Trips: On the Road with CRS in Nicaragua

Written by Cafe Campesino on Mar 1, 2006 in Editorial, NEWSLETTER |
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The following article was written by our very good friend and staunch Fair Trade ally Michael Sheridan of CRS. The depth of Michael’s commitment to small-scale coffee producers and their communities, 100% Fair Trade coffee companies like Café Campesino, and the Fair Trade movement is nothing short of inspiring. We are truly grateful to Michael and CRS for their extraordinary support and leadership.

Michael organized and led the recent CRS Delegation to Nicaragua of which Tripp was a member. We asked Michael to write this piece to give our readers a better understanding of CRS’s approach to Fair Trade, an approach that we believe has and continues to have an immensely positive impact on our work as a 100% Fair Trade coffee company.

CRS stands for Catholic Relief Services, the official relief and development agency of the U.S. Catholic community. At CRS, we have served poor and marginalized people overseas since 1943 through humanitarian relief and community development programs. But we also serve Catholics in the United States by helping them to live in solidarity with the people we serve around the world. We believe that when we come together as one human family, we have the power to change the world. And that’s why we are so excited about our partnerships with companies like Café Campesino — because they are helping us to use the market to build direct and mutually beneficial relationships between conscious consumers in the United States and disadvantaged farmers overseas in places like Nicaragua, where we support more than 400 small-scale farmers.

More than one-dozen people participated in the CRS Fair Trade Coffee Tour, including Café Campesino’s own Tripp Pomeroy. The experience featured presentations by CRS program managers, partners and allies, and a few hours of sight-seeing in Managua. But without question the highlight of the visit was the time we spent in the mountains, as guests of small-scale coffee farmers that CRS has been supporting since 2002.

For three days, we hiked on farms, picked coffee, inspected organic fertilizer tanks, visited coffee fermentation facilities, watched worm composting in action, met with cooperative leaders, and ate lots of amazing food in the homes of our gracious hosts. For two nights, we camped out in tents on the farms where CRS and its partners work. In the process we were whipped by strong winds, doused in rain and generally made a spectacle of ourselves. But for me this time in community building real relationships with the people who grow our coffee is what the whole Fair Trade system is built on — and what makes it so special and so different from conventional trade.

In the context of these emerging relationships, we heard from our hosts about their commitments to grow better coffee and to create an organic lifestyle for themselves. We heard about how they are struggling to make ends meet. And we heard how they see in Fair Trade hope for a better future for themselves and their children. And, as in any relationship that is based on mutual respect and understanding, we all went away committed to act to deepen that relationship: consumers to work harder to build a market for Fair Trade coffee, companies to look for ways to help farmers through the difficult transitions to organic certification and Fair Trade market access, and farmers to strengthen their organizations and build their capacity to grow better coffee. And for us at CRS, the Fair Trade Coffee Tour only strengthens our resolve to work with 100% Fair Trade companies like Café Campesino to bring conscious consumers in the United States into the Fair Trade movement. Because when you buy, sell and grow Fair Trade coffee, you are not just part of a trading system, you are part of a network of human relationships that respect human dignity, promote economic justice and cultivate a true sense of global solidarity. Not a bad way to start the day.

Café Campesino works with many different organizations, both faith-based and secular. To find out more about bringing Café Campesino Fair Trade coffee to your church or organization, contact tripp@cafecampesino.com.


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