyllis Robinson and Lilian Autler of Grassroots International.

Anita Cecila Garcia Cruz, of Confianza community
Member of the CEPCO General Assembly (photo courtesy of Grassroots International)


Times are tough for rural communities in Mexico right now – as they are for small farmers throughout the world. Fair Trade coffee co-operatives have long offered their members concrete benefits – higher prices, credit, social programs, political clout, access to international solidarity networks, etc. These benefits have enabled many participating farmers to improve their economic conditions and their quality of life. In today’s economic climate, however, small farmers are taking the proverbial “one step forward, two steps back.” International trade agreements, national agriculture and economic policies that favor agribusiness and multi-nationals over small businesses and local communities, are making it harder for farmers to stay on their land, afford basic food staples, and care for their families.


Perhaps today more than ever, the chances of survival for a small-scale farmer are greatly multiplied if, rather than going it alone, they join with others to form a co-operative. If that co-operative happens to grow organic coffee and is certified Fair Trade, even better. Alternative Trade Organizations used to boast the slogan “Trade not Aid,” conveying the message that Fair Trade could change the balance of power and enable small farmers to find market niches and compete successfully in the marketplace. There’s something powerful in that message, but unfortunately political and economic power seems to be increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few; not the other way around. (more…)

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Ever wondered what happens at a General Assembly of coffee producers? Well, I’m not saying that the following report is typical… but Miguel Paz, Export Manager of CECOVASA, one of Equal Exchange’s coffee co-operative partners located in the south of Peru, gives his version of this year’s meetings. His account was published October 14th, on the Progreso Network’s blog. I’ve translated it here from the orignal Spanish. For those of you who know Miguel, I think you’ll appreciate his sense of humor…

Author: Miguel Paz – Export Manager, CECOVASA

Miguel Paz




This week Cecovasa has its General Assemblies. Cecovasa is comprised of eight co-operatives and in each one of them, a team of us must inform the co-operative’s members; I’m the third or fourth to do so. Sometimes the members agree to wait until we have all presented before they ask their questions, sometimes they ask their questions after each report; we like this (more…)

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The following post was sent to us by Todd Caspersen, Equal Exchange’s Director of Purchasing, on his recent trip to visit our farmer partners in Colombia.

Riosucio, Colombia

December 5th 2008

View of Supia, Caldas... one of the towns where our coffee producer partners grow our organic Colombian coffee

View of Supia, Caldas… one of the towns where our coffee producer partners grow our Organic Colombian coffee


How do you tell a story that started so long ago that it has a multitude of sub-plots, characters, successes and challenges? I could start at the beginng in 1996 when Equal Exchange first purchased coffee from the Indigenous Resguardos (Reserves) around Riosucio or I could start when I first visited Riosucio in 1999 or I suppose I could start when we imported our first 90 bags of organic coffee in 2003 but I think I will start with the rain or “invierno”, as they call it here.

The 2008 harvest began with the flowering of the coffee trees in February which would have provided a bountiful harvest eight months later but then the rain started and has not stopped since. Take a look at the internet and you will see stories of flooding, landslides and disasterously low harvest throughout Colombia. According to the meticulous records of Don Hernan Trujillo, Riosucio has only had 8 days of straight sun three times since February. This has resulted in extremely low harvests and lots of damage to the coffee farms. To put it simply: summer never came this year.


There is general agreement among the farmers here that the climate is changing and it is having serious impact on the livelihoods of our partners. I never curse the rain but I want to now after days of walking through a landscape seriously impacted by it. Every road I have traveled shows multiple small landslides impeding passage; all of the coffee farms are affected one way or another and everyone is wondering: why is it raining so much and when will it stop?

