Producer Profile: Fondo Paez

Written by Cafe Campesino on Dec 5, 2009 in NEWSLETTER, Producer Profile |
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A special note: In support of trading partners who are facing a particularly hard season, Café Campesino has committed to donate 10% of all Colombian coffee sales for the entire month of December to the Fondo Paez community. And thanks to the generosity of a friend, we’ve already started the fundraising with a $60 donation in exchange for some empty burlap coffee sacks. (That’s right, empty burlap bags. They make neat craft items and with a little imagination, can be very decorative. Contact us if interested in purchasing some. All monies collected from burlap sales will be donated to our trading partners in the coffee growing regions of the world.)

In the center of one of the world’s largest coffee producing countries is an organized group of small-scale farmers who are preserving their culture and economic independence through coffee production.

Some 550 families of the Nasa or Paez indigenous group of western central Colombia make up the Fondo Paez farming cooperative that was founded in 1992 to resurrect traditional farming practices that had nearly been lost after centuries of conflict and oppression. While their primary focus is to revitalize farming practices and seed varietals that are native to the Cordillera Central region of Colombia, Fondo Paez also produces specialty grade organic coffee for export to Europe and North America. These high quality coffee crops serve as a necessary source of income for the community.

Café Campesino began importing from Fondo Paez after the Cooperative Coffees founding member, Peace Coffee, of Minneapolis, Minn., established a relationship with them in 2004. Peace Coffee was the first North American coffee roaster to work with the Paez people, and through Cooperative Coffees, helped Fondo Paez get its fair trade certification from the Fairtrade Labeling Organization International (FLO) in 2005. Over the years, Cooperative Coffees has served as the primary North American importer of coffee from Fondo Paez.

Fondo Paez’s seed collection and distribution program that has revived indigenous varieties of beans, vegetables and corn, including a 15-foot tall varietal that takes a year to mature, is an extraordinary accomplishment for the organization, but so too are its coffee production, processing and administrative capacities. Since it started selling coffee through Colombia’s national specialty coffee federation in 2000, Fondo Paez established a democratically elected governing board that makes marketing and price decisions for farmers, hired its own marketing coordinator, Miguel Martinez, who has made two trips to Americus, and started managing its own coffee cleaning and quality control processes. It also organizes the shipment of its green coffee beans to warehouses owned by the National Coffee Federation, which is responsible for exporting the coffee, and it is working to expand the domestic market for specialty grade coffee consumption. Fondo Paez recently won a coffee roaster in a municipal competition, which will enable it to roast coffee beans for sale locally.

Such management practices helped Fondo Paez export around 266,000 pounds or 133 tons of green coffee in 2008. But competent management, a fervent commitment to restoring the land and a determined vision for a self-sufficient economy are no match for unseasonal rains and winds that destroyed coffee crops across Colombia this year.

This year, Fondo Paez’s burgeoning coffee industry is stunted. It will export only half of the amount of coffee produced in 2008. While the cooperative has diversified its income to earn money from the production of sisal, beans, tropical fruits and even handbags made from local fibers, some 150 of which have been exported to France, its members will certainly have challenges meeting such basic needs as going to school, finding medical attention and feeding their families. This is why Café Campesino has launched December’s fundraising initiative to help support members of Fondo Paez. The cooperative is facing an extremely difficult situation, and it is our mission to remain supportive of our producer partners both in good times and in bad.

Buy Colombian Medium Roast Coffee grown by the Fondo Paez cooperative
and/or
Buy Colombian French Roast Coffee grown by the Fondo Paez cooperative
and/or
Visit our donation page –www.cafecampesino.com/donate.asp – to add another portion to this fundraiser.

Two great coffees to choose from and 10% of your purchase goes back to the farmers and their families. Combine that with the chance to give a little extra above the sale price of the coffee and you’ve got one terrific way to support fair trade.

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