Year In Review: 2014

Last year, we accomplished so much together. We’re so proud to have the support of coffee drinkers, chocolate lovers and authentic Fair Trade enthusiasts like you. You make it all possible.

Last year, our chocolate products used over one million pounds of organic, fairly traded cocoa beans and 500,000 pounds of organic, fairly traded sugar from small-scale farmers.

And Equal Exchange customers brewed, shared and enjoyed over 5.5 million pounds of coffee from small farmer co-ops.

That is a remarkable, incredible positive impact in the world of authentic Fair Trade. Thank you.

Here are some of the other highlights and projects from the last year!

Uganda Stoves Project
In the spring of 2014, together we raised $4,720 to help Ugandan women build energy-efficient stoves in their communities. These new stoves will make a remarkable difference in the lives of mothers and families. They require 50% less firewood, can cook more dishes at one time and more quickly, and provide a warm, smoke-free environment for families to spend time together in.

Read more about the inspirational Uganda Stoves Project.

Red Cherry Challenge
In June, we launched the Red Cherry Challenge, a yearlong initiative to support farmers in Guatemala and El Salvador. Several of our partner co-ops there have been hard hit by coffee rust, or roya, among other climate change-related problems. Participants in the Red Cherry Challenge see 10 cents for every pound of coffee they buy go toward funding resiliency and recovery efforts in these co-ops. Our customers raised $2,500 for the Red Cherry Fund so far. The Red Cherry Challenge continues into 2015, so it’s not too late to join and increase your positive impact!

Sign up for the Red Cherry Challenge and make your purchases count in 2015.

Small Producer Symbol (SPP)
In 2014, Equal Exchange adopted the Small Producer Symbol (or SPP, based on the Spanish acronym). This is the first Fair Trade farmer-owned certification, and is run and governed by small-scale farmers themselves. This is a bold and exciting next step in the authentic Fair Trade movement, and Equal Exchange is proud to bear the symbol that represents farmers in leadership roles.

Learn more about the groundbreaking Small Producer Symbol.

Cooperation in Quality
In 2014, we held our ninth annual Cooperation in Quality Seminar in Chiapas, Mexico, led by Quality Control Manager Beth Ann Caspersen. Ten cuppers from three different coffee co-ops in Mexico (Finca Triunfo Verde and CESMACH in Chiapas, and CEPCO in Oaxaca) came together for some hands-on learning about coffee quality, roasting and the tasting experience. The Cooperation in Quality Seminar brings diverse groups of cuppers together to cultivate a deeper understanding of the coffee they sell and the needs of buyers. This serves to professionally develop and empower the small farmer supply chain by passing on critical knowledge of the coffee industry and market. With every coffee tasted at the cupping table and every test batch of coffee roasted, the relationship between the coffee drinker and coffee producer grows stronger.

Read more about Beth Ann’s exciting Cooperation in Quality experience in Chiapas.

Cooperation in Productivity
In June, Green Coffee Buyer Carly Kadlec traveled to Marcala, Hoduras for our first Cooperation in Productivity event, a meeting of minds between farmers from both Honduras and El Salvador. Members of El Salvador-based co-op Las Colinas traveled to Honduras for intensive workshops and farmer-to-farmer learning. This was a successful and special opportunity for farmers to share their unique experiences and knowledge in order to strengthen the greater community of coffee farmers. The philosophy behind the event is summed up by Rodolfo Peñabla, the manager of COMSA: “If there is only one brain, it can only think so much. But, add another brain and another and another. What do you get? Farmers who generate ideas together. This is what we need.”

Read Carly’s reflection on the Cooperation in Productivity event.

MANE Conference & Producer Visit
In November, three representatives of farmer co-ops came to visit Equal Exchange and participate as panelists in the MANE Coffee Conference in Providence, Rhode Island. Sonia Vásquez and Fredy Zelaya of COMSA (Honduras) and Marco Antonio Tzunun of Manos Campesinas (Guatemala) came to offer their perspectives on the ongoing crisis of coffee rust, both as agronomists and coffee producers. After participating in the conference, they visited the Equal Exchange café in Boston and the Equal Exchange office in West Bridgewater, MA to get to know some of us and talk about a few of the challenges facing farmers back home.

Grow Together Fund
In 2014, we launched the Grow Together Fund in partnership with food co-ops across the U.S., an effort to strengthen small farmer supply chains in the nuts and dried fruit category. With every purchase of Equal Exchange Cashews at participating stores, Equal Exchange and the store made a donation to the Grow Together Fund to support a tree planting project at APRAINORES Co-op in Honduras.  By the end of the year, we raised $30,000 together! These funds will help plant new cashew trees, provide technical assistance, and create a Revolving Loan Fund which the co-op will manage to make small short term loans available to producer members. We’re excited to be laying to groundwork for healthy harvests, strong trade relationships and thriving communities.

Stay up-to-date with the developments of the Grow Together Fund.

USAID Cooperative Quality and Productivity Program with Small-Scale Cocoa and Coffee Farmers 
This five-year program began in 2010 with a grant from USAID, and this year we received a two-year extension in order to build upon the success and progress of the first four years. Our co-op partners involved in this project are Oro Verde, CONACADO, ACOPAGRO and Norandino. The work focuses on developing three key areas at the co-op level: quality, productivity and capitalization. Each area is critical to the empowerment and success of the co-ops, and there has been tremendous development in each. Some milestones include: building cocoa quality flavor labs and devising a cocoa tasting form, implementing a model farm program to improve productivity, and seeing the beginning of member equity programs so farmers can start to invest in their cooperatives. We are excited to be able to build on this foundation in the coming years. Stay tuned!

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Sara Fiore

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