Just think what else this label could do…

We’ve kept you up to date with what the Shared Interest team got up to over Fairtrade Fortnight but what about the rest of the UK?

The Fairtrade Foundation have produced a little video showing some of the highlights of the Fortnight, from bunting decorating to Facebook challenges this year’s activities were certainly creative. I think if pushed, the cake shaped like bunting is my favourite from the video, what a way to show off your label!

You can view the video and the impact that showing off the label has on farmers and workers in the developing world below.

Research shows that 49% of the UK public knew that it was Fairtrade Fortnight and a further 29% purchased a Fairtrade product during the campaign. With a huge 57,000 likes on Facebook and 77% of the UK recognising the Fairtrade Mark this really does feel like an exciting time to be part of the Fairtrade movement.

So, how are we going to top this success and make Fairtrade Fortnight 2012 the best yet?!?

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Quality and Quantity for Pangoa

A Peruvian coffee and cocoa co-operative that is succeeding in the face of adversity – thanks in part to help from Shared Interest – is Pangoa. As is the case with some of our other customers, Pangoa also has access to funds from other social lenders however, they are anticipating a rise in sales and as a result are looking to work with Shared Interest to help them meet demand. Luis Silva, Chairman of the co-operative said: “For us, it is an enormous satisfaction to have obtained this line of credit.”

Terrorism in the early 1990s led to nationwide problems for the rural area as many potential farmers fled to the cities. Pangoa was particularly vulnerable as the areas around it were rich in coca plants. Migration to the cities led to a decreased workforce, which meant that the coffee and cocoa couldn’t be properly harvested, resulting in decreased sales and a loss of contracts. As the problems associated with terrorism began to decrease, the cooperative realised that in order to be successful they needed to divert their focus from local to international markets. As they lacked experience and contacts with international buyers, initial exports were made through Coinca, a national coffee exporter.

As the co-operative developed they realised that quality was as, if not more, important than quantity. As a result in 2007 they launched a production improvement project which included advice on fertilisers, technical assistance to members as well as training and capacity development. In addition to this, thanks to the Fairtrade Premium, they were able to start health and education programmes with the members and their families. To increase production further the co-operative also invested in humid and dry mill plants as well as vehicles to transport coffee and cocoa.

Social impact has always been important to Pangoa. In 1993, after recognising that the district lacked the electrical capacity for normal operation of the business, the members decided to build a hydroelectric generator facility. They set up a new company named, Egepsa. This organisation is a completely separate entity but it is owned by Pangoa. Every farmer offered the weight of two quintals of coffee as initial investment and additional funds from the Government were obtained in 1994 to finish the project. Since then, that plant has provided electricity to the co-operative and the nearby regions. Pangoa have maintained this dedication to social impact by providing intensive training programmes for farmers as well as credit systems, tools and materials to help with production and housing schemes amongst many other projects, all of which aim to improve the living and working conditions for the co-operative’s members and their families.

Thanks to finance from Shared Interest, Pangoa will be able to continue positively impacting the development of the local community. Efrain Arcos, Secretary of Pangoa said: “As farmer and member of this co-operative, I am very happy and I feel encouraged to continue working having received this vote of confidence from Shared Interest, it is an incentive to all of us.”

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And the winner is….

Ten year old Liam from Benton Park Primary School in Newcastle

Congratulations to Liam and the rest of his class. The pupils all received a Fairtrade t shirt, complete with Liam’s design as well as a VIP trip to the cinema.

The Real Radio team visited Benton Park last week to deliver the good news in person, Liam was thrilled to have won and the rest of his class were very excited to be included in the prize.

To see Liam, his t shirt design and pictures from the Real Radio visit click here.

We are currently in the process of evaluating our Fairtrade Fortnight campaign but initial findings suggest that our work with Real Radio and the Newcastle Fairtrade Partnership has been successful in achieving the aim of raising the profile of Shared Interest and Fairtrade within the region.

We look forward to building on these achievements during Fairtrade Fortnight 2012!

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New Storage spells the sweet Smell of Success

The global sugar market is heavily distorted by a complex combination of trade measures. The European Union (EU) ensures high internal prices and export subsidies for its domestic sugar beet producers. This often leads to overproduction and the dumping of excess sugar onto world markets. Subsequently it is estimated that global sugar prices have decreased by 12%. The EU has also imposed steep import tariffs on sugar cane producing countries in Latin America.

Costa Rica is one of these countries. Jaris de Mora is a small farmers’ town in the South West Mountains of Costa Rica Central Valley. The town consists of 50 families, all of whom are reliant on the sugar co-operative, Asoproodulce to sell their small crops of sugar cane. Unfortunately, due to prohibitive local legislation there are no other channels through which these farmers can sell their produce. Small sugar mill houses were closed throughout the country for a number of reasons, namely because of their negative environmental effects; for example farmers were burning old tyres to heat the sugar cane juice.

The Development Education Corporation of Costa Rica (CEDECO) is a pioneer in promoting organic agriculture and agro-ecology. The group has been in operation since 1988 and has worked with Asoproodulce, to set up a proper mill house which meets both local and international regulations. This means that Jaris de Mora residents are able to source their incomes locally, selling their sugar cane directly to Asoprodulce. The social impact is huge as without the co-operative these farmers would have no other way of finding a market for their produce. The co-operative’s dedication to fair trade also means that the Fairtrade Premium is used to impact the community positively.

