Archive for July, 2010

The following post was written by Chuck Collins, a friend of mine who is currently Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies. Chuck posted this reflection about the first time he met Shirley Sherrod on Alternet on July 23rd and asked folks to consider reposting and linking on Facebook.

Prior to her appointment as Georgia State Director of Rural Development, Shirley Sherrod was a longtime staff person with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. The Federation supports small farmers in Georgia to stay on their land by providing advocacy, technical assistance, credit and other services. One of the groups of small farmers whom the Federation supports, Southern Alternatives Agriculture Co-operative in southwest Georgia, provides Equal Exchange with the pecans that we sell as part of our Domestic Fair Trade program. While visiting Southern Alternatives, several Equal Exchange staff have had the honor to meet Shirley Sherrod. We were dismayed to hear about the treatment she has received and are proud to repost Chuck’s reflections about her.

My Meeting with Shirley Sherrod

Lost in the chatter about the firing of Shirley Sherrod and subsequent USDA apology is the unquestionable fact that she had devoted her entire life to economic justice. (more…)

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Monday, July 12, 2010



— New film showcases impact of industrial agriculture on global warming —


New York, NY – A new online film from WhyHunger, “The Food and Climate Connection: From Heating the Planet to Healing It,” highlights the impact of today’s global food system on the climate and how a community-based food movement around the world is bringing to life a way of farming and eating that’s better for our bodies and the planet. Featuring interviews with farmers, community leaders, and sustainability advocates, the film highlights how the industrial food system is among the greatest contributors to global warming and how sustainable farming practices can pose a powerful solution to the crisis. (more…)

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This week, Ms. Evelyn Nassuna, the Uganda Country Program Director of our partners Lutheran World Relief (LWR), testified before Congress about a pending U.S. development program.  In her comments, Ms. Nassuna stressed that work to support small-scale farmers is key in reducing poverty and hunger, and that the best programs are designed through consulting local communities and empowering women.  She noted, “Mrs. Bisaso and Mrs. Kate did not improve their families’ livelihoods overnight, and, to be honest, they still face challenges. But they have more stable access to food than ever before, and their diets (and those of their families) continue to improve.” (more…)

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By Nicholas Reid, Equal Exchange Natural Foods Sales Representative


Equal Exchange has credited co-ops with building Fair Trade coffee and making the alternative trade system possible, by keeping farmers organized in developing countries, and connecting them to consumers through co-ops like Equal Exchange and their local food co-ops. This October, while we celebrate Co-op and Fair Trade Month, and consider the values and successes of these two movements that are so intrinsically connected, Equal Exchange would like to push ourselves even further. The support and collaboration of co-ops is crucial to the future of organic coffee.

Declining yields due to soil exhaustion and global warming are threatening specialty coffee production, and the livelihoods of thousands of farming communities that rely on it. Once charged with making coffee cultivation economically viable for small-scale producers, Equal Exchange now asks co-ops to support those farmers in their efforts to adapt, innovate and invest in the future of high-quality, organic coffee.

The history of commercial farming in Latin America (and in the United States) is one of extreme short-sightedness, environmental destruction and an ever-increasing reliance on chemical and technological inputs. One need only look at the former sugar plantations of northeast Brazil, now deserts and agricultural wastelands, or the destruction of local communities and ecosystems that banana cultivation led to in Central America, to see that modern agriculture effectively raped the soil of nutrients, destroyed local flora and fauna that sustained the land, and nearly ended the possibility of human existence in those areas.

Specialty coffee grown by small-scale farmers is inherently a more sustainable form of agriculture than large scale plantations, but it, too, has felt the pressure of the corporate race to the scientific bottom. Regardless of our progress in the last 20 years, small farmers are struggling to compete, and scrambling to maintain healthy, productive farms and soil. Without the benefits of the three insidious sisters of modern chemical fertilizers (NPK) and carcinogenic pesticides, organic farmers are experiencing declining output and soil exhaustion. Traditional fertilizer techniques in composting and mulching are falling short.

Global warming, a global problem that disproportionately affects higher altitudes and subtropical regions, exactly where the majority of our coffee and cacao farmers operate, is exacerbating the problem. Changing weather, rainfall and temperature patterns are threatening coffee cultivation (and traditional agriculture, in general) around the world. The future of specialty coffee is perilous at best; organic production is threatened even further.

