Sustainably Sourcing Yerba Mate in Paraguay
Take a journey with us to one of the sources of your favorite yerba mate! Meet the Fundacion Moises Bertoni (FMB), one of the most important and active nonprofits in Paraguay working to preserve and restore different areas of the country, including the Atlantic Rainforest where much of Guayakí’s yerba mate is grown.
Their objective is to improve the quality of life of people in Paraguay through preserving biodiversity, conserving the environment, and promoting sustainable development to benefit present and future generations. To reach these goals, the FMB implements a working structure based on balanced, fair, and inclusive sustainable development. The FMB created and currently runs the Reserva Natural del Bosque Mbaracayu (Mbaracayu Natural Reserve) in the Canindeyú region of Northeastern Paraguay.
The reserve is made up of 64,405 hectares, or 159,148 acres, making it one of the largest extensions of Atlantic Rainforest left in Paraguay. It is home to a breathtaking range of biodiversity, with 19 different ecosystems where almost 2,000 different plant and animal species have been registered. Within the reserve itself, the FMB implements different programs that contribute towards its protection, including tourism, the production of organic products, and a school for girls.
Apart from the work within the reserve itself, the FMB implements environmental and social projects in the buffer zone surrounding the reserve. This area is made up of a total of 322,850 hectares, or 797,779 acres, and is home to 33,000 residents. Protection of buffer zones contributes to the conservation of the last remnants of the Atlantic Forest in Paraguay. Guayakí officially signed a partnership agreement with the FMB in 2019, although cooperation had started many years previously. The agreement is focused on restoring the reserve and buffer zone of Mbaracayu through organic shade-grown yerba mate. In 2015, the FMB provided yerba mate seedlings to 150 producers in the area to implement sustainable agroforestry systems. In the following years, they continued to provide technical support to these producers, but they needed a buyer for the yerba mate.
FMB and Guayakí worked together to certify producers under NOP Organic and Fair for Life Fair Trade standards, and they harvested yerba mate for the first time in 2020. FMB harvests and processes in their own facility in the area with Guayakí’s support, and we purchase canchada (processed yerba mate) directly from them. Income generated from this project provides the producers a fair income while also supporting the school for girls within the reserve. A second harvest happened in early 2021 and we aim to gradually increase production in the future.
This year (2021), the producers will receive their first Fair Trade Premium payment from Guayakí, which will be used to implement social projects according to what is most urgent in their community. Through our partnerships with FMB and Fair for Life, Guayakí provides a market for agroforestry yerba mate, safe and fair working conditions for producers, and a Fair Trade price and a premium that funds the sustainable development of producer communities, all while supporting conservation of Atlantic Rainforest remnants.
Learn more and visit Fundacion Moises Bertoni here.