OAKLAND, Calif. (December 5, 2012) – Fair Trade USA, the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States, today announced the winner of its Cooperative Small Grants Program’s second round, which offers Fair Trade Certified™ cooperatives access to funding for specific capacity-building projects. The winner, COMSA from Honduras, plans to use the grant money to improve their environmental sustainability efforts and their organics program.
The goals of the Program are (1) to invest in small farmers as they build skills for cooperative management, and (2) to support the building of durable supply chains between cooperatives and their North American business partners. The grant is also part of Fair Trade USA’s larger Co-op Link  initiative, which connects and supports organizations throughout the supply chain to maximize the benefits of Fair Trade, and is available to any Fair Trade Certified coffee cooperative not currently involved in a Co-op Link capacity-building program .
The Cooperative Small Grants Program is designed to create real impact in farming communities and can be used on projects in the following categories:
- Quality and Productivity
- Cooperative Business Management
- Access to Finance
- Creation of Social Programs (microfinance, etc.)
- Environmental Projects
- Food Security
- Commercialization (introducing products to the market)
“We are deeply proud to announce COMSA as a winner of our Grants Program,” said Jennifer Gallegos, Director of Coffee for Fair Trade USA. “Honduras is one of the fastest growing Fair Trade coffee origins; it holds tremendous potential to become a leader in sustainable coffee. We are honored to support COMSA on their Fair Trade journey, and believe that access to short term investments in quality and productivity will help them unlock this potential.”
About the Grant Winner
The winner, Café Orgánico Marcala S.A. de C.V. (COMSA ), is a Honduran coffee cooperative founded in 2001 with support from the Rural Business Development Foundation (FUNDER). It began with a group of 69 small Honduran producers interested in selling their high quality coffee to markets for a fair price. Today, COMSA’s over 600 members are pioneers in Honduran organic coffee cultivation.
COMSA was awarded $ 19,989.93 for its winning project titled “Generando vida a los suelos, producimos con responsabilidad," or “Generating life to our soils, we produce with responsibility.” As the name suggests, this project aims to regenerate and reduce contamination in producers’ land, minimize production costs and increase the quality of their specialty coffee. Specific projects include (1) offering extensive training for cooperative members on sustainable practices, (2) improving on old and implementing new organic biotechnologies in their production, (3) implementing a system to better collect and manage fresh water supplies, (4) hiring a technician to implement and maintain the water project, and (5) reusing coffee byproducts for natural low-cost soil nutrition.
“We are very happy to hear this news. We’ve faced many challenges this harvest including plant disease and difficulties finding financing opportunities, which have incremented our costs of production,” said Sonia Vasquez, Organic Production and Certification Coordinator of COMSA. “This project will directly help more of our cooperative members produce in a more low cost and environmentally sustainable way. We are very enthused to receive these funds and we will work diligently in the implementation of this project.”
Fair Trade coffee cooperatives from Africa, Asia and Latin America submitted 30 applications for this grant. Fair Trade USA carefully selected 6 finalists, which were then reviewed by a Grant Selection Committee made up of four external industry experts, including:
- Susan Aleman--Sustainable Harvest  (Peru)
- Grace Mena--International Women’s Coffee Aliance (IWCA)  (Costa Rica)
- Nestor Rodriguez--Asociación Pueblos en Acción Comunitaria (APAC)  (Nicaragua)
- Guido Fernandez--Mitsubishi International Corporation  (New York City)
Fair Trade USA has implemented two rounds of the grant program in 2012, the first of which was in August. The two winners of the first round , APROCASSI  from Peru, and ASOPROKAN  from Colombia, invested in crop productivity and quality management. Over the course of 2012, Fair Trade USA dispersed over $60,000 through its grant program.
The Cooperative Small Grants Program, along with other ongoing Co-op Link projects , is part of Fair Trade USA’s Fair Trade for All initiative , designed to strengthen farming communities and include more farmers and workers, ultimately doubling impact by 2015.
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Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit organization, is the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States. Fair Trade USA audits and certifies transactions between U.S. companies and their international suppliers to guarantee that the farmers and workers producing Fair Trade Certified goods were paid fair prices and wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment, and receive community development funds to empower and improve their communities. Fair Trade USA also educates consumers, brings new manufacturers and retailers into the Fair Trade system, and provides farming communities with tools, training and resources to thrive as international businesspeople. Visit www.fairtradeusa.org  for more information.
Fair Trade USA is a nonprofit organization. We are supported through service fees paid by businesses using the Fair Trade Certified label, as well as through the generous donations of major foundations, development organizations, and independent philanthropists.
These Grants are made possible by donations and service fees paid to Fair Trade USA by more than 800 business partners.