At its core, Fair Trade is an alternative way of doing business; one that creates long-term, transparent and mutually beneficial partnerships between traders and producers, and that strengthens the connections and social consciousness with consumers.
Authentic Fair Trade goes beyond certifications, prices, and labels. It is built and rooted in a relationship that has to be carefully navigated and constantly nurtured. It is practiced under terms of sustainability and transparency. It requires an earnest engagement with and a dedication to the small-scale farmers and the organizations to which they belong.
At Coop Coffees we purchase 100% of our coffee at “Beyond Fair Trade” terms from highly functional, small-farmer cooperatives. We have created strong and reliable business relationships and many delightful friendships with them, since our founding 14 years ago.
We have collaborated with our partners over the years to confront many of the countless obstacles they face on a daily basis. In the process, we have come to appreciate the crucial role that cooperatives play in bringing people together to resolve their own development challenges.
An estimated 70% of the world’s total coffee production is cultivated by some 10 million small-scale farmers, cultivating less than 10 hectares of land in 80 coffee-producing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The vast majority of them lack access to clean water, basic education, decent housing and all too often adequate food on the table. Add to the mix that most coffee-producing countries have economic policies that favour and incentivize large-scale production and traders – thus, leaving small-scale farmers to struggle for market share on a very uneven playing field, left “to compete” without access to adequate credit, inputs or technology.
We recognized and support, through our membership or participation, the following iniatives as legitimate promoters of Fair Trade: the Small Producers’ Symbol (SPP), Fairtrade Labelling Organization – International (FLO), the Fair Trade Federation (FTF), the Canadian Fair Trade Network (CFTN), and the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO).
But at the same time, we should remind ourselves that purchasing coffee at fair prices and talking about “changing the world one cup at a time” are only the first steps of a very long road. The transformative work has only just begun in farmer communities…. and the possibility for that work to continue depends on our collective capacity to strengthen and support their locally based, cooperative organizations — which over the long-haul will prove to be the “change-makers” able to create sustainable livelihoods for small-scale farmers.