First Fair Trade Certified Coffee Estate Already Improving Lives

This is the fourth article in a series on “The Future of Fair Trade,” written in collaboration with Fair Trade USA. A 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, Fair Trade USA is the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States. To follow along with the rest of the series, click here.


In January Fazenda Nossa Senhora de Fatima (FNSF), a 500-acre, 100% organic, family-owned coffee farm in Brazil, became the world’s first Fair Trade Certified™ coffee estate. Historically Fair Trade certification in coffee has been reserved for cooperatives, while in other categories like tea, bananas and flowers, workers on larger farms have been able to participate in Fair Trade. FNSF is part of a pilot program, conducted by Fair Trade USA, which explores the feasibility of adapting existing Fair Trade standards and extending them to farm workers and independent small farmers in coffee. There are still 2 billion people living on less than $2 a day; Fair Trade reaches less than 1% of them. Fair Trade USA believes that all farmers and workers deserve access to the opportunities of Fair Trade if we ever hope to make a significant dent in global poverty.

Within 3 months of certification, FNSF’s 110 workers (40% of whom are women) earned $7,250 in community development premiums, which they elected to invest in critical healthcare programs. Through FNSF’s participation in Fair Trade USA’s Fair Trade for All initiative, 30 workers have already received eye exams, 27 received glasses, and 11 received dental care.

Pictured at right is farm worker Maria Filha de Jesus, age 58, holding her very first pair of eye glasses.

“I have never owned glasses before. For years I knew I needed glasses but I could not afford them. It was becoming harder and harder to do my job because I could not see well.  Earlier today I could not clear the weeds properly to prepare the field for the harvest and for the workers to pick the coffee easier. Now that I have these eyeglasses I will be able to continue working and can see better at home.” -Maria Filha de Jesus, FNSF farm worker

Empowerment in Action
To earn Fair Trade certification, FNSF met Fair Trade USA’s rigorous standards, which ensure that all workers are paid fair prices and wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment, and earn community development funds to empower and improve their communities.

The standards also require that the workers form a Fair Trade Committee, a group responsible for listening to the needs of the workers, choosing how to invest their Fair Trade community development premiums, and implementing each project. After the sale of their first two containers of Fair Trade Certified coffee, the Committee members voted to invest the premiums in eye and dental care for the workers.

As a result of these tangible, life-changing benefits, the workers of FNSF now see Fair Trade as so much more than a fair price– they see it as a symbol of hope, pride and opportunity for themselves and their families.

“This farm has several certifications already, but this one you mention, Fair Trade, is the first one that focuses on us, the workers.”  – Maria da Conceição F. Lima, RNSF Farm Worker

Ricardo Aguiar Resende (pictured right), a third-generation coffee farmer, and his wife Gisele direct the production, commercialization and social projects at the farm. The couple sees Fair Trade certification as a way to thank and empower their 110 workers and the local communities. In an open letter to Fair Trade USA, the workers of FNSF express deep gratitude for the opportunity to be included in Fair Trade, and their sincere belief in a brighter future.

Luir Fontes, a farm worker representative, commented on the impact Fair Trade has already made on the farm:

“Workers now see the opportunity to have a direct influence on the success of the farm. The transparency, increased funds, and ownership of work have changed what was previously seen as a 200-hectare farm with 100 workers into 100 farmers with their own 2-hectare projects.” – Luir Fontes, FNSF Worker Representative

Blending the Benefits
We believe that Fair Trade for All is a rising tide that will lift all ships — that the initiative’s effort to deliver more impact to more people will benefit all farmers in the system. To that end, this first pilot in Brazil  is already generating impact for both farm workers and cooperative farmers.

In order to achieve their unique flavor profile, Allegro Coffee Company®, like many roasters, has created blends for years that contain beans from both Fair Trade Certified cooperatives and non-Fair Trade farms. Because of the rigorous Fair Trade standards, which dictate that 100% of the beans in every bag of coffee must be Fair Trade Certified in order to use the certification mark, Allegro has not previously been able to label one of their top-selling espresso blends (Espresso Bel Canto) as Fair Trade Certified. Although Allegro still supports responsible wages and ethical treatment for farm workers, they weren’t paying Fair Trade premiums to the co-op farmers selling into this blend. Now that Fazenda Nossa Senhora de Fatima has earned certification, Allegro can use the Fair Trade Certified label and premiums are being paid to both the farm workers and the cooperative farmers. It’s a win for all.

