As a dietitian, I seek to identify the best quality foods available and educate individuals to choose them because I believe that better quality = better health. I call it being a Qualitarian. So when I get the question about what makes better coffee, several things get factored into my reply. One factor may surprise many of you – I factor if the coffee is Fair Trade certified (FairTradeUSA.org) – because as a woman and a dietitian, I know that Fair Trade certification is part of what puts the "better" in a "better quality" choice. Why? Fair Trade certification means adherence to strict environmental and social standards. October is Fair Trade month so I wanted to help you understand what Fair Trade certification is and why it should be something you factor when making your coffee choice. And to do that, I reached out to, Aurora Maria Izquierdo Torres of Colombia to share her insights on what Fair Trade certification provides to her community and others locally in Colombia.
Aurora is the founder of Café ANEI, an association made up of Arhuaco, Kogi, Wiwa and Kankuamo people – about 600 families, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Maria. Aurora founded the organization in the 1980s. At the time, Aurora was one of the first women of her generation to leave the isolated indigenous Arhuaca community of Santa Maria and get a higher education in Bogata.
The community places a huge emphasis on nutrition and holds events in each town to educate the children about healthy eating. All of the coffee is organic, and each member must have a vegetable patch (for their own consumption) in addition to coffee plants.
There is more info about the community here: http://www.fairtradeusa.org/producer-profiles/asoanei-productores-agroecol-gicos-santa-marta-y-perij
Q: What inspired you to establish Café Anei?
A: I was the first indigenous woman (in the community) who had the opportunity to go away to attend school (college) and upon return I saw so many need within my community. My challenge was to start with a career that would allow us to reaffirm our culture and improve the living conditions of children in particular, and the community as a whole.
Q: What are some of the barriers to get an education in your community?
A: Lack of institutional support, and limited financial resources.
Q: What are the challenges of being a female leader?
A: My challenge is to empower with knowledge to people with fewer opportunities, because this is the way to bring more justice and therefore the opportunity for people can improve their living conditions.
Q: What is the importance of organic agriculture in your community?
A: For indigenous people, organic agriculture supports our worldview to protect and care for Mother Earth and maintain a healthy planet to leave to future generations.
Q: How does Fair Trade help other women in your community?
A: Fair Trade has helped instill dignity into the work of the indigenous communities, especially the women. It has raised our self-esteem and motivated us to take on new challenges to promote the betterment of the community.
Fair Trade has helped us to make better decisions through democratic process, which has given us greater autonomy be more equitable and strive to do better business and complete more social products in our farming communities.
Q: What advice would you give to other women who want to make a difference in their communities?
A: Whatever you decide to do, do with love and perseverance, always remember that what you do will motivate many people. And this is how you will help to build a better future.
Q: What would you say to women in the United States about Cafe Anei. Why should they always buy Fair Trade coffee?
A: I would like to tell the women in the United States that when they buy our coffee, they are supporting indigenous cultures that are dedicated to protecting the environment and live in harmony with nature, keeping in mind the well-being of future generations. Fair Trade has helped us organize ourselves. After some time being autonomous, it is strengthening us as a community and organization, primarily because it supports our members and the general community in improving their quality of life. ”
Aurora María Izquierdo Torres, ASOANEI