Investing in the next generation and the future of our children is vital for the long-term prosperity of the La Riojana co-operative. Which is why we were so pleased to be able to use our Fairtrade funding to help build a new secondary school in the village of Tilimuqui, where many of our members, workers and their families and children live.

The problem

Before 2010 many children in the remote village of Tilimuqui were unable to attend school after the age of 14, as the nearest secondary schools were too far away and travel was prohibitively expensive.

The solution

To address this issue, La Riojana decided to invest money in what has become our biggest Fairtrade project to date.

We allocated money from our Fairtrade Premium revenue to fund the building of a new, free secondary school in the village – the Colegio Nacional Agrotecnico.

The initiative was not only the first pre-university technical college to be built in La Rioja province, where La Riojana is based, but it was the first Fairtrade-funded secondary school ever to be built in Argentina.

It was also one of the single largest Fairtrade projects ever undertaken in the world.

Our partners

The work began in 2008 and the school was opened two years later.It was largely funded by sales of The Co-operative’s Fairtrade Argentine wine range in the UK. It was also supported by additional contributions made by The Co-operative, and by sales of our Ecologica organic Fairtrade brand in Sweden, distributed by Giertz Vinimport.

In addition to the funding of the construction of the new school, this project would not have been made possible without the on-going support and contribution from the Universidad Nacional de Chilecito, the local university in Chilecito where La Riojana’s main winery is located. The university is responsible for providing the curriculum, the highly qualified teaching staff and for the day-to-day management of the school – therefore enabling the school to offer a very high level of education.

The impact

Since its inauguration in 2010, the school, which specialises in agriculture, has been open to children aged 13-18. It has proved extremely popular and not just benefiting children of La Riojana’s workers and members, but also children from the wider local communities.

In its first year there were only 33 pupils, compared to its 2015 intake of 337 pupils. The school’s growing reputation and excellent teaching means that the school is already over-subscribed.

The future

Due to the popularity and impact of the school in the local community, and given the demand for places, construction of 12 new classrooms is underway. Once these are complete, the school will have capacity for around 600 pupils - twice the size of the original plan.

The school will not only be responsible for providing hundreds of children, who might not have necessarily been able to attend secondary school, with a top quality education. It will, given its agricultural focus, also be responsible for producing a new generation of skilled agriculturalists who will be able to continue the work of their parents and help stem the flow of emigration from the village of Tilimuqui.

The legacy

In addition to directly benefiting local children, providing them with an improved education and enhanced career prospects, the school has also led to considerable local development which has had a profound effect on the village and people of Tilimuqui.

This includes improved transport links and public services such as street lighting and roads, as well as a boost of local employment within the community with the creation of 50 new jobs at the school.

The local government has also donated 15 hectares of land to the school to carry out experimental and practical farming.

The first graduates

In December 2015 we celebrated the graduation of the first 17 pupils from the Colegio Nacional Agrotecnico. These pupils were among the very first to join the school in 2010.

The graduation represents the culmination of a long term project between La Riojana and The Co-operative, as well as Giertz Vinimport, Sweden, whose shared dream was to build a much-needed secondary school offering the children of TIlimuqui, Malligasta and the surroundings areas the chance of a free technical education specialising in agriculture.

Over 400 people, including families of the graduates, local Tilimuqui residents, members from La Riojana co-operative, the Fairtrade Association and the National University of Chilectio as well as representatives from The Co-operative UK, attended the graduation ceremony.


