To Bean or Not To Bean buys only Fair Trade Organic (FTO) coffees. This means that we are buying our beans from coffee farmers who belong to, or sell to, cooperatives.

Buying FTO beans ensures that;

1) each farmer is being paid a fair and equitable wage
2) each coffee farmer benefits from the decision making of a democratically run cooperative
3) the beans are grown and farmed in accordance to strict and environmentally friendly FTO standards

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Supplier Profile: A.P.C.E. Mountain Coffee

The Amazon hangs in a precarious balance, threatened by increasing pressure to convert tropical forests into croplands and a lack of economic options for the region’s inhabitants. As a result, people in this region have typically turned to the immediate economic benefits of logging and clear cutting.

Alternative models exist: ones that anchor on the link between creating sustainable economic wealth and conserving the environment. “We entered the world of environmental conservation as a result of certain demand from our buyers,” says Eliseo, who is also the general manager of the Asociación de Productores de Cafés Especiales (A.P.C.E.) Mountain Coffee, a 10 year-old coffee cooperative with more than 450 members that has been a Root Capital client for three years. “Because of that, we produce organic coffee and sustainable coffee.”

The shade-grown organic coffee produced by Mountain Coffee is planted among other, taller trees, often alongside other subsistence or cash crops; it can thus be incorporated into existing farming and agroforestry systems or polyculture production systems. A traditional shade-grown coffee farm often resembles a forest because of its many layers of trees, which support numerous plant, animal, and bird species. Shade-grown coffee trees also boast a longer productive life than their sun-grown counterparts and can play a role in helping farmers adapt to climate change: recent studies reveal that shade canopy produces a cooling effect of 3–7 degrees Fahrenheit, which helps maintain product quality by offsetting rising temperatures and pest outbreaks.

At Mountain Coffee, credit and commodity markets have led to economic development and environmental conservation. Eliseo reflects, “If it weren’t for the opportune financing we receive from Root Capital, we might not be able to realize our plan to foster quality, better organic production, and social responsibility.”

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Supplier Profile: OCFCU FLO ID 897

OCFCU is the largest Fairtrade Certified coffee union inEthiopia. It was founded in 1999 when 23,691 membersfrom 35 small Ethiopian cooperatives came together to export their coffee directly to the speciality market

“We used to sell our coffee to exporters who would cheat us and sometimes they did not pay us at all. Now we know the value of our coffee and we receive profits from the coffee sold by the Union.”
~ Miju Adula, Chairman Kilenso Mokonisa Cooperative, OCFCU

The Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU) Story:
Six varieties of OCFCU’s Highland Coffee are grown by indigenous farmers of the South Western rainforest of Ethiopia. Fairtrade is supporting forest conservation in the area and giving farmers increased food security. The people of Yirgacheffe, one of the regions where OCFCU cooperatives are based, have been cultivating Shade Grown coffee in their forests for hundreds of years. This regional practice has protected the native forests. Through Fairtrade sales, Fairtrade is supporting the continued conservation of the forests.
The high quality of the coffee is achieved through organic, shade grown, chemical-free farming and intercropping to enhance soil fertility. The coffee bushes are interspersed with plants such as cardamom and ginger, fruits such as papaya, mangoes and avocadoes, and root crops such as sweet potatoes. The food crops greatly improve families’ food consumption and can also be sold in the local market, adding to their income.
“With Fairtrade, coffee farmers in Ethiopia are getting their deserved reward. To simply put it, the picture of unequal dynamics is being reversed day by day, week after week, month after month. And over the past few years, I can see a ray of hope…” Tadesse Meskela, OCFCU’s general manager. Fairtrade has transformed the lives of OCFCU’s farmer members.
Revenue from the Fairtrade Premium has been invested to improve the working and living conditions of farmers and their families and invested in the diversification of local income earning opportunities.

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Supplier Profile: PPKGO Sumatra – Gayo Organic Coffee Farmer’s Association

The Persatuan Petani Kopi Gayo Organik, or PPKGO, is located near Takengon in the Gayo Highlands region of Aceh Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. The cooperative has over 1,600 members of which 20% are women and spans 32 communities. This region is renowned as the largest producer of Arabica coffee in Southeast Asia, but also as the site of the seemingly ceaseless civil war between Acehnese separatists and the Indonesian military.

