Coffee Plants... Made in
Up until about 25
years ago most coffee was grown in the shade of forests. Since then
there has been a move to more environmentally harmful practices. Coffee
farmers, under international economic pressures, started clear cutting
the forest to make room for the new sun coffee plantations. They had to
culture "sun loving" coffee plants to grow in clear cut fields in the
forest, as coffee is a plant that naturally grows in filtered
sunlight. Since these plants did not receive mulch from the
trees, they required heavy applications of fertilizer to grow. Without
the roots of the natural shade plants the soil washed away, polluting
nearby streams. The fields could now be harvested by machines,
removing coffee berries whether ripe or not. As the quantity of low
quality coffee increased, the communities and the ecosystem
suffered. Migratory birds lost places to nest while pesticides,
fertilizers and sediment polluted
the rivers .
The move to sun
plantations was caused
partially (mostly) due to coffee prices which were not supporting the
communities that grew it. Many farmers went out of business, others
relented and grew on the sun plantations... and then.... there were
some who resisted. These are the fair trade growers who are still
under the natural canopy of the forest.
How is this related to Fair Trade?
Over 80% of Certified
Fair Trade Coffee is also shade grown and certified as organic. Fair
Trade not only allows, but encourages environmentally sound coffee
growing practices. Certified coffee beans are purchased for a fair
trade premium of US $1.26 per pound for conventionally grown coffee;
US$1.41 for certified organically grown coffee. This is a full 15 cents
pound more for organic coffee, which is much easier to grow in it's
natural environment, the shade. As a result many fair trade growers
are making the move to restore the natural environment, actively
replanting the forest and changing environmentally unsound practices.
When people are not struggling to make ends meet, they choose to
preserve their environment and culture. When people are struggling,
they make decisions to survive; many of these decisions come at the
cost of the environment and the community. Thanks to the fair trade
business model, many
coffee growers are no longer in a position which would force them to
make detrimental decisions.
Drinking coffee that
is certified as organic, shade
grown AND fair trade is important. You know that not only is your
choice better for the environment but also that your choice is not
putting the farmer in the position of needing to move to conventional
growing methods to survive.
The choice is obvious (but not clear
growing in rows on a clear cut sun plantation.
Coffee growing within a diverse
forest ecosystem under the shade canopy.
Photo courtesy of CECOCAFEN
(a fair trade coffee co-op)