Why Did We Establish a Donor Advised Fund?
As Equal Exchange celebrated our 30th anniversary in 2016, we went through a strategic planning process and produced a four year coffee sourcing strategy. In our coffee team strategic plan, we identified a core group of six producer partners who are key to the future success of Equal Exchange and share our values to develop a long-term partnership and innovate together. With this key group we are investing additional funds to support organizational development, technical assistance to farmers, income diversification, and gender equity projects.
With over thirty years of trying building a collaborative, equitable, and sustainable value chain with producer partners around the world, we understand on a much deeper level the extraordinary historic inequalities, marginalization, and challenges faced by coffee farmers. Our trade model cannot correct for all of these deep-rooted problems - we must complement our commercial work with collaborative development work. This is where we decided to experiment by establishing a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) with RSF Social Finance in early 2017 with the initial donation coming being part of Equal Exchange’s 2016 charitable contribution. We established the DAF at RSF Social Finance with an initial donation of $165,000 from the worker-owners of Equal Exchange.
We value long-term relationships with our farmer partners and focus on collaborative work that addresses the financial, social, and environmental needs of these farming communities. With our newly established Donor Advised Fund at RSF Social Finance, we plan to continue support of our key farmer partners as they work to combat the impacts of climate change, protect threatened ecosystems, and increase rural prosperity.
What Kind of Work Are we Funding?
Projects were funded in the fourth quarter of 2017 and represent a wide variety of work and priorities at each cooperative. The average dollar amount per project for grants disbursed in 2017 was $24,000. Here are a few of the grants funded:
- Expanding vital coffee tree nursery work - Sol y Café, CESMACH, Comon Yaj Noptic
> High-quality varieties
> Availability of seedlings for members
- Income diversification with beekeeping - Finca Triunfo Verde
- On-farm field schools & training - Manos Campesinas, Finca Triunfo Verde
- Engaging young people and building the next generation of farmers - ASPROCAFE Ingruma, Finca Triunfo Verde
- Using mobile technology to gather information and make strategic decisions on an organizational level - Manos Campesinas
Beekeeping at Triunfo Verde in Mexico
What is Next for the Fund?
This is where we need interested allies and investors to help out! Our initial donation and vision are just the beginning. There is still a huge unmet need for dollars to invest in farmer-led projects. In 2018 we are evaluating the first round projects and their impact as well as opening a call for a next round of projects. We are seeking donations to fund this ongoing work.
Relating our Work to the Bigger Picture: The UN Sustainable Development Goals.
All of the efforts we support at these cooperatives have community-wide benefits. Especially in the face of climate change, the economic opportunities created through increasing coffee production and farm resilience are felt throughout communities. Farmer cooperatives provide positive and direct externalities on the communities where they are based: rural economic development in historically marginalized markets, environmentally-sound farming practices that contribute to biodiversity conservation, and investment in infrastructure such as roads and internet that are vital to all community members. Our work is grounded in long-term collaboration with farmer partners and we can link our efforts directly to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The efforts of this particular project address the following goals:
- Goal #1: No Poverty
- Goal #5: Gender Equality
- Goal #8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
- Goal #10: Reduced Inequalities
- Goal #12: Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns
- Goal #13: Climate Action
- Goal #15: Life on Land/Biodiversity Conservation
- Goal #17: Partnerships for the Goals
Core group meeting in Seattle, April 2018 where we reflected on our achievements so far and planned for future activities.