We, at Equal Exchange, believe it is our responsibility to support our farmer partners as they invest in modern, sustainable agricultural methods and adapt to climate change. We know we cannot rely on Monsanto or Cargill; big business cannot solve these problems. With that in mind, we have partnered with agronomists at the CESMACH co-operative, who approached Equal Exchange with a proposal for a soil fertility project in the communities in which they work.

The first round of the project, funded by Equal Exchange and carried out by CESMACH, concluded in the summer of 2010. It involved taking soil samples in the coffee communities of the co-op, to analyze the nutrient profiles. Armed with an overview of the health and deficiencies of the soil in each community, Equal Exchange and CESMACH are preparing to implement the next round of the project, which will be funded through food co-op sales in October (see below).

The second phase of the project will explore the potential to produce organic fertilizer to meet the specific needs of each community, using locally available, low-cost inputs. The goal is to develop guidelines for composting (and other alternative agricultural techniques) that individual farmers can use. In the long run, the hope is to develop more centralized services for soil improvement and progressive agriculture, such as a facility to manufacture fertilizers for members (and potentially to sell locally). Not only are we excited about the impact on small-scale, organic coffee production in Chiapas, but for the overall agricultural capacity in those communities: the ability to grow more food and more products to sell locally and abroad, and develop scalable models for all our partners around the world.

This October, the Equal Exchange coffee you buy at your local food co-op is funding sustainable advances in agriculture in Mexico, literally making the earth richer and securing organic coffee production for the long term. Examples of visionary collaborations like these are what make cooperative Fair Trade so inspiring. The products we consume have the potential to produce something incredibly powerful: to make farming communities stronger, and to build a healthier planet. We have the ability to buy a pound of excellent coffee and make a direct investment in a brighter future. That is Small Farmers. Big Change.

In honor of the co-ops that make these transactions possible, Equal Exchange is raising money with our co-op partners to invest in this inspiring initiative that epitomizes the value of co-operatives. For each product sold to co-ops in the month of October, Equal Exchange will donate 20 cents (up to $10,000) to the second phase of a soil fertility project in southern Mexico, spearheaded by the CESMACH co-operative. We hope that our efforts will not only result in higher yields and income for the co-op members, but will also create healthier ecosystems in coffee farming communities, and will build a sustainable model for soil rehabilitation for all the co-ops with which we work.

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The following post was written by Cindy Eason, Food Service Sales Representative

Hi! My name is Cindy and I’m a Food Service Sales Rep and a new worker-owner track employee at Equal Exchange. I’ve been here for just about six months. The initial whirlwind of the new job is coming to a close and I am finally able to take a step back and evaluate what brought me to Equal Exchange in the first place and share a bit of newbie insight on some of the cool things I’m learning about Equal Exchange along my journey thus far.

While I’m new to Equal Exchange, I’m not new to coffee. My love of coffee is what led me on this path to Equal Exchange. I was a barista for a long while and I loved every minute of it – I loved working in cafés and crafting quality beverages for my customers. I loved learning new things about coffee – the way it’s harvested and processed, the way it’s roasted, the many ways it can be brewed and prepared. I loved practicing my skills every day and trying to perfect the art of espresso drinks! What has been great about being at Equal Exchange these last few months is that I still get a chance to play on the espresso machine in our Quality Control lab – I try to pull at least a few shots every day and spend a couple of hours in there on Fridays practicing my latte art so I don’t get too rusty! No, I promise I’m not trying to make you jealous– I’m just making a point to say that coffee is the path I took to Equal Exchange (and as a result, my love of coffee seems to be stronger than ever before!). But contrary to some of my early assumptions, coffee is not the only path that leads to Equal Exchange. (more…)

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Maude Barlow: ‘The World Has Divided into Rich and Poor as at No Time in History’
July 2, 2010 by Democracy Now!

As world leaders gathered in Toronto for the G20 summit last week, leading activists from around the world joined thousands in Toronto’s Massey Hall to oppose the G20 agenda. Maude Barlow was one of the key speakers at the event. She heads the Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest public advocacy organization, and is a founder of the Blue Planet Project. This is a part of what she had to say.

MAUDE BARLOW: On the eve of this G-20 gathering, let’s look at a few facts. Fact, the world has divided into rich and poor as at no time in our history.

*The richest 2% own more than half the household wealth in the world.

*The richest 10% hold 85% of total global assets and the bottom half of humanity owns less than 1% of the wealth in the world.

*The three richest men in the world have more money than the poorest 48 countries.

Fact, while those responsible for the 2008 global financial crisis were bailed out and even rewarded by the G-20 government’s gathering here, the International Labor Organization tells us that in 2009, 34 million people were added to the global unemployed, swelling those ranks to 239 million, the highest ever recorded.

