Supporting organic coffee growers in southern Ecuador
“Being organic is not just about paper certification - it’s a state of mind. It’s close to our hearts; farmers are choosing not to use fertilisers which damage everything,” says Miguel Mosquera as he walks alongside his coffee plants.
The frequent humming of the bees in his fields is a hint to any visitors to his farm that organic cultivation methods are being adopted.
Miguel is a coffee farmer from the province of Loja in southern Ecuador. He is also a member of the APECAEL cooperative which is part of the FAPECAFES federation, an Oikocredit partner which provides support to the region’s coffee-growers’ associations. His views on organic production suggest that many local farmers are responding positively to the federation’s efforts to promote organic techniques among local growers.
All farmers who are members of FAPECAFES have obtained organic certification. The federation has been certified by FLO (Fair Trade Labelling Organisation) since 2003, guaranteeing that its products come from smallholder growers and that they benefit from a fair trade premium.
The role of FAPECAFES
Oikocredit partner FAPECAFES is an umbrella organisation of six cooperatives which works closely together with its farmer members. It commercialises fair trade and organic coffee grown by 1,200 smallholder farmers in three provinces across southern Ecuador (Loja, El Oro and Zamora Chinchipe) for both domestic and international markets. FAPECAFES provides technical assistance to farmers and implements specific projects with the sponsorship of government, local and foreign institutions.
FAPECAFES’ president, Vinicio Martinez, is himself a coffee grower, and over the years he has provided advice to Miguel in the form of best farming practices and techniques at the regular meetings held with members of APECAEL. As Vinicio points out: “The association helps to promote the dreams of people like us, who find themselves disadvantaged. Smallholder producers are helping to bring about big changes in society.” FAPECAFES' training and technical support is crucial to growers in a region with a poor infrastructure and farms at high altitudes which are often difficult to access. A couple of years ago, when La Roya (coffee leaf rust) reached epidemic proportions and decimated plantations across Latin America, FAPECAFES’ farmers received seeds for new coffee varieties and donations of new machinery.
The credit lines that Oikocredit has provided since 2011 are essential in that they enable FAPECAFES to immediately pay the farmers at the time that they deliver their produce. Without such funding, famers would be forced to sell to middlemen as Vinicio Martinez, the FAPECAFES president explains: “If there had been no Oikocredit, farmers would have been forced to sell to intermediate traders who have the money to pay them immediately. However, these middlemen usually keep a significant share of the revenues.” Miguel Mosquera, the farmer goes further: “Oikocredit saved our lives because we got the money when we needed it. We are very grateful.”
Oikocredit’s European road show with FAPECAFES
FAPECAFES president Vinicio Martinez and quality controller José Apolo will travel to various European cities for an Oikocredit road show in October to showcase the work of FAPECAFES.
Why not join us at one of the road show events to learn more about the work of this partner and the support being provided to Ecuadorian organic coffee growers? An added bonus is that participants will get to sample a cup of flavoursome coffee – brewed by José!