Equal Exchange's (EQEX) mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate, through our success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world. Founded in 1986, Equal Exchange sold $34 million of coffee, chocolate and tea in 2008.
Besides buying products at Fair trade prices, EQEX also facilitates pre-harvest credit to help the farmers through the year. Together these provide a stable source of income and improved social services for around 50,000 farming families.
EQEX also supports sustainable farming practices and works with its co-ops to develop more environmentally sound business practices. Equal Exchange also works to connect the buyers and consumers of our products with the small farmer who grew them. In the last two years we have taken 100 people to spend a week in the fields with such small farmers - including spending a night with a farmer family. We have also brought 30 farmers and farmer representatives to the US for quality training.
EQEX also runs "The Interfaith Program," a faith-based program which links Fair Trade with congregations' social justice missions, and a "Fundraising Program" that links school fundraising with education about Fair Trade. Through partnering with congregations and schools these program build a valuable bridge between US communities and remote farming communities. More than 10,000 congregations, schools and religious groups have invested in fair-trade principles by paying an equitable price for their products, which has truly made a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of farmers.
EQEX works with small farmer cooperatives that are owned and democratically governed by the farmers themselves. Currently, it partners with over 30 small farmer organizations in 24 countries. These organizations are located all over Latin America, Africa and Asia; with co-ops in Bolivia, Guatemala, Mexico, Tanzania, Peru, Nicaragua, El Salvador, South Africa, Indonesia and the Dominican Republic, to name a few. By internationally recognized fair trade criteria, women must have an equal right to be members of cooperatives and must be treated as equals in the governance of the organizations. EQEX's trading partners are all very low income citizens of their countries. Often without Fair Trade the family would leave their land to seek work in the cities, or send a father or mother or child to work in the US.
EQEX had sales of $29.3 million and more than a million customers in 2007. From 2005-2006 we paid small farmers $2.1 million in above market premiums - that is the difference between the market price and the Fair Trade price. We have extended our tea line, adding coops in Sri Lanka and South Africa to our partner list. Our quality programs are also having an impact: in the 2004 Cup of Excellence, an international coffee competition, EQEX's Laureano Flores Cooperative won third place. These awards help farmers get even higher prices, as well as retuning some pride for their backbreaking work. The impact of EQEX's Fair Trade practices is apparent in the health care, transportation and educational services secured for producing farmers. EQEX's growth and the resultant increase in its purchases have allowed thousands of poor farmers to retain their land.
The CESMACH farmers are located in the Sierra Madre mountains in the southwestern part of the Mexican state of Chiapas. They farm within the buffer zone of El Triunfo, a U.N.- designated biosphere, rich in flora and fauna, containing many endangered and protected species. Within the nucleus of the biosphere, agricultural activities are not permitted but organic farming, with a strict set of standards, is allowed in the buffer zone, which separates the biosphere from the surrounding region.
Equal Exchange has been working with the CESMACH co-operative since 2005 when we offered to buy 10 containers of their coffee – 60% of their total production. Since that year, our relationship has been steadily growing. Full Story