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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

LETTER: Vote to require Fair Trade coffee

Published: March 18, 2005
Section: Opinions

To The Editor:

Fair Trade Certified products, a market-based approach to sustainable development, are an easy and effective way of alleviating poverty. Next Wednesday and Thursday, all of us will have a chance to vote on a poll to let Aramark and our Student Union know that we care about this issue and want more Fair Trade coffee available on campus.

With the purchase of Fair Trade goods, we can ensure that farmers get a fair wage and that our products are produced in an environmentally friendly manner. Currently, farmers face a global coffee crisis. Because so many nations use coffee as their primary agricultural product, the prices continue to fluctuate in an unpredictable manner. Under Fair Trade certification, the producer is guaranteed at least $1.26 per pound of coffee. If traded conventionally, the grower receives an unpredictable price falling as low as a mere $0.20 per pound. In addition, those who are Fair Trade certified must work towards environmentally-sustainable farming techniques. Therefore, not only does the support of Fair Trade products ensure farmers a living wage but it also helps save our environment.

We already have some limited Fair Trade coffee options on campus, but it is not enough. Through the purchasing of Fair Trade products, such as coffee, consumers can use their economic power to create a more socially just and environmentally sustainable world. Although switching to all Fair Trade coffee on campus might translate to a few cents more for the buyer, it means the producers are guaranteed the basic rights of life that we all enjoy and take for granted. These include being able to organize a community, realize its needs, and provide for them. Whether this means paving roads or creating an educational facility or a medical clinic, there are things vital to human survival that can become within reach through a Fair Trade market economy to those who otherwise would not have such possibilities.

Next Wednesday, Mar. 23, through Thursday, Mar. 24 at noon, through Student Union elections, there will be a vote on whether or not youd support changing to Fair Trade coffee for all of the varieties in which it is available. Just to be clear, switching to all Fair Trade coffee does not mean your favorite flavors will cease to exist. All of the flavors will stay the same, plus Fair Trade coffee is usually higher quality and tastes better than regular free trade coffee. This price change, only $0.20 at the most, wont have much impact on us. For most of us, $0.20 in points is nothing, but for these farmers it is the difference between having to choose whether to send their children to school or to put food in their bellies.

I urge you to vote yes on the upcoming poll. Switching to all Fair Trade coffee is a simple way to make a huge difference in so many lives. Every cup purchased with the Fair Trade label is a stand against the monstrous injustices that are occurring daily. Luckily for us, paying an extra 20 cents has almost no impact on our lives, but that 20 cents buys us the chance to help millions of farmers around the world improve their lives and the environment.

Aviva Gerber 07