Meet Our 2005 DTRW Fellowship Winner:


Alex Katona

Alex Katona with Macario from Maya Vinic (left) and Jose from Las   Abejas (right), both located in Chiapas, Mexico
Alex Katona with Macario from Maya Vinic (left) and Jose from Las Abejas (right), Fair Trade coffee cooperatives both located in Chiapas, Mexico

Alexandra Katona is a recent graduate from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor with a degree in Environmental Studies and a minor in Spanish. During her junior and senior year of college, she co-founded and ran a sustainable coffee business called Brewing Hope. She is particularly interested in Fair Trade issues, sustainable development, and international relations. She loves to scuba dive, play soccer and travel.


In Ecuador, Alex plans to work with the Kallari Cooperative, a grassroots coalition of Amazon artisans headquartered in Quito. This is a special opportunity for Alex whose heritage is half Ecuadorian. Additionally, she hopes to take trips to the Amazon and the Andes, and scuba dive in the Galapagos Islands.

The organization: Alex has arranged an unpaid internship with the Kallari Cooperative, a grassroots coalition of over 950 artisans that is designed to provide economic alternatives to Amazon rain forest destruction/logging. The idea is to increase family incomes for the indigenous Kichwa people without sacrificing natural resources (i.e., without their having to cut down the rain forest or sell their lands to farming, mining, or oil interests). The cooperative sells organically produced jewelry, baskets, handbags, canoes, woven bags, wooden bowls and other original crafts—and organically produced coffee and cocoa. All products are certified Fair Trade and are sold in over ten countries in four continents.

The internship: Alex's internship will allow her to help the cooperative explore new market development. The cooperative is bringing in additional indigenous communities and selling more goods, and hence needs to expand their market presence through innovative strategies in North America and Europe. Her activities could include designing websites, writing newspaper and magazine articles, designing marketing strategies, etc. She also will have a great deal of flexibility to pursue her own projects and has a strong interest in learning how/why this cooperative has been so successful. Ultimately she would like to share the lessons of this cooperative with other struggling and new Fair Trade cooperatives in Central America. She also hopes to engage directly with the farmers and artisans. And importantly, she needs the fellowship to make the Ecuador experience happen.

Alex Katona with Brewing Hope co-founders, Yochi and Becky
Alex Katona with Brewing Hope co-founders, Yochi Zakai and Becky Tarlau

Previous experience: Alex is incredibly well versed on both the issues of Fair Trade and indigenous communities. She and two other University of Michigan students started a nonprofit called "Brewing Hope"—a sustainable coffee partnership linking Ann Arbor, Michigan with a Fair Trade coffee cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico. Brewing Hope coffee is now sold in over 16 locations in Ann Arbor and has its own newsletter and website. In addition to selling coffee, they have worked hard to educate the Ann Arbor community through photo exhibits and by bringing the Chiapas farmers to Ann Arbor to speak. Alex also spent a week in Chiapas visiting farmers, learning about the Zapatista struggle and learning about the local cooperative.

Delegation to Brewing Hope's coffee cooperative in Yachil Xojobal   Chulchan, Santa Catarina, Chiapas
Delegation to Brewing Hope's coffee cooperative in Yachil Xojobal Chulchan, Santa Catarina, Chiapas

Current experiences: Alex just graduated from the University of Michigan in December and has been working at an international policy think tank in Washington, D.C. for the past few months. She has had her fill of administrative life in a cubicle and is dying to head overseas to learn firsthand about issues important to her and talk to people. A recent college grad, Alex already has had a taste of how the real world can be. The DTRW Fellowship along with her experience brings the message of this book to life while helping spread the word about Fair Trade. Alex is extremely motivated and a go-getter dedicated to investing herself in the local community abroad and determined to make this adventure into a life-long career.

Special feature: Read about Alex's adventures in Ecuador and view photos from the region.

Congratulations Alex!

Want to find out more info from Alex about about Brewing Hope, Higher Grounds, and the issue of Fair Trade Coffee? Send her an e-mail at alexandrakatona@hotmail.com.


About Higher Grounds:
Higher Grounds Trading Co. is driven by its social mission and a couple of ambitious social entrepreneurs. Their mission is to provide premium, gourmet coffees while supporting coffee-producing partners who are leaders in sustainable development and environmental preservation.

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