Very sad and sobering to witness, but despite that I have seen some great stuff and am really excited by the progress that has been made over the last several years here. Three years ago, the Lutheran World Relief/Equal Exchange Small Farmer Fund gave a $66,000 dollar grant to the Asprocafe Ingruma Coffee Co-operative to support productivity improvements in the organic project. This included; soil analysis, credit for women and young people to buy pigs or cows for manure to use as fertilizer, and exchange programs with organic farmers in Nicaragua, among other things.


Last year Equal Exchange and Asprocafe organized a quality competition with the 350 organic farmers in Asprocafe to motivate the organic farmers participating in the program.  This year we returned to do a second competition at the end of the productivity project. On Tuesday, I visited last year’s first place winner to learn what he had done with his prize money and to see the condition of his farm. Don Franciso Javier Rodriguez lives in La Torre of Supia at 1900 meters above sea level. He produces coffee on about 2 hectares. When he won last year, he called his wife on a cell phone (yes they are everywhere now) to let her know that he had won and she wouldn’t believe him until she spoke with someone else. When I arrived at the river way below his house to start the long climb up he was still surprised that I had showed up, exclaiming that he never believed I would come or that any “gringo” would come to visit him. It was a long climb up through a saturated landscape through lots of mud. When we finally arrived at his tidy blue house on a flat spot just below cloud level, we were greeted by his wife, daughter and a hearty second breakfast.




After our meal, they showed me what they had bought with the prize money ($750 USD). Right after collecting his prize money he gave half of it back to Asprocafe to buy the materials for a biodigester that would produce methane gas for the kitchen, replacing the wood stove his wife had labored over all of her life.  The other half he used to make a payment on a loan he had recieved to buy a cow, which has produced three calves since he first bought it.



The cool thing here is that the prize money provided the materials for the biodigester which includes large sheets of plastic to make a long balloon and some pvc piping to conduct urine from the stables to the balloon and to then bring gas to the kitchen as well as to conduct the effluent to a cement tank. The effluent is then used as fertilizer; in this case on sugar cane. It’s not just the prize money that made this possible; it’s also the loans from the cooperatives to build the simple stable and pig stye as well as the credit to buy the pig and cow, most of which was fruit of the LWR/EE productivity project. It is a wonderful example of a multi-prong approach where Equal Exchange works with its U.S.-based partners and its farmer partners to create an integrated project that benefits everyone.




I am of Norwegian stock out of Minnesota and not given to great displays of emotion, but it was really heart warming and quite emotional to hear how the gas stove had changed the family´s life: Dona Rodriquez remembers the exact day the system started to produce gas, December 31st 2007. They no longer had to travel far up the mountain to gather wood, she no longer had to cook in a kitchen filled with smoke from burning wet wood that hurt her eyes and causes lung problems, Wow! Imagine going from having to start a fire every morning to just turning on your stove and have a strong bright flame. Another benefit is they are no longer gathering wood from the remaining forests. The cow they bought has produced more cows, milk and fertilizer. All in all a great example what we can do together.

Back in town, Beth Ann and the cupping team from the coop- Angelica, Yaneth, Edwin and Magda- have been busy cupping 150 samples for this year’s competition and despite the rain the farmers have turned in some very high quality coffee. It’s exciting to see this group of young people be so confident in their work as cuppers and perhaps more importantly, to see that they are still involved in agriculture. Tomorrow is the final round of cupping where we will select the top ten coffees and on Sunday the big event, where as many as 250 farmers will trek through the mud on their way to town to give presentations about their villages and associations, will receive presentations from the agricultural extention workers and what they are really waiting for is to see who won the competition. Stay tuned for an update on the results and hopefully some pictures but for now I am off to a place called Sirpirria to visit some more farms and later I will meet with the technical team from the cooperative to plan the next steps and talk about our plan to build a small scale organic fertilizer production facility. I wish I could share everything I have seen and know about this amazing place and its people but alas it would cover many pages. Pray or meditate for Sun in Colombia.



To learn more about the organic project that Todd refers to in his post, click here.  To read an earlier trip report I wrote after my first visit to Asprocafe, click here.

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