Deepening Fair Trade: A Panel Perspective

Coffee Kids was invited to participate on a panel at the Ross Net Impact Conference, "Markets with a Mission," at the University of Michigan on October 15-16.

The discussion, “Deepening Fair Trade: Efforts in Coffee-farming Communities to Improve the Lives of Farmers and Their Families,” reviewed approaches to creating more sustainable communities in the coffee lands. Along with Kyle Freund of Coffee Kids, the panel members were Cate Baril of Transfair and Lubna Nabi of Root Capital (who couldn’t attend due to flight problems). Ted London of the William Davidson Institute at the university served as the panel moderator.

kyle freund and cate barilThe panel discussed life in coffee-farming communities and the associated problems, including poverty and hunger issues. The panel recognized that the majority of coffee-farming families cannot survive from coffee income alone and no one approach will address the full breadth of the problem.

Fair Trade came about to ensure a more sustainable base price for coffee to help families withstand market volatility. It also gives consumers the option to become part of the solution. Root Capital plays an important role in the Fair Trade network by providing farmers and cooperatives with access to low-interest credit so they can benefit from Fair Trade prices. Root Capital has also introduced a program to provide financing for purchasing land.

But even with Fair Trade and other price premiums, coffee is not enough. Fair Trade will always be a segment of overall trade in coffee and given the small parcels managed by many farmers, work must be done to create economically viable communities and reduce dependence on coffee for income. Coffee Kids works with local organizations in coffee-farming communities to address these problems and create alternatives to coffee.

The presentation drove home the fact that no one approach will answer all of the needs of coffee-farming families. But by supporting a variety of alternatives, coffee companies and coffee-farming families can work together to ensure a healthier future.

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