“Like Equal Exchange, we want to improve the lives of our small farmer members,” said Hildebrando Cárdenas Salazar, general manager of Oro Verde. The co-op was founded in 1999 with 56 members, and now there are 1,200 members.
Fortaleza del Valle was founded in 2005 to improve living conditions for small-scale cacao producers in the Manabí Province of Ecuador. The co-operative is made up of five regional groups, with over 630 farmers as members. The average size of each farm is 2.5 - 12.5 acres, and the farms are diversified to include fruit and timber trees. Fortaleza del Valle works to improve family incomes by improving the production yield and quality of its members' cacao. The co-op has developed post-harvest infrastructure, such as central fermentation centers, to ensure the best in quality. Fair Trade premiums have been used to invest in pre-harvest financing, pruning and replanting of trees to rehabilitate the farms, education and training, and infrastructure for local organizations.