Raul_300 dpiIt is with heavy heart that we are reporting that Raúl del Águila, pioneer in Fair Trade, sustainability, and human rights passed away from a heart attack yesterday February 13th while traveling in Germany.

Raúl del Águila was the Managing Director of COCLA, a Fairtrade certified cooperative in Peru made up of 23 primary cooperatives, the President of Pachamama Coffee Cooperative in California, served two terms as President of CLAC, the Fairtrade Producer Network representing producers in Latin America and has also served on the Board of Fairtrade International. Most recently, he was appointed to the Board of the newly established Fairtrade International USA.

He dedicated his life to developing alternatives to conventional trade and sustainable development for producers and communities. In 2010, Global Exchange honored his work by awarding him with a Human Rights Award. During his time on the Board of Fairtrade International, he helped finalize a draft constitution which made producers 50% owners of Fairtrade, with an equal say in major decisions affecting the system. With his own cooperative, COCLA, they went from selling 2% of their coffee on Fair Trade terms to 40% and used the Fair Trade Premium to open services for victims of domestic violence.

Using his Global Exchange Human Rights Award money, Raúl supported a number of Fair Trade handicraft projects for farmers and their families. He helped open up a Fair Trade store in Lima, Peru, launched a food co-op selling local products in Quillabamba and opened a coffee shop in Arequipa. He also focused efforts on developing local markets for indigenous Fair Trade products, which for many producers is the only market available to them to sell their products.

delAguilaHe saw Fair Trade not as a tool, but a change agent to promote responsible farming, business, purchasing, and just being. His hope for the future was for Fair Trade to work more with youth and to instill values of positive change for future generations.

The core of the legacy he leaves us is this one: We must continue to push for equity and transparency in international trade, we must continue to support sustainable development, we must continue to  secure rights for marginalized workers and producers, and we must continue to to raise awareness!  To this legacy he dedicated his life and to this mission we will continue to dedicate our lives.

We thank Raúl del Águila for all the work that he has done for producers and the whole Fair Trade system throughout the years. We will continue to take your legacy to build a stronger Fair Trade movement. Our hearts go out to your family, friends, and fellow cooperative members.