April 2, 2009—Doña Ana Lucia Bañol is a single mother who struggled to raise five children on her own. Originally from the city, Bañol moved to Riosucio, a town in the State of Chocó, Colombia where she heard about ASPROCAFE, a fair trade coffee co-operative, in hopes of finding a better way to support herself and her family.
Through ASPROCAFE, a partner of UMCOR's partner Equal Exchange, Bañol has learned a life long lesson — self-sufficient farming. Today she lives by herself, as her children are grown and in school, on her tiny plot of land blooming with a variety of organic fruits and vegetables.
"I didn't know anything about farming. I'd never grown anything before. I didn't even know how to grow a tomato," laughed Bañol.
Her half-acre farm says something different. It is filled with coffee bushes, fruit trees, vegetables, herbs and medicinal plants; All examples of successful farming techniques that she learned and applied through training from the co-operative. "I owe everything to ASPROCAFE," she repeated over and over. "They saved my life. They trained me; they gave me seeds and loans to get started."
Hope for the Future
Prior to her farming success, Bañol lived in a shack with dirt floors and walls made of tin. She sold her coffee to the co-op and after awhile she earned enough to fix up her home and help send her children to school. With hope for the future, Bañol happily shows off her organic fruits and vegetables, neatly planted rows of coffee, and animal pens of pigs, chickens and rabbits that were all purchased through a one year loan.
"Everyone says how hard it is to grow organic, but look, we're doing all this ourselves—before, we didn't know anything. But with help from the co-op, and our partnership with you coffee buyers, we feel excited about the future; so many things are possible."
By making fair trade purchases through UMCOR's Coffee Project and its partner Equal Exchange, you help farmers like Bañol live and build a better quality of life. Working through a fair trade co-operative like ASPROCAFE, the need for a middleman is eliminated and this enables famers to receive a larger proportion of the price for their labor. This fair trade system allows farmers to earn a stable and fair price for their crops while delivering a fair price to consumers. The farmers learn sustainable farming using local natural resources and no longer struggle like they did before to make ends meet.
How You Can Help
UMCOR's 100-Ton Challenge is in its final month with 30 tons left to meet it's goal. The Challenge ends May 9, 2009. Help UMCOR surpass the 100-ton mark by purchasing Equal Exchange fair trade coffee, chocolate or snacks. Consider stocking up your pantry by making advance purchases. Shipping is free of charge on orders of four cases or more. With every pound of product sold through the UMCOR Coffee Project, a portion goes to support farmers through UMCOR's Sustainable Agricultural and Development Program.
Buy now at the Equal Exchange Interfaith Store to help farmers like Bañol, who depend on your fair trade purchases to support their livelihood. You can also give to UMCOR- SA&D, UMCOR Advance #982188.