What’s Fair? The Case for Fair Trade Coffee
By Rahasya Poe
Of course we’re not talking about just any cup of coffee; we’re talking about coffee that is Fair Trade Certified. So what does that mean?
I was surprised to find out that most of the world’s coffee is grown on smaller family- and community-owned farms and that they often end up receiving less for their coffee than it took them to grow it, thereby creating an economic tragedy for them. This obviously has a detrimental effect on the coffee growers in the form of lower educational standards, poor nutrition, and higher crime rates.
Fair Trade Certified
Many people are aware of this and are attempting to correct this situation by creating organizations such as Fair Trade Certified . For instance, you’re guaranteed that any coffee you buy with this symbol on it [symbol here] is grown on farms where the growers are getting paid $1.26/pound instead of $.40/pound. This leads to a much higher living standard for the families, which in turn means they are less likely to develop a dependency on foreign aid. This also means that the farmers can feed their families and their children can go to school instead of working in the fields.
Most Fair Trade coffee is also certified organic and shade-grown. Shade-grown simply means that instead of destroying valuable ecosystems that help reduce global warming and give shelter for migratory birds, the coffee is grown under the canopies of forests.
“Fair Trade supports some of the most bio-diverse farming systems in the world. When you visit a Fair Trade coffee grower’s fields, with the forest canopy overhead and the sound of migratory songbirds in the air, it feels like you’re standing in the rainforest.”
–Professor Miguel Altieri, leading expert and author on agroecology
To give you an idea of the impact this can have on a farming community, the economic stability provided by Fair Trade enabled the members of the COSURCA coffee cooperative in Columbia to prevent the cultivation of more than 1,600 acres of coca and poppy, which are used in the production of illicit drugs. In Papua New Guinea, the AGOGA cooperative brought in a medical team to meet the needs of its isolated community. In Guatemala, the indigenous Tzutuhil Maya in the La Voz cooperative are sending local kids to college for the first time.
These movements are happening all over the planet to help create sustainable communities, but we need to do our part. What is our part? Look for the Fair Trade Certified symbol when buying your next cup of coffee or tea because something as simple as a cup of coffee a day can make a difference for a farmer and his or her family.