Last week, I visited smallholder coffee farmers in the Department of Copan in Honduras, one of the most beautiful regions in the country. We are working with more than 100 farmers in Copan who want to join Fair Trade but who are not part of a cooperative or other farmer organization who could get Fair Trade certified under the old standards.
In “El Trigo” community in Copan, several smallholder coffee farmers have begun working together in order to join Fair Trade. Traditionally, farmers in this region would sell their coffee to local intermediaries who would pay low prices. Months ago, a Fair Trade exporter reached out to them to talk about Fair Trade. Farmers realized that by working together, they were able to cut the middle-man and achieve higher prices. In addition, if they could get Fair Trade certified, they would achieve Fair Trade premium for community development projects chosen and implemented by the farmers themselves.
In the last few months, these farmers have been working to meet Fair Trade standards. Don German, one of the farmers who is part of the Fair Trade leadership committee, told me a few of the things he specifically had to do in his farm to meet the standards. He felt these changes are already benefiting his family and community, even before the groups get certified.
Just as Don German, several of the farmers had to build external storage units so they could store pesticides and other chemicals outside their homes. Pesticides are now out of the reach of children and not poisoning the food. Farmers are already seeing the benefits of this new practice.
Like this example, there are several practices that smallholders have to implement in order to join Fair Trade. These practices exist so coffee is produced in a more sustainable way that benefits farmers, their families, and their communities.