“With Fair Trade, everyone feels better off and the community feels very positive about the future. The benefits are real. This is real.” – Ricardo Aguiar Resende, FNSF Owner

Looking Ahead

If you enjoyed this story, please stay tuned as we embark on our new Innovation Update Series. Through these posts, we will share both the successes and challenges involved in launching each coffee pilot, our cooperative-strengthening program Co-op Link, and our progress on Fair Trade for All as a whole. It’s unique opportunity for people to learn about the farmers and workers participating in these programs, what Fair Trade means to them, and how we can work together to build a more inclusive, collaborative approach that supports everyone in the global coffee supply chain  willing to commit to a journey of sustainability, responsibility, empowerment and impact.

Learn more about Fair Trade for All

Fair Trade USA

12 responses

  1. Up to this point, only coffee coops can be Fair Trade certified. This is the first coffee estate to receive a Fair Trade certification from FTUSA. It’s a bold and exciting move.

        1. Just to clarify, it is not true that ‘only coops can be Fair Trade certified.’ The standard has always stated that producers only need be organized according to the terms outlined in the Small Producer Standard at While cooperatives fit well in the Fairtrade model, it is not the only way producers can be organized in the international Fairtrade system.


        2. kyleflo – as I understand it, under the current FLO model for COFFEE, only farmers organized into coops can be certified Fair Trade. With other products such as tea, producers do not need to be part of a coop. Please give me an example of a coffee farmer who is Fair Trade certified and does not belong to a coffee coop. If I’m incorrect about coffee, I would like to know. Thanks!

        3. Many of Fairtrade certified small producer groups in coffee in
          Ethiopia and Mexico, for example, aren’t actually cooperatives, but independent,
          democratically-organized associations of farmers. The international system focuses
          on these structures – like associations and cooperatives – because they’re accountable to the farmers
          they serve and can lead to advances that go well beyond the Fairtrade
          Standards. You can read through the international Fairtrade Small Producer
          Standard ( for more background. We can’t deny that we’re fans of cooperatives, but we also take producer reality into account, and that’s what our Standards are designed to do. Thanks much.

  2. This is a troubling press release for a couple of reasons:

    *This coffee is not “Fair Trade” as recognized by Fair Trade
    International, the global body of producers, importers, and activists that have
    built the Fair Trade system. It is only certified by FTUSA, which decided to
    create their own certification system that allows plantations into coffee,
    cacao, and other products. The move has been broadly condemned as a weakening
    of standards, and a threat to small farmer co-ops. See the links at the end for
    more background.

    *FTUSA has repeatedly stated that it is including
    plantations (also known as “estates” by the PR folks) like this one only as a
    pilot project to be able to measure the impact of their new standard.  If they mean to take this kind of study
    seriously, why are they releasing puff pieces like this one every time the
    farmer committee makes a vote?

    *What are the standards for farmworkers in coffee
    plantations like this? FTUSA calls them rigorous, but they are essentially cut
    and pasted from the weak standards of tea and banana plantations. There is no
    requirement that workers form a union, there is no effective way to monitor
    abuses or even track benefits to the highly transient population of seasonal
    workers, and the basic labor requirements are just to follow national and
    international law (not a bad thing, but not what most people think of when they
    buy a product that says “fair trade”).

    *The comment by Allegro (the store brand of Whole Foods), is
    telling. Rather than working with small farmer co-operatives to increase the
    amount of authentic Fair Trade coffee they sell, they are eager to pay a small
    premium to a charity fund in order to earn a label that doesn’t require them to
    change their practices or look deeply at their supply chain. Yes, it takes more
    effort and resources to develop long-term relationships with democratically-run
    small farmer co-ops, create partnerships to increase yields and quality, and
    give small farmers a position of power in the trade relationship, rather than
    just treat them as objects of charity. But that is what has been built up over
    the past decades by committed participants, and what is at risk by FTUSA’s move
    if consumers see a label and think it means one thing when it really means

    *Brazil has one of the most unequal land distributions in
    the world, and has sparked massive social movements working for deep reform.
    About half of all agricultural land in Brazil is controlled by 1% of the
    owners, while most farmers have plots a fraction the size of the plantation
    certified by FTUSA in this post. The efforts of farmers and social justice
    advocates are undermined when a co-op of small farmers working to change the
    nature of trade receives the same “Fair Trade” seal to a plantation that lets
    the workers decide how to spend a charity fund.

    *FTUSA and companies like Allegro and WalMart should
    certainly take measures to ensure that farmworkers are not abused, and that
    they have the resources to afford healthcare services, but they don’t have the
    right to take the name of “Fair Trade” and apply it to a charity model that
    rewards the landowning elite.

    -Daniel Fireside, Worker/Owner Equal Exchange

    Further resources:

    Fair World Project:

    Latin American Co-ops:


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