Beyond Fair Trade, Creating New Trade
The majority of Teeccino’s ingredients are organically grown in Europe and the USA by first world farmers. In 2004, we began developing new sources for organic chicory in India and wild-crafted ramon seeds in Guatemala, from small scale family farmers and rainforest villagers.
These ingredients create new trade that provides more economic opportunities in regions where income is scarce. Fair trade is very important for commodity-driven products where exploitation is common. Creating new trade provides more ways to relieve poverty and raise the quality of life for rural communities in developing nations.
Teeccino Caffé is pioneering the introduction of ramón seeds, a traditional food of the Maya civilization that are wild-harvested in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala. We work in partnership with several local organizations to harvest ramón seeds including Alimentos Nutri-Naturales, a women-owned company that also teaches workshops for women in rural communities to learn about preparing ramón nuts for their family.
We have promoted the use of ramón seeds in products made by North American companies, including Traditional Medicinal’s teas and Mary’s Gone Crackers’ Love Cookies, whose new line of vegan, gluten-free cookies uses ramón seed flour as an ingredient.
Once called the “corn tree” by the Maya, this nutrient rich, fiber dense seed comes from the fruit of the Brosimum Alicastrum tree, a member of the fig family, which also includes mulberry trees. Ramón seeds are fat-free, gluten free, and very high in potassium along with other vitamins and minerals. They contain a complete protein that has high amounts of tryptophan, the feel-good amino acid that the body converts into serotonin.
Ramón trees grow wild throughout Central American forests where they can comprise up to 20% of the tree population. They are the only wind-pollinated tree species and are frequently the lead species to reestablish forests in areas that have been clear-cut. Despite being a free and nutritious food, ramón seeds were going to waste on the forest floor before Teeccino began the work to develop this crop in 2000.
By giving value to ramón seeds and financial support to workshops that educate women on harvesting and preparing ramón seeds for their families, Teeccino has helped to improve the nutrition of impoverished families in Guatemala. Our work captured the attention of the Guatemalan government, and the head of a Presidential Commission, that provided the funds to establish ramón seeds as a safe and recognized food (GRAS) in the US.
The development of new trade in ramón seeds has helped establish Alimentos Nutri-Naturales’ processing facility that provides jobs for rural women and produces baked goods for distribution to Guatemalan schoolchildren.
Chicory root, a traditional ingredient in French coffee and coffee alternatives, is grown throughout Northern Europe, India, S. Africa and even here in the US. However, organically grown chicory roots are difficult to develop due to their high phosphate soil requirements and the necessity for costly labor-intensive weed control.
Since 2005, Teeccino has worked to develop organically grown chicory roots with rural Indian farmers in partnership with Organic India, a company committed to cultivating thousands of acres of organic farmland in India that is owned by smallholder farmers.
By 2009, Teeccino met its first goal of increasing the supply of organic chicory so that all of our requirements for chicory have been converted to organic. By creating new trade for certified organic chicory, Teeccino has led the conversion to organic cultivation of a significant portion of farmland devoted to chicory in India. Our second goal, still in the future, is to build a processing facility to bring value-added work requiring skilled labor to India.