Another 200 million are at risk in precarious jobs and the World Bank tells us that at the end of 2010, another 64 million will have lost their jobs.

By 2030, more than half the population of the megacities of the Global South will be slumdwellers with no access to education, health care, water, or sanitation.

Fact, global climate change is rapidly advancing, claiming at least 300,000 lives and $125 billion in damages every year. Called the silent crisis, climate change is melting glaciers, eroding soil, causing freak and increasingly wild storms, displacing untold millions from rural communities to live in desperate poverty in peri-urban centers.

 Almost every victim lives in the Global South in communities not responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and not represented here at the summit.

The atmosphere has already warmed up a full degree in the last several decades and is on course to warm up another two degrees by 2100. In fact, half the tropical forests in the world, the lungs of our ecosystem, are gone. By 2030, at the present rate of extraction or so-called harvest, only 10% will be left standing.

90% of the big fish in the sea are gone, victim to wanton predatory fishing practice. Says a prominent scientist studying their demise, there is no blue frontier left. Half the world’s wetlands, the kidneys of our ecosystem, have been destroyed in the 20th century. Species extinction is taking place at a rate 1,000 times greater than before humans existed.

According to a Smithsonian science, we are headed toward a biodiversity deficit in which species and ecosystems will be destroyed at a rate faster than nature can replace them with new ones.

Fact, we are polluting our lakes, rivers and streams to death. Every day, two million tons of sewage and industrial agricultural waste are discharged into the world’s water. That’s the equivalent of the entire human population of 6.8 billion people. The amount of waste water produced annually is about six times more water than exists in all the rivers of the world. We are mining our ground water faster than we can replenish it, sucking it to grow water guzzling chemical-fed crops in deserts or to water thirsty cities who dump an astounding 700 trillion liters of land-based water into oceans every year as waste.

The global mining industry sucks up another 800 trillion liters which it also leaves behind as poison and fully one-third of global water withdrawals are now used to produce biofuels, enough water to feed the world.

Nearly three billion people on our planet do not have running water within a kilometer of their home and every eight seconds, somewhere in our world, a child is dying of waterborne disease.

The global water crisis is getting steadily worse with reports of countries from India to Pakistan to Yemen facing depletion. The World Bank says that by 2030, demand for water will outstrip supply by 40%. This may sound just like a statistic, but the suffering behind that is absolutely unspeakable.

Fact, knowing there will not be enough food and water for all in the near future, wealthy countries and global investment pension and hedge funds are buying up land and water, fields and forests in the Global South, creating a new wave of invasive colonialism that will have huge geopolitical ramifications. Rich countries faced by food shortages have already bought up an area in Africa alone more than twice the size of the United kingdom.

Now I don’t think I exaggerate if I say that our world has never faced a greater set of threats and issues that it does today. So what are the twenty leaders who have gathered here, some already here and the others coming in tonight, what are they going to talk about over the next two days? By the way, their summit costs $1 million a minute. By the way, we figure it’s going to be closer to $2 billion when it’s finished and the annual budget to run the United Nations is $1.9 billion. I assure you, they are not going to tackle the above issues in any serious way.

The declarations have already been drafted, the failures already spun. Instead, this global royalty who have more in common with one another than they do with their own citizens and are here really to advance the issues and interest of their class are also here just to advance the status quo that serves the interest of the elite in their own countries and the business community or the B-20, the new term, a community that will get private and privileged access to advance their free market solutions to these eager leaders.

The agenda is more of the bad medicine that made the world sick in the first place. Environmental deregulation, unbridled financial speculation, unlimited growth, unregulated free trade, relentless resource exploitation, tax cuts for the wealthy, cuts to Social Security and a war on working people. In other words, savage capitalism.

Now let’s look at our own country here and the assault that has been launched on the work of generations of Canadians toward a just society. Stephen Harper’s government has cut the heart out of any group that dissents, from First Nations people, to women, to international agencies and church groups like KAIROS, Alternative, and the Canadian Council for International Cooperation.

AMY GOODMAN: Maude Barlow, one of the major speakers at the event at Massey Hall on Friday night. Three thousand people packed-in to the Toronto event. This was at the same time the G8 and then the G20 met. Between 900 and 1,000 people are believed to have been arrested, the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. Among them, many journalists. More than a billion dollars it’s believed were spent on so-called security, the most expensive security event in Canadian history.

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