2015 Year in Review

Sara Fiore
January 11, 2016

At the end of every year, we reflect on the accomplishments, challenges, developments and memorable moments that have helped us grow. Here are a just a few of the highlights from 2015, which we’re so proud to share with you all – and which we couldn’t have done without your support! 

1. Over 7.5 Million Pounds Sold!
Over the last year, you purchased a grand total of 5.8 million pounds of coffee, 64,500 pounds of tea and spices, 1.2 million pounds of cacao and 554,739 pounds of sugar from small-scale farmer co-ops around the world, benefitting hundreds of farmers, their families and their communities. Those are big numbers with a big real world impact for farmers.

2. Gender Equity Workshop in Nicaragua
Equal Exchange is a proud supporter of the Coffee Quality Institute’s Gender Equity program as a Sustaining Partner. In January, Coffee Quality Manager Beth Ann Caspersen participated in the second of four international workshops in Palacaguina, Nicaragua. The workshops aim to promote gender equity in the male-dominated coffee industry by bringing men and women together to work through difficult questions about gender roles and the division of labor on the farm and in the home.

Read about Beth Ann’s experience > 

3. Coffee Leaf Resilience Fund
Over the last year, Equal Exchange has supported several of our key partners in the fight against coffee leaf rust: CESMACH, Finca Triunfo Verde, and Comon Yaj Noptic in Chiapas Mexico; Las Colinas in El Salvador; and San Fernando Co-operative in Peru. These co-ops have received more than a quarter of a million dollars-worth of investment to renovate and replant their members' farms as well as increase productivity and access to training and adequate technology. We estimate that just in the past year, we have directly contributed to the replanting of more than 1 million coffee trees between these partners. The resilience fund is continuing into 2016 and we look forward to see the amazing work that our partners are doing to rebuild their farms and livelihoods post-coffee leaf rust. 

4. Saveur du Kivu Cupping Competition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
In May, Coffee Quality Manager Beth Ann Caspersen traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to judge the country’s first-ever coffee cupping competition. Despite numerous logistical and technical challenges – like initially lacking running water and electricity!—the event came together through cooperative problem-solving, quick thinking and teamwork. The competition brought together diverse roasters and cuppers, local producers and international judges to experience some of the spectacular coffees and the growing coffee culture of the DRC.

Read a day-by-day account of the competition here > 

5. Cooperation in Productivity Event in Colombia
This year, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of our partnership with our Colombian coffee partners, ASPROCAFE Ingruma. In July, Green Coffee Buyer Carly Kadlec and Coffee Quality Manager Beth Ann Caspersen visited Colombia to take part in a Cooperation in Productivity event. At the event, special guest Fredy Perez Zelaya of COMSA in Honduras shared knowledge and insight about how to thrive using organic and biodynamic practices in a region dominated by conventional coffee. 

Read Carly’s reflection on the Cooperation in Productivity Event > 
Read Beth Ann’s reflection on the 20th anniversary > 

6. A Visit to Sri Lanka, Plus Three New Teas
It was an exciting year for Equal Exchange tea! In September, we introduced three new teas: Organic Ginger, Organic Green Tea with Ginger and Organic Rooibos Chai. Not only does this mean more delicious options for tea drinkers, it means we are able to buy more tea and spices from small-scale farmers in an industry dominated by large plantations.

In December, our tea team visited our tea partners at Bio Foods and the Small Organic Farmers’ Association (SOFA) in Sri Lanka. They spent the week visiting farms, tasting teas, touring factories and talking about the tea industry with locals. Tea Supply Chain Coordinator Leif 
Rawson-Ahern says, “Small scale farmers are incredibly rare in the plantation-dominated tea industry and our visit reminded us of the profound difference between large, conventional plantations and the small-scale tea gardens of the farmers we work with.  Unlike the vast, clear-cut and mono-cropped plantations that cover the Sri Lankan countryside, the small farms we visited were celebrations of biodiversity.”

7. Bringing Farmers to the Forefront at the Northwest Chocolate Festival 
In October, our chocolate team and two colleagues from partner co-ops CONACADO in the Dominican Republic and ACOPAGRO in Peru traveled to Seattle for the Northwest Chocolate Festival. The festival was attended by about 14,000 people, with a great mix of industry professionals and consumers. For two straight days we provided tasty chocolate samples and information about our mission to support small farmers. 
Grant Projects Coordinator Cristina Liberati, together with Elizabeth Burgos from CONACADO and David Contreras from ACOPAGRO, gave a presentation entitled "Better quality beans, better quality of life for cacao farmers." This presentation highlighted the work that we have done together as part of the USAID Co-operative Development Program. At the Chocolate Makers UnConference, held just prior to the festival, they presented the Cacao Tasting Form that has been developed with the co-ops and the Peruvian National Cacao Judges to spur industry conversation and action toward a common and inclusive language of quality.

Thank you for all that you do to support small farmers and the mission of authentic Fair Trade. 

Happy New Year from all of us at Equal Exchange!