Our latest release holds a special place in my heart. I was in Colombia in 2004 with Witness for Peace, a fantastic social justice organization. I was looking for fair trade coffee connections and learning about the political situation in war-torn Colombia. I learned a lot about this amazing country and heard heart-breaking stories from victims of the decades-old conflict. But in the midst of the guerrillas and paramilitaries I also met with an incredible indigenous organization: Fondo Paez.
The Paez (or Nasa) communities are based in the state of Cauca, in the mountains of the Cordillera Central, a couple hours from Cali. They are the largest indigenous group in Colombia and they have won constitutional control over their ancestral lands. They have gained autonomy through their commitment and struggle to remain neutral in the civil war that, at times, has raged on their land. During my visit they protected me by having eyes on every road in the region looking for unwelcome visitors.
The communities I visited have programs in place for coffee quality, sharing expertise in organic agriculture, and for seed sharing to protect traditional foods like Maíz del Año, a local corn variety. These communities are working towards a sustainable reality with a very clear ecological, cultural and economic vision. Fair trade organic coffee is the main focus, but it is only part of a larger strategy to achieve their goals.
After this visit Cooperative Coffees (our cooperatively owned coffee importer) became the first importer to buy directly from Fondo Paez, a relationship that has deepened over the 10 years since. As our mutual engagement has increased, so has the consistency and quality of the coffee. This last year, Coffee Review scored our Fondo Paez a 93 and in February of 2008, it scored a 95 – the highest for any Colombian coffee that year. It is an amazing feat that these small scale organic, indigenous farmers can produce one of the best coffees in the world. We are proud this relationship has continued all these years and that we are able to offer you this amazing coffee, share the story behind it and support these determined farmers in their quest for a better world.
Purchase our Fondo Paez here.