Twenty-two years ago, Rink Dickinson, Jonathan Rosenthal, and Michael Rozyne founded the first Fair Trade coffee and tea organization in the United States. Soon thereafter, their first Fair Trade coffee line, Café Nica, was launched. At that time, the Sandinistas were governing Nicaragua and there was an embargo preventing Nicaraguan products from being exported to the United States. The specialty coffee craze hadn’t yet caught on like wildfire throughout the country. There was no Fair Trade seal. People thought these three guys were crazy.
The times have certainly changed since then. The Sandinistas were voted out of power (only to have been voted back in a few years ago.) Neighborhood coffee shops abound and many consumers can differentiate between a high quality, fairly grown cup of coffee and the majority of everything else being served out there. The Fair Trade seal is stamped on many lines of coffee, tea, fruit, flowers, and other products.
But what has been the overall impact? (more…)
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged Chiapas, CIRSA, coffee, Fair Trade, Fair Trade certification, FLO, Mexico, small farmer co-operatives, small farmers on September 4, 2008|
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The following article, written by Patty Kupfer, was printed in the September/October 2008 issue of Sojourner’s Magazine. Patty used to work for Witness for Peace and co-organized some of Equal Exchange’s Interfaith Department’s delegation visits to Chiapas. During these trips, we visited our coffee farmer partners, CIRSA, an amazing organization of Tzotzil and Tzeltal -speaking indigenous farmers located in the highlands of Chiapas. Patty interviewed some members of the co-op for this article. You can also read more about CIRSA in the Viroqua Food Co-op’s May/June 2008 newsletter.
Ask the nearly 600 members of the CIRSA coffee cooperative in the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico, how things are going and they’ll tell you, “Little by little, we’re moving forward.” Considering that a couple of decades ago the parents of these indigenous farmers worked in slavery-like conditions on large coffee plantations in the region, and that their region has been ignored and marginalized throughout its history, their progress is tremendous.
The Indigenous Communities of the Simojovel de Allende Region (CIRSA in Spanish) shipped 235 tons of fair trade coffee last year to the United States and Europe. Through the fair trade certification system, the small farmers of CIRSA and similar cooperatives throughout Latin America are guaranteed a minimum price for their coffee. This provides stability to small farmers, who live in some of the world’s poorest regions—and who are especially vulnerable to the volatile market that dictates world coffee prices. This is why, on our weekly trip to the grocery store, many of us fork over some extra change for fair trade coffee. (more…)
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