Monday, November 20, 2006

Know Where Your Coffee Comes From

Through just one cup of coffee, we are inextricably connected to the livelihoods of millions of people around the world who are struggling to survive.--from the Director's Statement, Black Gold

Black Gold is the kind of movie that makes you want to buy Fair Trade certified coffee, chocolate, Fair Trade everything. Now when I see a Fair Trade certified symbol (pictured here), I see two images from Black Gold in my mind: one of a long table of Ethiopian women sorting through thousands of coffee beans by hand for 50 cents a day, and another of a child being weighed at a therapeutic feeding station to determine if he is undernourished enough to receive food. According to Black Gold, a 1% increase in Africa's share of world trade would bring in five times more than what it receives in aid.

Black Gold tells the story of Tadesse Meskela, the manager of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-operative Union in Ethiopia. During the film Meskela tries to find buyers who will pay a higher price for his farmers' coffee. 67% of Ethiopia's export income is from coffee, so Meskela's story is the story of many Ethiopian farmers.

You'll probably be buying and drinking a lot of coffee this holiday season, so please consider buying Fair Trade coffee. According to TransFair USA, Fair Trade means fair price, fair labor conditions, direct trade, democratic and transparent organizations, community development, and environmental sustainability. You can find Fair Trade stores near you and online that sell Fair Trade products by searching on the TransFair USA site.

For an extra do * good bang for my buck, I just bought Newman's Own Organics Fair Trade Colombian Especial for our Thanksgiving dinner. Not only is it organic and Fair Trade, but Newman's Own Organics, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Coffee Kids are working together on an agricultural program that benefits women in Oaxaca.

Green Mountain Coffee also has a cool holiday gift idea for the coffee lovers on your list, a Fair Trade Organic Coffee Tour: two bags of a different Fair Trade, organic coffee each month for six months. Yum.

**Oh, and I forgot to mention that you can look on the Black Gold site to see where the movie will be showing near you and California Newsreel will be releasing it on DVD.


  1. Thanks for the links Britt...going to go look now :)

  2. Anonymous2:26 AM

    Hi Britt Bravo

    My name's Emerson Brito Cossi from Brazil and now I'm living in London where I'm study a litle bit more about the international market.
    During almost 10 years I worked with coffee market in Brazil (at Multinational Company)and so many companies try to do the fair trader business with the farmers, but in my mind I think this is a pure kind of alternative business.
    Nobody want to help the poorest people, but only try to sell their coffees more expensive and get more profit.
    I'd like to bring to question on the air:
    1- Do you really think that those "extra" money go to the ladies that make classification of coffee on the large tables?
    2- How many percent of these "extra" really go to help that child are starving?

    I know that so many people really think to help, but the business is totally different from this way, companies want rise the profits.

    P.s.: I saw a documentary that showed a farmer in a course of golf with four guy helped him while the rest of people was working in a harvest. How can you support a Fair Trader Farm with a Golf course while the people are starving - This is a Fair?

    Thanks and I appreciate so much you article

    Emerson Brito Cossi (sorry for my poorest english)

  3. Anonymous4:38 AM

    Fair Trade is one aspect of coffee sustainability, and goes along with the power of the consumer to not only change lives for people, but also for biodiversity, although this aspect is sometimes overlooked. I'm an ecologist and put together a whole site dealing with it; here's the introduction:

  4. Anonymous6:39 AM

    I belong to the Co-op in my town and buy fair trade coffee there--it always makes me feel better to buy fair trade. Thanks for the movie link.

  5. Matt--glad you liked the post.

    Emerson--I don't know for sure if the "extra" money goes to the women and children, but I sure hope it does. As Fair Trade becomes mainstream there will probably be scandals, but in the end, I think that Fair Trade is a better option for farmers than not.

    birdbarista--Cool site! maybe you have a more informed response for Emerson.

    Marilyn-that's awesome that you have a co-ooperative grocery store in your town and that they have fair trade coffe.

    Thanks for all of your comments and responses! Sorry it took me a while to comment back.

  6. For those of you who are interested in the issue of Fair trade, there is a powerful documentary out called “Black Gold,” that documents the lives and struggles of Ethiopian coffee farmers and clearly demonstrates why all of us should be asking for Fair Trade coffee. “Black Gold” was recently released in the theater but is now available to the public on DVD via California Newsreel. You can read more about the documentary or pick up a copy of it here at

    I was wondering if it was at all possible to announce to your members that this film is now available to the general public. It is a great way to introduce new people to the issue of fair trade or to show at community organizing/activist meetings. The more we can reach consumers, the more likely we are to make a difference

  7. Never had really even heard of the fair trade movement until a friend recently enlightened me. Since then I have been making purchases on a regular basis from a trusted fair trade coffee vendor and I honestly can't see myself going back at this point.


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