“Fighting and struggling together is, for us, a lifestyle. We will not achieve everything, but little by little, with perseverance, patience, spirit and faith we will achieve what we need and desire.”
The Union of Indigenous Communities in the Isthmus Region (UCIRI) represents a location with great potential for Fair Trade to improve the lives of small farmers and communities in the global South. Since 1982, the indigenous peoples – Zapotecas, Mixes, Chontales & Mixtecos, and Chatinos – have worked together to find alternative ways of bringing their coffee to market. Partnered initially with Fair Trade pioneers from Europe, the members of UCIRI have combined innovation and respect for traditional wisdom, culture, and language into the reality of a better future.
In the past, these small farmers had no means of transporting their coffee to the city themselves and could only sell it to traveling private merchants who paid very low prices. Exploitive logging companies took advantage of the local forests, destroying local habitat, and also monopolizing the use of inter-city roads. These small coffee farmers fought the loggers for access to the roads, allowing them to bring coffee to the city and gain higher prices for their product.
The cooperative has gone through many struggles, including facing intimidation from middlemen, struggling to improve their business, and overcoming difference, to create sustainable livelihoods.
Date established: 1983
Members: 2,508 families in 55 communities
Products Produced: Green coffee, instant coffee, marmalades made from passion fruit and other tropical fruits