Article: Fair Trade Friends: Atlanta Audubon Society

Written by Cafe Campesino on Aug 1, 2002 in Article, NEWSLETTER |
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Wondering who is working to spread the good word about shade-grown coffee on the local level? One fine example can be found in Georgia. Since 1996, the Atlanta Audubon Shade-Grown Coffee Campaign (AASCC) has been increasing public awareness of the connection between neotropical migratory birds and traditional coffee farms. Managed and run by volunteers, the campaign aims to educate consumers about the positive role that shade-grown coffee and fair trade coffee play in conserving songbird habitat in the Latin American coffee-producing countries.

While organizations devoted primarily to preserving endangered fauna around the world do not often focus their efforts on issues of fair trade, this particular venture is a natural fit for the Atlanta chapter of the Audubon Society. Their mission includes protecting rare birds, and encouraging the public to take action on behalf of birds and other species. Promoting shade-grown coffee is a significant action. The movement over the past 30 years to convert traditional coffee growing areas (where the coffee plants grow easily beneath a rainforest canopy) into sun-grown plantations (acreage committed solely to productive yet short-lived low-growing coffee plants highly dependent on pesticides) has destroyed 40% of the 6.9 million acres of rainforest on coffee-producing lands in Latin America. This rainforest habitat provides winter shelter to more than 180 species of migratory birds that return to the US each spring.

Members of the AASCC volunteer committee coordinate several large-scale public events each year in the Atlanta area, as well as on-going presentations to civic groups, churches and other smaller gatherings. Another popular means they use to educate and inform is their “Drink Shade-Grown Coffee for the Birds” t-shirt, designed by artist Richard Parks and sold at local events and on their website (just $12, and the text on the shirt is available in Spanish or English).

An exciting new development for Atlanta Audubon’s Shade Grown Coffee Campaign is their recent contact with the Northwest Shade Coffee Campaign, exploring the establishment of a nationwide coalition to educate a wider audience about the benefits of shade-grown coffee. NSCC’s Spring 2001 campaign came to a rousing close last June with a major concert in Seattle sponsored by NSCC, the Songbird Foundation, and Transfair USA. The media attention from events like this can only help the shade-grown cause. And collaborations between organizations like Atlanta Audubon and the NSCC are one of the best ways to both turn up the buzz and transform it into consumer action.

Nate Wayman is a caffeine addict who is currently studying non-profit management in southern Vermont. He can be reached at nate@ifairtrade.net.

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