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House of Ekolife and Sparks Comm Manila fight for fair trade

L-R: From House of Ekolife: Marketing Officer Therese Palillo, General Manager Karissa Mae Bautista and Executive Director of Atikha and Member, Board of Directors of House of Ekolife Mai Dizon Añonuevo, and from Sparks Comm Manila: Creative Director Michelle Marchadesch-Roxas, CEO Ellen Samano, Senior Copywriter Mika Avila and Account Manager Kim Agustin

MANILA – Instant, brewed, hot or cold, Filipinos have made coffee into a culture. But sadly, despite our country’s passion for coffee, those who grow our local beans are trapped in a cycle of poverty. Middlemen and large corporations pay very little for a harvest that takes years to grow, leaving our farmers with no choice but to depend on loan sharks to survive the rest of the year. The downward spiral continues as the sales from each succeeding harvest fails to bring in enough income to pay last year’s debts, and so on.

House of Ekolife, a roastery-café with branches in Iloilo and Ifugao, wants to help. As part of a cooperative helping OFWs, House of Ekolife is no stranger to social enterprise. And the coffee beans they use in their roastery are responsibly bought locally at fair trade prices precisely to help local farmers.


Now with the help of other coffee advocacy groups, House of Ekolife is spearheading The Fair Trade Coffee Fund. It is an idea that centers on the short window of opportunity farmers have to earn as much as they can: harvest season, which only typically lasts an average of four months. Within this time, they hope to maximize the number of beans bought directly from farmers at fair trade, with a subsidy built from crowdfunding purchases of limited edition House of Ekolife coffee packs.

“It is our moral obligation as a social enterprise to help ensure the dignified livelihood of the coffee farmers by practicing fair trade,” shares Mai Dizon Añonuevo, Executive Director of Atikha and Member, Board of Directors of House of Ekolife, “and working with them as partners in sustainable development. They are the most valuable players in the coffee industry.”

House of Ekolife hopes to turn The Fair Trade Coffee Fund into an annual crowdfunding effort, specifically to support farmers during the crucial harvest months. With a higher income from a bigger proportion of beans bought at fair trade, the need for farmers to turn to middlemen and loan sharks is reduced.

The idea of this “coffee revolution” was developed in partnership with Sparks Comm Manila, a start-up agency led by advertising professionals Ellen Samano and Michelle Marchadesch-Roxas.

“This isn’t just another brand or campaign to us. It’s a chance to put our skills to good use, to truly make a difference,” Ellen Samano, Sparks Comm Manila CEO says, “I believe it’s a good start for our own company. The Fair Trade Coffee Fund reflects our stand and equal commitment to the cause.”

“Sparks Comm Manila is a communication agency with a genuine heart for this advocacy,” Mai Dizon Añonuevo continues. “With our partnership and their expertise in translating our vision, we’re happy we can reach more and help more.”

The Fair Trade Coffee Fund launches soon. To support, please follow House of Ekolife on Facebook at


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