Editorial: What Fair Trade is All About

Written by Cafe Campesino on May 1, 2006 in Editorial, NEWSLETTER |
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Don Marcial Lazo, Elizabeth Villa, Wilman Sotelo and Esperanza Dionisio with Tripp and his kids Maria Sol and Hugh at the CC roastery

As World Fair Trade Day approaches, we thought we’d take a moment to celebrate the recent visit by our friends from CAC Pangoa in Peru and Fondo Paez in Colombia. Their time with us was nothing short of remarkable, reminding us that relationships and dialogue lie at the heart of what drives Fair Trade. We are truly grateful to them for taking the time and investing the resources to travel so far to be with us. Their presence and active involvement in our outreach activities not only drew us closer as trading partners but also connected them directly with consumers on numerous occasions, which is what we are all about at Café Campesino!

As we mentioned in last month’s Community Caravan, our visitor line-up was stellar…perhaps more than we expected. In addition to hosting Peru’s two female producer cooperative managers – Esperanza Dionisio of CAC Pangoa (a current producer partner of Café Campesino and Cooperative Coffees) and Elizabeth Villa Junco of CEPROAP (a prospective producer partner), we were honored to receive the president of CAC Pangoa and coffee producer, Marcial Lazo Mucha. Also joining us were Mario Chacon of the Green Development Foundation’s Progresso Coffee Program and Wilman Sotelo, a member of the technical assistance team working with our producer partners at Fondo Paez in Colombia.

Wilman Sotelo of Fondo Paez and Esperanza Dionisio of CAC Pangoa address a group of consumers at Sevananda Natural Foods Market in Atlanta

So, what was it about this group and their visit that made such an impact on us? Well, on April 3rd this diverse group, along with Tripp, Bill and May (Café Campesino’s much appreciated volunteer) traveled to Sevananda Natural Foods Market in Atlanta to present a Fair Trade Producer Partner Perspective to a group of Sevananda’s staff and customers from the Atlanta area.

As introductions were being made, it dawned on us that literally all of the stakeholders and players in the Fair Trade equation were assembled there, in one room meeting face to face, to share information, ideas and perspectives as they related to Fair Trade coffee and the Fair Trade movement.

If you take a look at this document Critical Steps along the Fair Trade Coffee Path, you will see the basic structure of the Fair Trade path and the players in it. Match this against our group that gathered at Sevananda and you will see that on this evening, Fair Trade happened…producers and consumers came together, in solidarity.

Don Marcial, Elizatbeth, Esperanza, Wilman & our own Lee Harris take a look at roasted Peruvian coffee

This may seem like somewhat of a sensationalized observation but when explored within the context of what our producer partners tell us has been their dehumanizing experience with the traditional coffee trade, the act of bringing producers and consumers together is significant.

This Fair Trade experience provided consumers with the opportunity to replace anonymous images of coffee producers with the personal experiences they gained by listening to and speaking with people like Don Marcial, Esperanza Dionisio and Wilman Sotelo.

For the producers, the people with whom they shared introductions, information, questions and answers provided a tangible, invaluable reassurance that they are not, in fact, anonymous. We were all there…from crop to cup…and the importance of this cannot be overstated.

(l to r) Elizabeth Villa of CEPROAP, Wilman Sotelo of Fondo Paez & Tripp talk Fair Trade coffee at Cafe Campesino

The conclusion…Fair Trade offers a means by which people from different cultures and experiences can come together get to know each other and begin a relationship. It makes friends out of strangers and by virtue of doing so, raises everyone’s consciousness about the impact that individual decisions have on other people’s lives. It is truly extraordinary how the dialogue created by Fair Trade so often results in life-changing friendships. Add one more reason for living a Fair Trade life!

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