| As you sip
coffee or enjoy that afternoon
espresso, do you
ever think about where coffee
comes from? Around the world, literally millions of people dedicate their
lives to growing coffee.
Unfortunately, the blessings of coffee don't always filter down to the
people who grow it. Coffee farmers
earn as little as a penny-a-pound for their harvest, and even during the
years when crops do well and
prices are high, the children of coffee growers go without much that we
take for granted.
last decade, coffee has made fortunes for corporations around
the globe, but the profits haven’t
trickled down to farmers. In fact, the traditional farmers of El Paraiso
-- and their brethren in places like
Kenya, Indonesia, Brazil and Zambia – are being driven out of business by
low prices and corporate farms
that produce ever higher crop yields.
business standpoint, this may seem natural: Companies that
market the world’s coffee are not
charities. Like every industry, they buy their raw materials as cheaply as
possible and mark them up as
much as possible, pocketing the difference for their investors.
Mexico and other coffee-producing nations, the social and
environmental costs of doing business
this way have been enormously high. The World Bank estimates that 540,000
Central American laborers
have lost their jobs due to the current coffee crisis.
have turned into ghost towns as their inhabitants, no longer
able to make ends meet, crowd into
the dangerous and ever-expanding shantytowns that ring major cities in the
developing world. Mexico City,
one of the world's largest urban sprawls with 21 million inhabitants, is
filled with such refugees.
Large, corporate farms do increase productivity and yield. But they also
consume good land at an alarming
rate. In Brazil, huge swaths of the Amazon rainforest are burned illegally
to make room for these farms. In
Mexico, illegal timber harvesting has led to flooding and erosion that
also destroys prospects for agriculture.
Increasingly, grass-roots organizations and some governments are asking:
Is there a future for small-scale
farmers in places like Mexico? And, if not, what will the millions of
peasants do for a living when their
farms are bankrupt?
Coffee and Community
Coffee is the second-most
traded commodity in the world economy, after oil.
- One coffee tree yields
slightly less than 1 pound of coffee per year.
- For every pound of
gourmet coffee sold, small-coffee farmers receive between
12¢ and 25¢.
- In Guatemala, 70 children
out of every 1,000 die before age 5; 51 of those children
will not live to reach their first birthdays.
- There is only 1 doctor
for every 85,000 people in the Western Highlands of
Java Queen International
is striving to make a difference socially and environmentally
while trying to build
a viable business of our own. We will be posting links and articles
here that reflect the news in the world
with regards to fair trade,
sustainable coffee, the coffee industry and
the people at all ends of the business.