Asociación Fondo Paez – Department of Cauca, Colombia

Asociación Fondo Paez – Asociación Kwe’sx Uma Kiwe Peykajn Mjinxisa – Department of Cauca, Colombia — Fondo Paez was established in 1992 with a mission to revitalize the culture and traditional agricultural techniques of the Paez, the largest of Colombia’s indigenous populations. Fondo Paez is organized by democratic process and an equal ownership model, allowing the cooperative to provide social benefits and return a relatively high percentage of profits to each of its 550 current producers. Fondo Paez provides technical, quality control, and logistical assistance to community-based member cooperatives.

Fondo Paez began selling the first of its Fair Trade coffees in 2000 through the Specialty Coffees Program sponsored by the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia (FNC). Despite the support of the FNC, Fair Trade still remains somewhat unpopular among Colombian farmers. Nonetheless, Fondo Paez earned its official Fairtrade certification in 2005.

Paez community leaders, in partnership with the non-profit Fundación Colombia Nuestra established the “Recovering Agricultural Knowledge” program to encourage the use of traditional holistic farming techniques to promote self-sufficiency and environmental responsibility. To do so, the cooperative has invested in programs to educate and influence farmers to balance production of cash crops such as coffee, sisal, beans, and tropical fruits with that of feed crops, crops for the farmers’ own consumption and the production of nitrogen fixing crops to maintain soil health.