Fairtrade coffee producer Norma Elena’s visit

Norma Elena at home in Nicaragua

Norma Elena (right) at home in Nicaragua

During Fairtrade Fortnight 2012, Norma Elena Gadea Paivas visited Edinburgh to discuss her experiences as a Nicaraguan coffee producer.

Norma Elena’s whirlwhind trip to Britain was organised jointly by The Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign and Equal Exchange.

A packed itinerary saw Norma shuttling between events in England, Wales and Scotland to raise awareness of coffee producers in Nicaragua, and promote a new Equal Exchange range of coffee grown by women farmers around the world.

Monday 5th March

Norma Elena started her Edinburgh itinerary by visiting the One World Shop at St John’s, where she discussed the large range its Fairtrade goods with the staff.

Next, Norma Elena travelled to Gorgie to visit the Tools for Self Reliance project run by Garvald. Paul at Tools for Self Reliance recalled how the organisation had sent refurbished tools to Nicaragua during the revolution in the 1980’s, and was enthusiastic about re-forming a Nicaraguan link by sending tools to SOPPEXCCA, the ‘cooperative of cooperatives’ that Norma Elena is part of.

After bidding farewell to Paul, Norma Elena continued on to the Cyrenians Good Food project, and their City Community in Leith. Here Norma Elena learned about the important work of the Cyrenians with the homeless community.

In the evening, Norma Elena returned to Waverley Station to catch a train down to Peterborough for a Fairtrade event.

Tuesday 6th March

Norma Elena speaks at event

Norma Elena speaks at NLE event.

Returning from Peterborough in the afternoon, Norma Elena prepared for her NLE-hosted public meeting at the Tollcross Community Centre. After showing a short film about the SOPPEXCCA cooperative in the packed Art Room, Norma Elena discussed her life, starting with the role of the Nicaraguan Revolution in providing her with an education.

Norma Elena married a coffee farmer, and they later decided to split their land so they could both be cooperative members. Norma Elena went on to found the ‘Flores del CafĂ©’, a cooperative of women coffee producers living around Jinotega, in northern Nicaragua. After discussing how she bought more land for her farm, and discussing the processes involved in growing coffee, Norma Elena answered questions from the audience.

As well as Norma Elena, we thank Felicity and Asun for their translation during the meeting.

Wednesday 7th March

In the morning, Equal Exchange took Norma Elena to events at the Edinburgh University Chaplaincy, and at The Scottish Parliament. Norma Elena’s visit to The Scottish Parliament prompted SNP MSP George Adam to put forward the following motion:

“That the Parliament recognises Norma Elena, an organic-coffee grower from Nicaragua, who visited the Parliament this week as a guest of the cross-party group on fair trade; understands that Norma is part of a coffee growing co-operative that has encouraged female growers in recent years, growing in number from 5 to 283 women farmers; congratulates Norma on spreading the word and experience of fair trade coffee farmers, and, in Fairtrade Fortnight and on International Women’s Day, recognises Norma as someone who can be an example to others.”

Norma Elena at the Cyrenians Organic Farm

Norma Elena with Felicity, and Farm Manager, Stephen, at the Cyrenians Organic Farm

In the afternoon, Norma Elena returned to the care of the NLE, and was taken to visit the Cyrenians Organic Farm outside Edinburgh. Farm Manager Stephen showed Norma Elena around their chicken coops, orchards, fields and polytunnels, and discussed the different agrocultural techniques used at the farm. Snuggled in the hay-bale-lined barn after the tour, Norma Elena and Stephen continued their discussion of the relative benefits of different farming methods.

After returning to the city, Norma Elena spend one last night in Edinburgh before travelling back down to London.

Norma Elena expressed how facinating her short trip to Edinburgh was, and thanked everyone who had helped care for her, and those at the organisations she visited who took time to meet with her. She also thanked those, particularly Felicity, whose translation services enabled her to make the most of her visits.

The Nicaragua Learning Exchange hopes to keep in contact with Norma Elena, especially in relation to the tools that Tools for Self Reliance intend to ship to Nicaragua.

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