Producer Profile: Fondo Paez

Written by Cafe Campesino on Aug 1, 2005 in NEWSLETTER, Producer Profile |
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(Sources: Cooperative Coffees & Alternative Grounds)

Founded: 1992
Coffee: Arabica SHB, Organic Certified by ECOCERT SA
Location: Southwest Region of Colombia

Fondo Paez was founded in 1992 with the primary goal of recuperating traditional indigenous agricultural knowledge. With more than 1000 farmer members, Fondo Paez encompasses 28 communities in the southwest region of Colombia. Fondo Paez is governed by a general assembly and belongs to a larger community named Nasa.

Fondo Paez is committed to the self-sufficiency of its people and maintains a holistic approach to farming, which is quite evident on their farms. Membership is family-based and the members don’t have to grow coffee – other products are produced, including sisal fiber and traditional crops like beans, corn and fruits. Membership is based on involvement with the organization and incorporation of Fondo Paez principles of food security and sustainable agriculture into member’s farms and lives.

Fondo Paez was recently incorporated as an association in Colombia with its own legal identity and currently processes, markets and exports their coffee through the Coffee Federation, though they are completely autonomous in their internal decision-making process.

Fondo Paez’s main governing body is the Directiva, comprised of four elected Directors (president, VP, Treasurer, Secretary) and an adviser (Consejo de Orientacion Politica Economica) and four committees (Production and Seeds, Marketing, Credit and Solidarity and Organization). All the committees’ heads are elected by the Asamblea except for the Organization head, who is appointed by the Directors. At the community level there are 21 “Associated Groups” and more that are in the process of becoming associated — the groups are made up of family units. The groups have the same three committees as the Directive, minus Organization. They appoint three of their members to participate in the Asamblea, which meets twice a year.

Fondo Paez has worked very closely with Fundacion Colombia Nuestra (FCN) from their inception. FCN has received funds from AFDI (a French farmer’s organization), the EU and other governments. They have provided seed money for the credit fund, agriculture trainings, technical trainings, marketing assistance, and administrative assistance.

FCN has an agronomist on staff that helps with organic training, food security, seed saving, agro-forestry and other issues. FCN is also training Fondo Paez on accounting and other administrative responsibilities.

Farmers are paid cash for their pergamino (green, unprocessed coffee beans), based on the Federation’s daily market rate. At the end of the year, Fondo Paez distributes 80% of the profit (from higher prices for specialty, organic and/or Fair Trade coffee) as a dividend to the farmers and retains 20% for social projects. Fondo Paez also administers micro-credit to the farmers pre-harvest.

Fondo Paez’s coffee is certified organic and comes from the Bourbon and Typica varieties. The community produces their own sisal bags for export. In 2003, they produced seven containers of coffee, both conventional and organic certified.

Though they frequently find themselves in the midst of armed conflict due to political struggles, the community maintains their commitment to their members, their land and their culture.

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