Strengthening Farming Communities

Co-Op Link

As we innovate, we stand unwavering in our commitment and dedication to small-scale farming cooperatives. That’s why Fair Trade for All seeks to deepen the impact of Fair Trade for co-ops around the world, which have been the pioneers of the model. 

To further strengthen these farming communities, Fair Trade USA is developing innovative new partnerships to connect, create and transform the lives of small-scale farmers worldwide. We call this approach Co-op Link, to recognize the unique role Fair Trade USA can play in linking organizations from all areas of the supply chain to maximize impact for producers and their families. 

Our specific Co-op Link programs aim at helping cooperatives improve quality, increase productivity, access capital cost-effectively, and become stronger business partners. For these efforts Fair Trade USA and our partners have invested $10 million since 2006.

Here are but a few examples of recent results:

  • Partnerships with organizations like the World Bank and the Avina Foundation enabled Fair Trade USA to deliver price risk management training to 180 coffee cooperatives and industry partners in Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Guatemala, Mexico, and East Africa. 
  • Our three-year partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Progreso supports a project to promote economic security and sustainable livelihoods for coffee farmers and beekeepers in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico.
  • A multi-year project, in partnership with the Rabobank Foundation and Progreso, with strategic support from Lutheran World Relief, focuses on improving business practices and access to capital and markets for Fair Trade Certified cooperatives in Sumatra.
  • This year, we launched a series of country-level producer gatherings to increase transparency and collaboration in the supply chain while creating a forum for engaging Fair Trade producers on strategy and policy. The first gathering, held in Peru in March 2012, brought together all the cooperative leaders in the country, as well as U.S. importers, roasters, NGOs and lenders. Over the course of three days, we shared market analysis, discussed strategy, and sought input from producers about Fair Trade for All and other initiatives. The buyers present took advantage of the gathering to contract millions of pounds of coffee for the upcoming harvest, while participating social lenders took loan applications on the spot and committed to expanding access to affordable credit.  We held a similar event in Honduras (May 2012) and will be organizing additional gatherings in other key origins throughout the year. 

The newest development within the Co-op Link initiative is our Cooperative Small Grants Program. Producer groups who have identified challenges around market access, financing, quality or productivity – and who have ideas for how to address these challenges – can apply for these grants. Project ideas that have already been suggested by producer groups include financial management courses to increase access to capital, cupping training to improve coffee quality, environmental mapping to understand the potential supply from members, or resources to start an organic production pilot.  These grants give cooperatives the opportunity to experiment with new ways to solve key problems; and as we identify which solutions work best, Fair Trade USA can help expand these programs to other cooperatives. 

See list of past and present Co-op Link projects