I am a consultant for the cooperative development project by Equal Exchange and TCHO who have teamed up for a creative seven year project (2010 - 2017) with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The companies are working with their cooperative suppliers, ensuring market access for their ever-improving coffee and cocoa, shortening the feedback loops and bridging the gap between coffee and cocoa beans and gourmet palettes.
A 28 year pioneer in Fair Trade and successful workers cooperative, Equal Exchange is a world leader in fairness, ethical commerce and economic democracy. They partner exclusively with 40 small producer cooperatives in 20 countries and supply quality consumer products to 175 consumer coops, 10,000 congregations, Whole Foods and others. For this project, they accept no overhead and rely on the cooperative partners themselves and local consultants for project implementation.
TCHO is a new American chocolate company, located in Berkley, CA, which applies Silicon Valley technologies and a passion to craft the very best chocolate with an obsession for quality.
Flavor development for cocoa begins with fermentation, which occurs on the farm immediately after harvest. Fermentation unlocks the flavor in cocoa. Working closely with farmer partners, we develop exceptional flavor profiles, demanded by deserving buyers, through improved physical infrastructure, better methodologies and instruments to measure and record key variables such as weather, temperatures, pH and Brix.
We support solar drying models so that when beans are dried, its releases acids developed during fermentation. We install flavor labs so that farmers and managers can taste their chocolate. They are able to record and measure quality with taste panels and results are recorded through Cropster - a cloud-based computer program.
We are helping the cooperatives with improved productivity including organic fertilizer and composting for both cocoa and coffee plants, and the selection of elite trees placed in nurseries for superior plants that are disease resistant. We also support model farms for on-site training, revolving equipment rentals for pruning and weeding and technical assistance from the cooperative staff.
For cooperative strengthening, we have put in place three equity plans (two in Peru and one in Ecuador) in which farmers contribute financially to their cooperatives through a portion of their products converted into allocated capital. Equity plans are keys to cooperative growth and member loyalty. We support member education and communications efforts to strengthen the ties between farmers and their cooperatives, and build understanding on the role of cooperatives in their lives and communities. These plans are likely the first in this region.
Notable Achievements and Projects
1. Saved one million lives in refugee camps in Pakistan, Thailand and Kenya through Food for Furniture Amendment while legislative assistant as Carter appointee in USAID. Legislation appropriated 67 million in emergency food aid. It was opposed by the White House/NSC and set a precedent for shifting funds from one section to another in a supplemental appropriations measure.
2. Significantly assisted return to democracy in Chile through the design, creation and funding of La Cruzada, later renamed Corporación Participa, League of Women Voter-like non-partisan, voter education programs that resulted in the successful plebiscite to end the dictatorship of General Pinochet. Also, achieved two earmarks of $5 million each for low income housing and child health programs in Chile.
3. Initial founder of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, the most powerful lobby by Fortune 100 international corporations and NGOs for maintaining and increasing the international affairs budget, promoting smart power and increased foreign assistance by billions of dollars over the last 20 years.
4. Created an effective coalition for international cooperative development (U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council) that resulted in tens of millions of increased funding to overseas cooperatives. Enacted U.S. Overseas Act of 2000 that expands the mandate for USAID to support diverse set of cooperatives. Passed cooperative mandates in every major foreign assistance act over 20 years such as for Eastern Europe, Former Soviet Union, Caribbean and Africa as well as an amendment on the importance of cooperatives in grassroots democracy building. Gained report language in every appropriations measure for cooperative development including many earmarks for various projects.
5. Served for 17 years on USAID's Advorsy Committee for Voluntary Foriegn Aid through four Administrations and led efforts on economic development, women in development and reforms in evaluations.
6. Over 20 years, sponsored and achieved $50 million annually in legislative language for centrally funded people-to-people assistance through NGOs and coops including initiating USAID's child survival and micro-enterprise programs.
7. Achieved member equity programs in three Fair Trade cocoa cooperatives in Peru, the first in Latin America developing countries; wrote comprehensive analysis on importance of member investment for successful coop development including presentations to World Cocoa Foundation in 2014 and Cooperative Development Summit in 2016.
8. Promoted and wrote proposals for rural telephone service that created two highly successful telecommunications cooperatives in southwest Poland with support from Jozef Slisz, the founder of Rural Solidarity strongly back by the Catholic Church.
9. Designed innovative grassroots dairy education program, that engaged over 8,000 small dairy women producers in Albania, which recreated the dairy sector which had previously been in collectives. During the transition, as much as 40% of family nutrition came from one or two cows milked by rural women.
10. Conceived pioneering program called the “Seal of Quality” in Macedonia that assisted agribusinesses in achieving higher food standards through local manufacturing upgrades and introduction of quality plans and advertising. Designed similar program in Ukraine that linked fruit and vegetative coops with fast expanding Costco-like supermarkets, seeking locally available quality products.
11. Pioneered micro-insurance field through first analysis of the role of insurance in economic development, impact of cooperative-based insurance on rural families in four Latin American countries, and pilot projects for the informal sector in Colombia.
12. Carried out over 40 evaluations on cooperative development projects.
13. Wrote Farmer-to-Farmer legislation that has sent over 30,000 volunteers overseas for economic and agricultural development.
14. Designed and managed Palestinian cooperative development program and NGO development project in Romania.
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