CRS sells fair trade coffee, supporting Mexican farmers and land

By Perry West

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Credit: Unsplash.

Catholic Relief Services is now offering fair trade coffee beans that will benefit local farming communities in Mexico and foster better agricultural practices.

“So many of us love coffee, and this is just a really easy way to live out your faith and support the people who work really hard to create the products that we love,” said Meghan Gilbert, communications officer for CRS.

“As Catholics, we have to uphold the dignity of everyone and one really great way to do that is to make sure workers are treated fairly and that they are paid a fair price for what they produce,” she told EWTN News.

The project is called Mama Tierra, or Mother Earth, and is a joint effort of CRS and Equal Exchange, a fair trade company that looks to provide a just relationship between consumers and producers.

For every bag of coffee sold at retail price, $2 will be given to CRS. If a unit of five bags are sold at wholesale price, then $5 will be donated. CRS will use the money to help educate farmers on practices to improve quantity and reduce waste.  

The coffee sales also support members of a democratically-run cooperative of farmers in Oaxaca. The cooperative is called CEPCO and involves 4,300 farmers. The group provides a fair price for the product and educates farmers to improve cultivation.

Because coffee produces a lot of waste, a major focus of the project is to instruct farmers in environmentally-friendly agriculture, with measures such as reducing water contamination and improving soil quality, said Gilbert.

“We also work with them on how to grow this coffee so it actually puts more nutrients into the soil so it reduces the harm to the land and actually increases their yield,” she said.

“It’s about not just caring for the worker, it’s caring for the environment as well. Because if we don’t care for the environment, these workers won’t be able to produce coffee or some of the other agricultural goods.”

CRS has worked with Equal Exchange for more than 10 years, and this project has been in the works for the past few years, said Gilbert. Since the product is fair trade, the workers and farmers receive a just return on their product, she said, noting this is important because many farmers are not paid justly.

“You look around the world and you hear all these stories – workers getting paid very, very little for the amount of work they do,” she said. “When you make sure that they are paid a fair wage, then workers are treated better and they are able to produce and increase their business.”

Gilbert said fair trade is also important because it cultivates a culture that appreciates the workers on the other side of the products – items which people may take advantage of without recognizing the poor treatment those workers receive.

“I think that is really what ethical trade at CRS and fair trade over all is really trying to get people to think about who is on the other end of that product and who is creating it and making sure that they are treated well, that they are paid a fair wage.”

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