Behind the importance of fair trade coffee

Cheyanne Gonzales, General Manager Emeritus

Go back five years ago, where the topic of fair trade was not as prominent as it is today. Go back 10 years ago and the topic of fair trade was barely even mentioned in schools across the U.S. Today, schools all over the country are addressing the topic of fair trade, but it’s only the beginning.

On April 10, St. John’s University hosted a screening of one of my favorite documentaries that came out last year, “Dukale’s Dream,” with special guest, Josh Rothstein. The documentary follows celebrities Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness to a small village in Ethiopia as representatives for World Vision. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, yet an extremely poor country.

Jackman and Furness met Dukale, a coffee farmer working with World Vision to better his crop and business. It fast forwards three years later, which shows Hugh Jackman’s 100 percent fair trade coffee company “Laughing Man.”

Rothstein expressed to the group of St. John’s University and faculty of the years the documentary took to make. Rothstein addressed the importance of fair trade coffee and the difficulties that come when wrapping up a project that is not even close to being done.

Fair trade coffee helps small farmers who live in remote locations gain access to the right importers, keeping them from being vulnerable to middlemen who take advantage of these farmers. Fair trade coffee has helped families like Dukale’s send their children to school, hire more workers on the farm, put food on the table and clothes on their backs.

Coffee companies like DOMA Coffee,  Stumptown Coffee, Just Coffee and Equal Exchange are all fair trade certified, whereas the big name companies like Starbucks have only select coffees that are fair trade certified.

People question if fair trade coffee is more expensive, but it’s not, especially to the consumer. A fair trade coffee bean sold at Starbucks is the exact same price as a non-fair trade bean. Supporting fair trade coffee helps small family farmers continue to grow their farms and their families. Making that small step to switch to fair trade coffee brands can help an entire family, an entire village.


For more on Dukale’s Dream, see links below: