Fairtrade farmer to visit Bristol

On World Fairtrade Day, today’s guest blog is from Bristol Link with Nicaragua, home to Puerto Morazan, one of our seven twin cities, and Bristol Fairtrade Network:

We are delighted to announce that our city will once again be hosting a visit of a Fairtrade farmer from Nicaragua. Bristol is proud to have been a Fairtrade City for 18 years and the visit has been an annual event for much of that time. Like so many activities this had to pause due to the pandemic, but this year, at the end of May, we look forward to meeting coffee farmer, Erika Lanzas Rodas.

The visit is taking place between 11 and 27 May and, like previous visits, will mainly focus on visits to schools in the area. As we strive to ensure young people in Bristol grow up ‘as global citizens’, it’s important that they have a chance to learn how their lives link with so many other places in the world. Meeting a Fairtrade producer in person and hearing about her experiences first hand will aim to help them understand the impacts their choices have on people the other side of the world. In previous years, we have always had extremely positive feedback from schools and young people on what a significant impact these visits have had on their thinking and understanding on the complex issues of ethics in world supply chains.

Erika Lanzas Rodas is pictured on her farm in Nicaragua, with greenery and buildings seen behind her.
Erika Lanzas Rodas on her farm in Nicaragua.

A bit about Erika

Erika Lanzas Rodas is 39 years old, a single mother of four children, a coffee producer, and a member of the UCA SOPPEXCCA Cooperative. She has a farm called La Libertad, with ​​two hectares of coffee. UCA SOPPEXCCA is a Fairtrade certified organisation and you can read more about it on the Fairtrade Foundation’s website.

Erika has been a member of the cooperative since 2012. She has enjoyed many benefits and achievements over the years, but the most significant have been the improvements to her home. Erika had a small house and only basic living conditions: the change from then to now and the progress she has made since she joined are clear, as is the improvement in her family’s income thanks to the fact that her coffee is certified and marketed through Fairtrade.

For Erika, being a member of the cooperative means having opportunities for herself and her family. One of her achievements are the improvements she has made to her home in order to guarantee the safety and well-being of her children. She began by changing the roof, as it was in poor condition. She also built a toilet, from cement blocks, inside the house, since they previously had a latrine outside, causing insecurity for her and her daughters.

Erika has her own wet coffee-processing space, which she obtained from the premium earned by ‘Las Hermanas’ coffee and the Fairtrade social premium, investing the money to guarantee the best quality for her coffee.

Belonging to the ‘Café Las Hermanas’ group for small women producers means having opportunities to grow emotionally, socially and economically, thanks to the coffee’s high value based on quality and origin. It is produced 100% by women coffee producers who are members of SOPPEXCCA.

Today Erika is a woman entrepreneur and a leader in her cooperative. She currently belongs to the Gender Committee of the ‘Arlen Siu’ base cooperative, where she has been training in environment, production, gender equality, human rights, and other areas. Her children have also benefited from scholarships and receiving school supplies, which have allowed them to finish secondary school and which they continue to receive today.

Together with other women members of the cooperative, Erika has begun to diversify her crop and work in family gardens, in order to guarantee food security for the families and to improve their income.

We are excited to say that there is an opportunity for you all to meet Erika on 26 May at Sparks, the new art, sustainability and education hub in the old Marks and Spencer building in Broadmead. SPARKS is an exciting new development in the city launching on today.  The event to meet Erika is free to attend but booking is required.

This visit is organised via a partnership between Bristol Link with Nicaragua (BLINC); SOPPEXCCA, the union of Fairtrade Co-operatives based in Nicaragua’s highlands; The Venturers’ Trust; the University of Bristol; the University of Bath; and Bristol Fair Trade Network (BFTN).