Solving World Hunger by buying Fair Trade

While traveling in Mexico I was privileged to have a few meals with mole sauce. We gathered at one of the coffee farmer’s homes in Salvador Urbina, Chiapas, Mexico for a meal and they had prepared chicken with mole sauce for the group.

For those who love good Mexican food this is one of the meals that you can tell if they really know how to cook good Mexican food. It is the taste that gives away the hands that prepared it as authentic.

This is sacks of coffee waiting to be husked. The coffee can keep for years like this. When the roaster needs more coffee they ask the coffee farmers in Salvador Urbina to send more of the husked coffee. This is when they then husk the coffee, which takes off the outer shell of the coffee bean just before it is roasted.

They do this before shipping to their cooperative roaster in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico so that the weight of the coffee also is less and saves them money as well.

The coffee on the left is what it looks like before it is husked. On the right is what they call green coffee bean. This is what it looks like after being husked.

Back in 2001 the coffee farmers that would later form the Just Coffee Cooperative were struggling to feed their families. Many farmers in the area sold their land and crossed the US border looking for work to survive. Coffee farmers were being hit as hard as the corn farmers.

Here is an excerpt from Economy in Crisis story from February 5, 2011 Illegal Immigration and NAFTA

One of the largely overlooked aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement is the fact that the failed trade pact has been the catalyst for the massive increase in illegal immigration over the past two decades or so.

An influx of highly subsidized corn flooding the Mexican market has displaced millions of rural farmers, according to McClatchy Newspapers. Prior to the implementation of NAFTA, Mexican officials claimed that factory jobs would fill the void left by disappearing work on family farms.

Mexican officials had promised that NAFTA would result in the “export of goods, not people.” That, however, has turned out to be far from reality.

Since NAFTA was signed into law, illegal immigrants in the U.S. has increased to 12 million today from 3.9 million in 1993, accounting for an overall increase of over 300 percent. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 57 percent of those entering the country illegally are from Mexico.

“The numbers of people displaced from family farming were much, much higher than the number of new wage jobs,” Jonathan Fox, an expert on rural Mexico at the University of California at Santa Cruz, told McClatchy Newspapers.

Those displaced workers are largely the result of U.S. corn exports to Mexico. Heavily subsidized American Agribusiness not only put hundreds of thousands of American family farms out of business, but also dumped billions of dollars worth of American agricultural products into the Mexican market, putting millions of peasant farmers out of business.

Between 1994 and 2001, the flood of cheap, subsidized American corn caused the price of the crop to fall 70 percent in Mexico. The drop in prices caused millions of farm jobs to disappear, with the numbers falling from 8.1 million in 1993 to 6.8 million in 2002.

Those out-of-work farmers make up the bulk of the illegal immigrants entering the U.S. each year. Unable to compete with their highly subsidized American competitors – $10 billion in 2000 alone – rural Mexican farmers have increasingly sought employment in the U.S.

The fence along the border hasn’t solved this problem for lack of work for the migrant. However those who are buying Just Coffee are helping those coffee farmers rebuild their community.

We can help solve some of the world hunger by just being informed consumers that when we spend our dollars are aware of where the products come from. Fair Trade certification is one way to know if what you are buying is helping those on the bottom of the chain.

The Presbyterian Church USA has offered a grant to the Just Coffee Cooperative to help them pay for the certification process. Hopefully very shortly after the cooperative votes on accepting this grant they will be official.

Ruth Farrell, Coordinator for Presbyterian Hunger Program at Presbyterian Church, explains to the cooperative how Fair Trade certification works.

Bryce Wiebe, Associate for Enough for Everyone at Presbyterian Church USA, talks about how he now thinks about how Just Coffee lets him feel good about drinking it since he know that the cooperative operates on the standards of Fair Trade.

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While I appreciate a great mole sauce and know that it is authentic Mexican the certification of Fair Trade lets me know that those who are part of the food chain are being compensated fairly and are no longer hungry like the Just Coffee Cooperative farmers were back in 2001.

You are either part of the problem with World Hunger or part of the Solution. Which one are you?

More than Just Coffee–It’s about a relationship with the grower

David Cifuentes Velazquez, coffee grower and member of the Just Coffee Cooperative, enjoys sharing with a visiting group how coffee is grown.

The personal testimony is so powerful. This past week I was privileged to hear personal stories after another of how Just Coffee Cooperative was changing their lives.

David Cifuentes Velazquez was so excited that due to the cooperative forming his son had returned from working in the states to Salvador Urbina, Chiapas, Mexico where the family farmed coffee. David went on to tell about how each of his children lived next door to his home.

Every night we were there the family all came together singing long into the night. Many from the group that were part of a delegation to learn more about Just Coffee joined in and sang along with them.

Each morning the delegation would gather and review what we were experiencing. One morning Whitney Moss of Greer, South Carolina, said she had not laughed this much before. She was truly touched by how everyone in the community enjoyed one another and how the conversations were full of joy and laughter.

As we walked around the community the people were always smiling at us and greeting us.

Joshua Ediger was one of the participants in the delegation. He is from Reedley, California where he works as a manager of a local café. As we saw the coffee in all the stages from growing, harvesting, de-pulping, drying and roasting, Joshua could not stopped commenting on how exciting this was to see and experience.

Hear Joshua in his own words talk about how this experience has changed him.

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To order Just Coffee go to their website www.JustCoffee.org.