PPKGO’s co-op’s membership is predominantly of the devoutly muslim Gayo ethnic group (50%), but also includes a diverse span of Javanese (30%), Acehnese (15%), Padang (3%) and Batak (2%) and various religons. This diversity has strengthened the cooperative – an incredible feat in the midst of such intercultural strife in the region. PPKGO was the first Fair Trade certified coffee cooperative in Indonesia.

In 1997, ForesTrade initiated the “Sustainable Sumatra Coffee Project”, a collaborative project in partnership with local coffee producers, the Gayo Organic Coffee Farmers Association (PPKGO) and C.V. Trimaju, a local processor/exporter. Working in close partnership with the PPKGO and Trimaju, ForesTrade serves as a processor, importer, pre-financer and logistics coordinator. They also provide the necessary technical assistance and training and support for implementing and monitoring organic and Fair Trade programs.

compostingCoop members live in an environmentally sensitive region in and around the buffer zone to Gunung Leuser National Park, an area that contains critical watersheds and sanctuaries for endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger. Producers are dedicated to producing high-quality 100% organic and shade grown coffee while ensuring their production practices conserve resources and preserve the biologically diverse ecosystem in which they live.

Significant revenues earned from selling to the Fair Trade and organic markets has allowed PPKGO to contribute to a wide variety of programs, contributing to the advancement of PPKGO’s production, processing and quality, as well as local community development. These investments include:

Investment in local community development and local infrastructure
· Constructed potable water system benefiting more than 1,500 people in three communities.
· Assisted farmers in building and repairing 34 homes.
· Established a credit union to extend small loans to families in the cooperative.
· Provided supplemental financing for the construction of three local schools
· Constructed new roads and helped repair/upgrade existing ones.
· Refurbished area Mosques.
· Constructed soccer (football) fields for local communities.
· Provide ongoing support for local orphans and widows.
· 150 PPKGO members have participated in the Hajj, a life-long goal for Muslims.

Investment in coffee production, processing and quality improvements
· Rehabilitation of old farms and purchase of new ones.
· Development of community nurseries to provide improved and grafted coffee and shade tree seedlings. · Initiation of a mechanical weed cutter program.
· Establishment of 2 cupping labs one at PPKGO’s headquarters in Takengon and the other at the export processing plant in Medan.
· Purchase of five wet mills, moisture meters, and 25 vehicles for coffee transport in five communities.
· Promotion of income diversification projects for farmers to grow additional cash crops, such as vanilla, potatoes, and bananas.
· Maintenance of coffee seedling nurseries and distribution of seedlings to rehabilitate farms.

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COOPERVITAE was founded by a small group of producers on July 13, 2001. The group became Fair Trade Certified™ in 2006 and has since grown dramatically. Members are enthusiastic about the benefits of Fair Trade and organic agriculture. They are working to become 100 percent organic.

There are 370 members in the cooperative. Twelve members, elected from different regions, meet at least once a month to make important decisions. There is also a yearly meeting with all producers. The cooperative produces about 20 containers of coffee per year. Four are organic and represent coffee from roughly twenty-five producers. Many producers are in transition to organic methods.

COOPERVITAE is one of fifteen Brazilian Fair Trade Certified producer groups that participated in the 2007-2010 Responsible Sourcing Partnership (RSP) project. The RSP project is a result of a partnership between USAID, Fair Trade USA, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and SEBRAE-MG designed to improve the quality of Brazilian coffee, increase market linkages and raise producer capacity. Through the partnership, COOPERVITAE participated in numerous trainings to improve coffee quality. The events and workshops included cooperative governance, business management, cupping and post-harvest best practices trainings.

Our Brazilian beans come directly cooperative member Oldemar Inacio da Lima:
“In 2004, a friend told me about a market system based on fairness and solidarity for organic and conventional coffee producers (Fair Trade). I was immediately interested because I had been looking for a way to commercialize my product without losing its value or affecting the environment negatively – things other organizations didn’t seem to pay attention to. As a producer and human being, I am worried about both of these issues because we course depend on the environment to grow quality products and this guarantees not only our livelihoods but those of generations to come. ”
~ Oldemar Inacio da Lima, Coopervitae Member