ATHENS, Ohio — Coffee is the second most traded product in the world, and there are two different ways to grow it. Sun grown coffee requires minimal canopy cover and the coffee grows at high densities. This cultivation method uses more fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides. Sun plants need to be replaced more often and are only productive for about 15 years.
Shade grown coffee is more environmentally friendly as it discourages weed growth, increases pollinators and reduces chemical run-off and topsoil degradation. Shade-grown coffee also produces the highest yields and the ripest taste. There are various types and levels of shade, including rustic, traditional polyculture, commercial polyculture and shaded monoculture. The cultivation of shade-grown coffee is sustainable for farmers, and there is a strong correlation between shade grown coffee and bird preservation that is significant. Choosing environmentally friendly grown coffee is just as important as purchasing fair trade coffee.
Coffee is produced by the world’s poorest countries to be consumed by the richest countries. Drinking fair trade coffee directly aids coffee farmers, and contributes to the cycle of poverty alleviation. Many farmers sell their products for less than they are worth due to a lack of resources and alternative means, and are caught in cycles of debt that influence their family, community and livelihood. The implications of capitalism allow for those with maximum resources and power to benefit from the products of the lower-class workers (in this case, third-world workers.)
The Dutch first introduced fair trade in 1989, followed by the introduction of the Fairtrade Foundation in the United Kingdom. Fair trade implies more than just a fair price for the farmers. According to Fair Trade USA, fair trade includes environmentally friendly growing practices, fair labor laws and allows for the micro financing of farmers in other, alternative projects like education, public health, etc.
“Most small-scale family farmers live in remote locations and lack access to credit, so they are vulnerable to middlemen who offer cash for their coffee at a fraction of its value. Fair Trade guarantees farmers a minimum price, and links farmers directly with importers, creating long-term sustainability. Through Fair Trade, farmers earn better incomes, allowing them to hold on to their land and invest in quality.”
– Neti Gupta