This project was a concept born from common interests, from shared expectations and ideals concerning the education of the younger generation whose future mission will be to improve the production conditions in the local area through the skills they have learnt. With this graduation, we are seeing the first fruits, which not only makes us feel happy but also grateful to other strategic partners, whose support made this project possible, such as The Co-operative, UK and Giertz Vinimport, Sweden.
— Mario Gonzalez, president of La Riojana co-operative and president of the Fairtrade Association (comment made at the graduation of the first pupils in December 2015)
The secondary school in Tilimuqui is a joy to behold; not only is it state-of-the-art by local standards, it would certainly also look impressive were it to have been built over here in the United Kingdom. It is incredible to see the fruits of everyone’s hard work – and so heart-warming at the recent inaugural graduation ceremony to see first-hand just how many young people’s lives are being changed forever by something which we all too often take for granted: education. Once the current extension work is completed an astonishing 100 children will be taken each and every year on and offered a future – a future which would have otherwise looked so bleak.
— Edward Robinson, Fairtrade buyer for The Co-operative (February 2016)
During the past five years the school has experienced steady growth, during which time we have been building our identity, strengthening ties with the community of Tilimuqui who have received us with open arms and have treated us with great generosity. I am delighted to be able to accompany the graduates at this important time and to strengthen ties with La Riojana co-operative and the Fairtrade Association who have always been so supportive of the school.
— Luisa Bordon de Dallaglio, the Colegio Nacional Agrotecnico school principal (December 2015)
I think the school is great as it has given me the opportunity to learn many new skills and it also means a lot to my family who would like me to have a good education. 

When I leave school I want to study agricultural engineering and eventually work as an agricultural engineer. 

Personally, I believe the school is the best thing ever to happen to Tilimuqui. It has had such a positive impact, not only bringing the village to life and offering all children the chance of a better future but also creating employment for the local community.
— Angel Leonel Morales, school pupil and beneficiary of Tilimuqui School Project
I have benefited in many ways by being at the school. Firstly I have built a tight knit group of friends, and between us we are able to help each other with the tasks that the teachers set us. In addition to this, the teachers are very dedicated, and are always ready to help us, trying to teach us the best way to learn.

We visit the laboratories at the local university and there we carry out experiments for projects for the Science Fair. We are also working with the university on a school radio project, which is going to allow us to practice and learn to communicate through the media. All of this is great for my training.
— Martin Larrain, school pupil and beneficiary of the Tilimuqui School Project (December 2015)
I raise my glass to La Riojana and The Co-operative whose partnership with the wine producers is opening new doors to teenagers in Argentina and helping them build a better future. The Co-operative, which has always been a staunch supporter of Fairtrade, has gone beyond the minimum to show real commitment - in this case, matching the Fairtrade premium and so doubling the producers’ earnings.
— Harriet Lamb, Chief Executive of Fairtrade International and former Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation (May 2010)

Other education projects

In addition to the construction of the new school in Tilimuqui, La Riojana has invested the Fairtrade Premium in a variety of projects to enable children access to better quality education.

These projects include:

  • Allocation of part of the premium to the university towards funding the infrastructure of the new school. This extra funding allowed the purchase of a 29-seat school minibus in 2012, enabling the school to take its students on study excursions and field trips.  
  • The funding of school lunch and transport bursaries for particular children from deprived backgrounds attending the Fairtrade-funded school in Tilimuqui  
  • The funding of school kits containing equipment such as rucksacks, pens, pencils and notepads for the children and grandchildren of La Riojana’s workers’ and members. Since 2012 over 1,500 school kits have been donated, therefore allowing children the right tools for their education and at the same time helping ease the family economy for many of our workers. 
This is just one of the many ways that we can contribute to the social development of children and teenagers, because by contributing resources which allow children to attend school, is thinking about their progress, their training and their future.
— Mario Gonzalez, president of La Riojana Co-operative and president of the Fairtrade Association (referring to the school kits).
  • Improved access to internet technology for the three local communities where La Riojana workers’ live: Malligasta, Tilimuqui and Chilecito. This includes fully furnished computer rooms for each of these communities to help provide free specialised IT training for both adults and children.
  • Maintenance improvements to a school in Catamarca.
  • The donation of books to a school library in Salta. 
  • The donation of computer and printer equipment to a local special needs school. 
  • Food donations to a local rural school in Santa Florentina.