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A group of students is raising awareness of how something so seemingly inconsequential as a cup of coffee can impact the lives of others in the global community.

The Lafayette Association of Fair Trade Advocates, an organization that seeks to educate the campus community about issues dealing with fair trade in global markets, is promoting Fair Trade coffee under the worldwide Oxfam America campaign titled “What’s that in your Coffee?” The group hopes to make others aware of the fact that their daily cup of coffee may well be the product of widespread misery and suffering.

“Up to 25 million coffee farmers in Latin America, Africa, and Mexico cannot provide education, healthcare, and food for their families due to the drastic fall in coffee prices in recent years,” explains LAFTA member Martha Osier ’06 (Nairobi, Kenya). “Fair Trade certified coffee is environmentally friendly coffee and ensures that farmers get paid a decent price for their harvests. Consumers, especially in America, which consumes a third of all coffee produced worldwide, have tremendous power in averting the current international coffee crisis.”

Osier says that by asking for and insisting on buying Fair Trade coffee in their local caf├ęs, grocery stores, workplaces, and campuses, consumers create a demand that could ultimately force large coffee corporations to seek out and provide Fair Trade coffee.

Osier and Mehzabin Ahmed ’06 recently attended the Oxfam America Fair Trade Coffee Training Conference in New Orleans. They learned about the global coffee crisis and were introduced to the Oxfam campaign to help resolve it. They also heard about the enduring hardships of Latin American farmers from Vicente Ventura, a coffee farmer from El Salvador.

“We learned that the price paid to farmers for their coffee has fallen almost 70 percent in five years, while the four largest coffee corporations in the world — Proctor & Gamble, Kraft, Sarah Lee, and Nestle — have been reaping billions in profits from their beverage departments,” says Osier.

Originally interested in the topic because of the coffee industry recession in her home country of Kenya, Osier realized after attending the conference that the issue was a global one.

“Millions of coffee farmers around the world, not just in Kenya, cannot send their children to school or even provide for their families because of the coffee crisis,” she says.

Isaac Esseku ’05, a LAFTA member and computer science major from Accra, Ghana, attended a conference on Fair Trade coffee last year in Chicago and just returned from one last week in Seattle. His efforts led Gilbert’s to add Fair Trade coffee to its offerings.

LAFTA plans to introduce Fair Trade coffee to the campus through student education by resident advisers, fraternities, and sororities. It will also tap into outlets such as brown bag lunches, posters, coffee tastings, radio shows, and letter-writing campaigns aimed at coffee companies. LAFTA’s biggest goal is to have the Farinon and Marquis dining halls serve Fair Trade coffee.

LAFTA is working with Char Gray, director of the Landis Community Outreach Center, although it is looking for a faculty adviser as well. The group presented its constitution today to Student Government, which voted on recognition of LAFTA as a campus group. LAFTA will soon have a meeting with prospective club members and begin the campaign.

For more information on Fair Trade coffee and its seal, visit ga0.org/campaign/coffee or www.Maketradefair.com.

Categorized in: Students