Producer Profiles

FIECH - Federación Indígena Ecológica de Chiapas

The terrain of Chiapas is mountainous and jagged, but provides the perfect climate to grow coffee. Most people living in this area are extremely poor and rely on coffee as a main source of income. The Federación Indigena Ecologica de Chiapas (FIECH) was created in 1993 by Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Mame, Chuj and Zoque farmers who united three small cooperatives spread throughout the region. Over the years the Federation has continued to grow and is now made up of 15 cooperatives who represent 21 different municipalities in Chiapas. FIECH has over 2,800 members consisting primarily of indigenous famers and their families. After the Federation gained Fair Trade certification in 1996, families have benefited from steadier and higher incomes through Fair Trade sales. Farmers say Fair Trade has helped create a positive cycle where families are able to invest in better farming practices, trainings and workshops, which in turn increases production and efficiency.

With Fair Trade certification, FIECH now has more access to higher-priced international coffee markets. The organization no longer relies on middlemen to commercialize their coffee. As a result of participating in international markets directly, FIECH members have become more educated and aware of how to market and sell their coffee to international clients.

FIECH is constantly looking for new ways to support its members. With Fair Trade premiums, the federation has invested in a warehouse and equipment to improve their quality control. The organization has also invested in a nursery to grow new plants: members will have better access to a supply of younger, more productive coffee trees. In addition, FIECH has built dormitories at local schools in the region, so that children and young people living in more remote areas of this underserved region have lodging to use while they are studying and attending school. These centers help farming families deter youth migration to larger cities, by keeping educational opportunities within these rural communities.
 

Programs

Creation of Nursery

FIECH has established a nursery with over two million coffee plants, which will be used by members to renew their planting as well as to sell coffee plants in the local market.

Farm Renovation

Using Fair Trade premiums, FIECH has been able to renovate coffee trees across 3,000 hectares of land. Replacing old trees with new ones provides higher yields which in turn enhances incomes for small producers.

Microfinancing for Organic Agriculture

FIECH has established a microfinance fund for replanting coffee at the individual farmer level, accompanied by an organic agriculture toolkit and technical assistance.