FIECH has over 3,300 members, primarily indigenous famers and their families.
The terrain of Chiapas is mountainous and rugged, but provides the perfect climate to grow coffee. Most people living in the area are extremely poor and rely on coffee as their main source of income. The Federación Indígena Ecológica de Chiapas (FIECH) was created in 1993 by farmers from Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Mame, Chuj and Zoque who united three small co-operatives spread throughout the region. Over the years the federation has continued to grow and is now made up of 16 co-operatives that represent 21 different municipalities in Chiapas. FIECH has over 3,300 members, primarily indigenous famers and their families. Since the federation gained Fairtrade certification in 1996, families have benefited from more stable and higher incomes through Fairtrade sales. Farmers say Fairtrade has helped create a positive cycle where families are able to invest in better farming practices, trainings and workshops, which in turn increases production and efficiency.
Benefits of Fairtrade
Fairtrade certification means FIECH has more access to higher-priced international coffee markets and doesn’t need to rely on middlemen to commercialise its coffee. As a result of participating directly in international markets, FIECH members have become more educated and aware of how to market and sell their coffee to international clients.
FIECH is constantly looking for new ways to support its members. The federation has invested Fairtrade Premiums in a warehouse and equipment to improve their quality control. It has also invested in a nursery to grow new plants: members will have better access to a supply of younger, more productive coffee trees. In addition, FIECH has built dormitories at local schools in the region, so that children and young people living in more remote areas of this underserved region have lodging to use while they are studying and attending school. These centres help farming families deter youth migration to larger cities, by keeping educational opportunities within these rural communities.
Microfinancing for Organic Agriculture
FIECH has established a microfinance fund for replanting coffee at the individual farmer level, accompanied by an organic agriculture toolkit and technical assistance.
Creation of Nursery
FIECH has established a nursery with over two million coffee plants, which will be used by members to renew their planting as well as to sell coffee plants in the local market.
Using Fairtrade Premiums, FIECH has been able to renovate coffee trees across 3,000 hectares of land. Replacing old trees with new ones provides higher yields which in turn enhances incomes for small producers.