UES is a group of 1,379 coffee producers in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico. The cooperative was founded in 1984 and became the very first Fair Trade certified organization in Mexico in 1991. Since its founding, UES has offered technical assistance to its farmers to improve coffee quality. The cooperative provides farmers inputs, such as seedling coffee varietals that are tailored to the weather patterns and altitudes of different farms. It also provides farmers training on agricultural practices, including organic farming standards.
Located high in the mountains, UES-affiliated coffee farms had been mostly protected from the scourge of coffee leaf rust, which thrives in warmer weather. But in 2014, warmer temperatures brought leaf rust to the higher altitudes where UES members farm.
As UES implemented a renewal program focused on soil and plant health, CSAF member Shared Interest stepped in to provide financing. The main objectives of the renewal project were to i) increase yields by removing older, less productive trees, planting healthier ones, and ii) invest in agronomic practices to enhance soil quality and pruning techniques.
Since 2015, farmer yields have increased by 50% while annual sales by the cooperative have more than doubled. UES Assistant General Manager Silvia Herrera says, “We are very grateful to Shared Interest for believing in our plantation renewal program. Our producers now have healthier farms and roya is finally under control.”
As a mission-driven enterprise, UES goes beyond supporting its members’ coffee production and marketing to promote a holistic vision for living and producing in harmony with nature: “The commitment we have made with nature and love of the countryside drives us to keep in organic production, and not only that, but look for alternatives that allow us to give back a little of everything that the earth has given us. We are in a privileged area, where land, water and climate are supplemented for the production of our coffee.”