This week four Canadian coffee roasters will make their way to Bolivia to visit COAINE, a Bolivian cooperative that supports 180 coffee growing families. It’s particularly fitting that they’re visiting during National Volunteer Week (April 21-27), because this initiative would not have been possible without the hard work of Crossroads International volunteers.
It all started in 2006 when one of our volunteers starting working with a microfinance organization called FONCRESOL. In only six months he helped them develop a fair trade certification guide and a capital needs assessment for families that wanted to grow and sell coffee. All of his hard work resulted in the development of a new loan product with FONCRESOL called the Fair Loan. The Fair Loan is offered to rural Bolivian coffee producers, more than 80 per cent of whom live in poverty. The loan gives producers the opportunity to scale up their coffee production but also directly impacts other aspects of their lives, such as being able to send their children to school, give them greater access to health services and clean water, and increases communication and transportation services in remote areas.
Building on this first volunteer’s success, Crossroads volunteers have worked on opening up Canadian coffee markets to producers. In 2011, Mario Condori, a coffee farmer and head of COAINE, came to Canada to meet with potential Canadian buyers. His visit was a success, and by fall of that year agreements had been signed with five coffee roasters across Canada to purchase Bolivian coffee at a fair rate. This has already materialized in two container shipments of coffee beans to Canada- that’s more than 30,000 kilos of coffee! This week the four roasters visiting Bolivia from various parts of Canada will be exploring the possibilities of developing or deepening their relationships with producers, with the hope that they will import beans to Canada in 2013. One of the Canadian micro-roasters is also going to be exploring the potential of developing an importing cooperative in which COAINE would be the key supplier.
This is an excellent example of how sophisticated the volunteer cooperation model has become. Crossroads International strives to make a difference by coordinating the skills of our volunteers where they will have the most benefit, and the astounding results are testament to the skill and commitment of all of our volunteers. The formula has been a success in South-South exchanges between Swaziland, Ghana and Zimbabwe, South-North exchanges between Mali and Quebec, and North-South from Canada to various countries where we have partners.
In the past year, 101 volunteers have participated in these knowledge and skills-based exchanges. Everyone who has volunteered time to Crossroads International has made significant contributions, whether it has been overseas or right here at home. We have a strong team of committed volunteers here in Canada who devoted countless hours to supporting our programs by training volunteers, acting as host families, and raising funds. This year volunteers raised funds to advance the rights of women and girls by hosting fundraising events and online though the International Women’s Day and club2club campaigns. Through their efforts, an additional 15 girls’ empowerment clubs will be opened in Swaziland. In addition, the Crossroads International board and committees provide invaluable guidance to our work, and our office volunteers and interns help us make it all come together on a daily basis.
I would like to thank all of our volunteers past and present, in Canada and overseas, for all of their efforts, our work would not be possible without you and we value all of your contributions. On behalf of all of us here at Crossroads, thank you!