One producer that sells to Asoproduce is Juan Valverde Sánchez. Juan says: “I know that if I bring my sugar to the association they’ll buy from me at a fixed price. I’ve got security, whereas in the old days, selling was more difficult. Sometimes the middlemen bought sugar from one person, sometimes from another. You never knew. There were always changes in the national price. There were very bad months.”

Asoprodulce are planning to use their Shared Interest facility to build two new mill houses which will allow them to store and process the sugar cane more efficiently which ultimately means helping more Costa Rican sugar cane producers to access international markets.

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Hurricane Matthew in Chiapas

At the beginning of October 2010, Hurricane Matthew crossed over the Mexican state of Chiapas, causing severe damage to the land used by Shared Interest Society customer and organic coffee producing group, Campesinos Ecológicos de la Sierra Madre de Chiapas SC (CESMACH). The area in which the group lives and works suffered landslides and broken bridges; the damage has greatly impacted their coffee production.

Carlos Omero Velasco López, President of CESMACH, estimates that 70% of the group’s farmlands and coffee plantations are devastated, and of the crop produced by the 30% that remains; approximately half is likely to be damaged by excessive rain and humidity that cause disease. This is a disaster for the coffee producers and their families who rely on coffee sales to survive. In fact 75% of their income derives from their coffee farming. In addition to suffering the loss of coffee plants, many people have been left homeless following the floods, and communications and transport are limited due to damage to bridges and roads.

CESMACH has planned a recovery programme for coffee production, and Shared Interest Foundation is pleased to be able to support it with a donation of £5,000 from its Livelihood Security Fund as part of the pilot programme. This will fund the purchase of 2,500 new coffee plants and, along with land clearing and digging; the funds will go a long way to helping the producers who have suffered damages start to earn a living from coffee again. The months ahead will be challenging as CESMACH coordinates the repair of the coffee processing machinery and areas, and maintains a focus on retaining the quality of the coffee it produces. CESMACH is therefore attempting to strengthen links with government agencies and other regional actors to overcome the loss of productive assets and put into practice its medium term plan.

If you would like to donate to the Livelihood Security Fund, which supports producer groups dealing with natural disasters please send a cheque payable to Shared Interest Foundation to, Shared Interest, No. 2 Cathedral Square, Groat Market, Newcastle, NE1 4XF or donate online by clicking here.



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Culture for Success

Last night Patricia, Margaret, Denise and I headed to the Northern Stage for the annual Culture for Success Awards. Following a visit from the judging panel we were confident that we had been shortlisted however, I am delighted to share the news that we came away with the Highly Commended award in the medium-size business category.

We are over the moon as these awards recognise expertise, talent and passion in the region, focussing on the way businesses are run with particular emphasis on how organisations develop and nurture their staff.

We were joined at the event by some of the biggest names in the region and it was an honour to share the shortlist with them. It was great to see so many people there, celebrating the regions success stories.

Congratulations to all the winners, hopefully we will see you all next year!

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“Their Innovation Knows No Bounds”

As Supporter Relations Officer part of my role involves promoting Shared Interest to potential new members. Fairtrade Fortnight in particular usually means the opportunity to speak to a myriad of different groups. I often find that case studies are the best way to illustrate the work that we do.  One group that I tend to talk about is Apicoop. I recently had the opportunity to meet Apicoops’s Manager, Chino Henriques, I love meeting the people that we work with as it’s great to put faces to names as well as hear their stories directly.

Apicoop was established in 1980 and was a direct result of the challenging political situation facing Chile at the time.  There was little trust and communication among the population so the idea of Apicoop was to work with insects, in this case bees, to encourage co-operation among the people.  Chino explained this concept: “Bees organise themselves in a way very similar to that of a co-operative with the Queen Bee as the CEO with Worker Bees working together, with a 97% female workforce and 3% male, who are kicked out once their work is done anyway.”

The co-operative’s 300 members cover an area of 1,200 km2 to reduce the risks associated with beekeeping.  By covering a wide area any localised issues, such as weather conditions, may affect some honey production but not the entire co-operatives supply.  Due to the widespread membership the co-operative requires trucks to be able to deliver the hives and reach their members, they started by hiring trucks but with their first Fairtrade premium they were very pleased to be able to purchase their own truck.

Another clever investment Apicoop made was buying 20 hectares of land, they didn’t initially know what they would use it for but they thought it would be a good investment.  Now they operate a blueberry farm there where 80 women work as part of Apicoop.  They earn 100% more income than other blueberry fields and next year they will need more women and every woman who works there has vowed to bring a sister, daughter, mother or friend to work.  Apicoop aims for the blueberry field to be an example of good work to others in the country and around the world. 

Chino explained to an audience in Nottingham that without finance from Shared Interest Apicoop would not have been able to set up the blueberry project but since setting it up three banks have visited the blueberry field and asked how they can help.  Apicoop’s first crop of blueberries produced 80 tons, 50 tons of them going to their main Blueberries UK buyer, the Co-operative, with fellow North East organisation, Traidcraft, among their other buyers.

After the blueberries are collected, they are sent to Apicoop’s local exporter who packages them before sending them on to the UK. There is a risk that the exporter may be unable to fully support Apicoop in the future and so they plan is to build their own packing station…their innovation has no bounds!

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Namayiana - Fair Trade Producer Visit Click here to learn how you can invest in fair trade.

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