Brewing Justice: Fair Trade Coffee, Sustainability, and Survival

Brewing Justice: Fair Trade Coffee, Sustainability, and Survival

Brewing Justice: Fair Trade Coffee, Sustainability, and Survival

Brewing Justice: Fair Trade Coffee, Sustainability, and Survival

Synopsis

Fair trade is a fast-growing alternative market intended to bring better prices and greater social justice to small farmers around the world. But is it working? This vivid study of coffee farmers in Mexico offers the first thorough investigation of the social, economic, and environmental benefits of fair trade. Based on extensive research in Zapotec indigenous communities in the state of Oaxaca, Brewing Justice follows the members of the cooperative Michiza, whose organic coffee is sold on the international fair trade market. It compares these families to conventional farming families in the same region, who depend on local middlemen and are vulnerable to the fluctuations of the world coffee market. Written in a clear and accessible style, the book carries readers into the lives of these coffee producer households and their communities, offering a nuanced analysis of both the effects of fair trade on everyday life and the limits of its impact. Brewing Justice paints a clear picture of the complex dynamics of the fair trade market and its relationship to the global economy. Drawing on interviews with dozens of fair trade leaders, the book also explores the changing politics of this international movement, including the challenges posed by the entry of transnational corporations into the fair trade system. It concludes by offering recommendations for strengthening and protecting the integrity of fair trade.

Excerpt

Cancún, Mexico; September 12, 2003. Four thousand trade ministers and delegates from 148 countries are meeting at the World Trade Organization ministerial summit to try to agree on trade policies that would form the binding rules for the global economy. A radio journalist as well as a researcher on trade issues, I have a press pass to enter the convention center where the official WTO meetings are taking place. But first I’ve had to get through six federal police roadblocks and several concentric rings of high fences just to reach the metal detectors at my assigned entry door. After I make it through security and past the camera with facial-recognition software, I’m inside. The air-conditioning is so strong it’s chilly, despite the ninety-eight-degree heat and high humidity outside. There are 1,400 journalists from all over the world here, working at phalanxes of computer terminals to file stories, rubbing shoulders with delegates and more than a thousand accredited members of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). In a glass-walled briefing room, members of the European Union delegation are holding a press conference.

The fifth WTO ministerial meeting is in trouble. A large bloc of nations from the global South (or Third World) is resisting pressure from the United States and the European Union to further open their agricultural economies to the discipline of the WTO unless the rich countries first reduce their own enormous farm subsidies, which exceed US$300 billion per year. Representatives of four West African nations have made . . .

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