This guest blog post comes to us from our very own Heidi Blair, Producer Services Assistant Fair Trade USA.
This past July, 10 delegates from several Haitian coffee cooperatives traveled to the Peruvian highlands for a three week quality training workshop, hosted by CECOVASA  (Central de Cooperativas Agrarias Cafetaleras de los Valles de Sandia), a Fair Trade Certified coffee cooperative. CECOVASA, founded in 1970, unites over 5,000 producers in the Puno region of southern Peru and is renowned for its high quality coffee, having won the National Quality Coffee Competition in Peru for 6 of the past 9 years.
The Haitian visitors, a team dedicated to improving the coffee quality of the 8,000 producers they represent, traveled as part of an initiative to strengthen the competitiveness and sustainability of their organizations by learning how to improve the production of their coffee plants and the quality of their beans.
When the French development non-profit Agronomists & Veterinarians Without Frontiers  (AVSF) approached CECOVASA with the idea of an exchange program, they responded enthusiastically. “Our Haitian comrades came to learn and also tell us about their work,” reflected Esteban Espinoza, CECOVASA’s President. “The sixth principle of the International Cooperative Alliance is collaboration between cooperatives, and we have a unique experience to share after more than four decades as an organization focusing on production, quality, and the marketing of our product.”
CEVOCASA was equipped to host this type of training program thanks to their Fair Trade community development premiums, which have enabled them to hone their cultivation and processing techniques to produce coffee of an exceptional caliber. These wise investments in quality initiatives have helped them to earn a higher price, build a reputation of respect and admiration in the industry, and now serve as a mentor for younger organizations.
“CECOVASA’s improvement in coffee quality is because of Fair Trade. The Fair Trade premium co-financed our quality laboratories, supply stores, and professional cupper training.” - Miguel Angel Paz López, CECOVASA’s former Commercialization Manager.
Tibed Yujra Añamuro, CECOVASA’s licensed cupper, led the workshops, which focused on deepening the Haitian’s knowledge of protocols and criteria for specialty coffee cupping, the process of evaluating coffee based on internationally accepted techniques and standards. For a cooperative, having an experienced cupper is a great advantage: it allows them to determine the best production methods for farms and helps elevate them to a more equal playing field when communicating with international clients.
At the end of the trip, Haitian participant Francois Luxama commented that in addition to all they learned about quality and production, “We’ve seen more than just coffee. We’ve seen how CECOVASA members work. They carry coffee on their backs because vehicles can’t reach their farms. As small producers, we admire them. They’re very united.”
The producers of CECOVASA and the delegates from Haitian coffee farms are examples of the ethical, sustainable and cooperative power of Fair Trade. By coming together with the help of financing from Fair Trade community development premiums, ideas can be shared, quality can be improved, and sustainability can be achieved.
“We’ve learned so much. We leave Peru grateful, with CECOVASA in our hearts and coffee in our minds.” - Merisier Panel, Haitan delegate.
We are excited to be able to share this inspiring story about the impact of Fair Trade and this unique exchange—one of coffee and cultures!