We have the great pleasure of sharing with you the first two winners of our new Cooperative Small Grants Program, which offers Fair Trade Certified™ coffee cooperatives access to funding for specific capacity-building projects. The winners, APROCASSI from Peru and ASOPROKAN from Colombia, were awarded a combined $40,428 to improve crop productivity and quality management.
This Grant Program is part of our Co-op Link  initiative, which connects and supports organizations throughout the supply chain to maximize the benefits of Fair Trade for small-scale farmers around the world.
"We would like to congratulate the winners and applaud all of the producer organizations that submitted proposals. The quality of the applications we received was outstanding,” said Laura Ann Sweitzer, Manager of Coffee & Supply Chain Services. “It’s a clear indication of the sophistication and insight of these cooperatives to self-identify their biggest challenges and propose and execute innovative solutions.”
About the Grant Winners
The first winner, Cooperativa de Servicios Múltiples (APROCASSI ), is a Peruvian coffee cooperative founded in 2000 to enable small farmers to earn a fair price for their coffee. Located in the mountainous region of the Cajamarca province in Peru, APROCASSI has given its members an alternative to the mining industry.
APROCASSI is currently battling a massive infestation of roya, a leaf rust fungus, which is killing off three of their coffee varieties. The farmers are attributing this to aging coffee plants, lack of soil treatment, and changes in climate. APROCASSI was awarded $24,652 to increase coffee production and quality by (1) training 22 committees in technical plant rehabilitation and pruning, (2) partnering with Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito Aprocredi to form a credit program for 64 farmers to receive low interest loans to invest in fertilizers, and (3) rehabilitating 32 hectares of coffee plants in the first year.
“We are very excited to be selected winners amongst the various proposals,” said Luis Fernando Peña Parra, General Manager of APROCASSI, on behalf of the organization’s 452 members. “This grant will allow us to create a management plan to mitigate the problem of roya that is affecting our plants and consequently the well being and livelihood of our coffee farmers and families.”
Asociación de Productores Agroecológicos Indígenas Kankuamos de la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (ASOPROKAN ), the second grant winner, is a Colombian coffee cooperative founded in 2008 by 150 members of the Kankuamo indigenous community.
ASOPROKAN was awarded $15,776 to invest in quality improvement to further differentiate their coffee in international markets. They plan to use their funds to improve their quality management system. Specific projects include (1) constructing a coffee quality lab, (2) contracting experts for technical assistance training, (3) designating leaders in the community to ensure these quality measurements are applied, (4) training 10 female cuppers to support women leadership, and (5) hiring and training personnel to administer their new improved internal quality control system.
We had the great honor of personally announcing ASOPROKAN as a winner a few weeks ago at our Intercambio 2012 event in Bogota, Colombia. In the photo on the right, you can see Solón Arias, a member of ASOPROKAN, proudly holding the plaque announcing his cooperative as a winner. This Intercambio event brought together representatives of coffee cooperatives, along with importers, traders, NGO’s and social lenders, for a multi-day event in Colombia. The goal of the event was to increase transparency and collaboration in the supply chain, exchange ideas, and create a productive space to share news and experiences.
"We know that quality is a vehicle to increase the income and quality of life of farmers,” said Solón Arias, ASOPROKAN’s General Manager. “This (grant) support is significant to the long-term development of coffee quality in our community.”
Google+ Hangout in Colombia
During the Intercambio 2012 event in Bogota, we hosted a Google+ HangOut that enabled people like you to directly interact with Fair Trade farmers and workers. Through these group video chats, we hope to create an opportunity for fans of Fair Trade to chat directly with the farmers themselves to learn more about how Fair Trade has made a difference in their daily lives.
You can watch this interactive Google+ Hangout with Solón Arias, a member of ASOPROKAN here  (Part 1) and here  (Part 2). If you’re interested in being a part of these sessions in the future, add “Fair Trade USA ” to your Google+ circle and keep an eye out for future talks with Fair Trade farmers and workers from origin.
To read more about the goals of our Cooperative Small Grants Program, the Grant Selection Process, as well as our future plans to grow the fund in 2013, please click here .