According to the World Bank, as of 2019, 35.7% of Colombians lived below the national poverty line. Additionally, poverty incidence in rural Colombian communities is 1.5x higher than in urban areas, highlighting the significant difference in quality of life between rural and urban communities. A key driver of sustained poverty for rural Colombians has been a lack of economic opportunities, primarily in the agricultural sector where smallholder farmers lack access to technical support and supplies to produce premium agricultural products and direct access to premium markets to sell them. Many small holder farmers are trapped producing commodity-grade goods and receiving essentially the same commodity prices earned by industrial scale farmers who benefit from scale and mechanization. And for those smallholder farmers who do manage to produce specialty-grade crops, lack of direct access to markets forces them to sell their goods either at the Fair Trade price or to local middlemen who holdall the negotiating leverage to keep prices low. While the Fair Trade program sought to provide price relief to smallholder farmers by guaranteeing a minimum price for compliance with predetermined environmental and social standards, the program’s unintentional impact has instead been to set an artificial ceiling on prices. Furthermore, today the minimum guaranteed price has not been set at a sufficient premium to break the poverty cycle for smallholder farmers.

In 2022, Beyond Trade Impact Fund was incorporated as a Delaware-based and California-registered non-profit by a group including the management team and certain Board members of Progeny Coffee Inc. (“Progeny”). Progeny, a California-based specialty coffee company founded in 2016 by current CEO Maria Palacio and her husband and co-founder John Trabelsi, sources coffee directly from small holder farmers in Colombia. Green coffee is exported by Progeny to the Bay Area, where Progeny roasts and delivers the coffee to brand-name corporate customers located throughout the region. 

What makes the Progeny model unique is its supply chain. The Progeny team has developed direct relationships with smallholder coffee farmers in Colombia, who receive on-going technical support to implement best practices to increase harvest quality and volumes, while maximizing social benefits and minimizing adverse environmental impacts. Smallholder farmers selling into the Progeny supply chain receive a premium price that has historically ranged from 20% - 240% above the Fair Trade price. Pricing is determined in a transparent manner for farmers, so they receive a fixed price published by Progeny determined entirely based upon the quality of the coffee they grow. Working with these smallholder farmers over the past several years, it became clear to Maria and John, that they could add more value to the lives of these smallholder farmers, their families and their communities if they provided technical assistance to enable farmers to improve crop quality and initiated community-based development programs that increase access to basic services in support of a dignified life. The desire to bring these additional services lead to the creation of the Beyond Trade Impact Fund in 2022. 

Our Approach

The current Progeny and Beyond Trade partner program includes 2 key elements.

First, Beyond Trade agricultural technicians provide on-going technical support to the Beyond Trade network of certified farmers related to cultivation techniques and environmental best practices. Technical support includes on-going technical training, soil sampling, certification of Beyond Trade standards (100% paid for by Beyond Trade), and donations of agriculture inputs.

The key social and environmental standards promoted by the Beyond Trade program are:
• Aim For 99% reduction in water usage, wastewater generation from proper water recycling, more sustainable wash process practices.

• Over 20 hours of training per farmer offered in initial year in program on agricultural, social and environmental best practices (in some cases over 100 hours).

• Increase in organic inputs (i.e. fertilizer, fungicide, pesticide) usage as agrochemicals are only permitted to be used in the case of emergencies and farmers are trained on how to produce organic inputs using materials available on their farms.

• Increased carbon sequestration locally from commitment by farmers to protect local forests and improved soil health following soil tests and application of appropriate fertilizers per Beyond Trade recommendations.

• Increased school attendance by children of farmers as they are required to send their children to school through the minimum age.

• Guarantee of basic labor rights and conditions for farm workers in line with ILO standards.

• Community work to support access to needed machinery for farmers without access

The Beyond Trade agricultural training program is designed to bring farmers into compliance with these standards gradually over time.

These social and environmental practices support farmers to improve their crop quality (which translates to an incremental price premium) and crop yields (generating greater volumes on the farmer’s existing land), which together meaningfully increase farmer incomes. The Beyond Trade technical support team has developed these practices at their own farms in Colombia over years of research & development. Best practices are designed such that they can be implemented by farmers using only the materials already available on their farm.

Once the smallholder farmer has achieved a sufficient minimum coffee quality, Progeny Coffee will purchase the farmer’s harvest at a transparently published, premium price based 100% on the product quality.

Second, Beyond Trade seeks to go further by providing community development programs that increase access for these impoverished communities to basic services such as sanitation, security, infrastructure, healthcare, education, etc. The scale of these programs will clearly be contingent upon the success of the Beyond Trade fundraising efforts. The community development program will play a fundamental role in Beyond Trade’s work to support a dignified living for participating communities, as well as developing the fundamental trusting relationships that underpin the ability of Beyond Trade to provide these important programs.

In 2022, the Beyond Trade Team built a relationship with a community of~500 smallholder coffee farmers in Huila, Colombia. The initial Beyond Trade activities are focused on supporting the economic, social, and environmental needs of this community. Including the typical workers per smallholder farm and their family members, Beyond Trade expects to reach ~3,500 beneficiaries with its agricultural support and community development activities.

You Must Have Questions

What is Beyond Trade Impact Fund?

At Beyond Trade Impact Fund, we recognize the pressing need to restore support and dignity to coffee farmers. At Beyond Trade, we seek to address this issue by providing comprehensive assistance that goes beyond coffee cultivation, including improvements to living conditions, education, and the extension services that our platform currently provides. With your support, we hope to make a lasting impact that will benefit multiple generations of coffee farmers and their families.

Why choose Beyond Trade Impact Fund?

The Beyond Trade team hails from smallholder coffee farming communities in Colombia, and therefore, the issues confronting these communities are close to our hearts. We bring extensive agricultural training, expert knowledge of the specialty coffee industry, direct relationships with both coffee farmers and specialty buyers, and a deep understanding of the underlying systemic issues that create the poverty cycle for smallholder coffee farmers. What sets Beyond Trade apart is our ability to incorporate the needs and desires of the beneficiaries into the programs and activities we support, thanks to the trusting relationships we have built. These qualities make us uniquely positioned to achieve our goal of reducing poverty and improving livelihoods among smallholder coffee farmers.

How can I trust the support will go to the farmers?

We make a public pledge to utilize a minimum of 70% of all funds raised to support program activities that will directly benefit smallholder farmers, their families, and their communities. As part of our commitment to transparency and accountability, the Beyond Trade team will provide and publish detailed accounts of each program to our donors. Additionally, we will produce an annual impact report that summarizes our activities, includes testimonials, and provides data on the progress made by Beyond Trade programs throughout the year.

Still have questions?

Contact us with any question at hello@beyondtradeimpactfund.org.