El Salvador

The Association of Small Coffee Producers of El Salvador (APECAFE) is an organization that represents 11 coffee cooperatives located in different regions of El Salvador. APECAFE was founded in 1997 with the goal of uniting the cooperatives' 539 small-scale coffee farmers to produce and export their coffee to the international market. They provide a range of services to their members, such as commercialization, financing, and technical assistance in quality and in environmentally sustainable farming practices. APECAFE also works with the cooperatives to resolve other problems facing their communities, such as the task of reconstruction following the series of earthquakes in 2001 that destroyed much of the housing and infrastructure of the coops.

In addition to earthquake relief and housing reconstruction, Fair Trade premiums have also helped sponsor training programs in leadership development, cooperative management, and financing for its members. Premiums have helped improve the school infrastructure, hire additional teachers, and purchase school supplies. Today, the cooperative has been able to expand the school from 1st and 2nd grades up to 7th grade.

With the help of organizations like APECAFE, the farmers are committed to cultivating their coffee in the most ecologically sensitive and sustaining manner. They have maintained the canopy cover, growing their coffee under the shade. These trees in turn produce a diversity of products (for example, firewood and fruits) for household consumption and the local market. In addition, the farmers have stopped using pesticides and chemical fertilizers on their crops. They are receiving extensive trainings in organic production and will soon have their organic certification.

APECAFE has been working to improve the quality of their coffee by contracting extension workers to provide trainings and technical assistance to the farmers. In 2003, its coffee was rated one of the best coffees in El Salvador by the Specialty Coffee Association's Cup of Excellence competition. Extension workers are also providing assistance to the farmers in organic production, enabling them to protect the environment and earn higher prices for their coffee.

Thanks to God and Equal Exchange, we will not die of hunger, we will not lose our land, and our children are able to attend school. I want to thank all of the people that purchase our coffee. It is thanks to you that we have a seed of hope in our lives."
- José Luis Castillo Vásquez, Las Colinas