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Brewing Justice

Brewing Justice: Fair Trade Coffee, Sustainability, and Survival

Daniel Jaffee
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 346
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  • Book Info
    Brewing Justice
    Book Description:

    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 Justicefollows 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 Justicepaints 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94019-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    At the heart of fair trade lies a fundamental paradox. In its efforts to achieve social justice and alter the unjust terms of trade that hurt small farmers worldwide, fair trade utilizes the mechanisms of the very markets that have generated those injustices. In other words, it is a hybrid—simultaneously a social movement and an alternative market structure. A central goal of the movement is to create more direct, socially just, and environmentally responsible trade relations—mainly between disadvantaged farmers in the global South and concerned consumers in the North. Fair traders work to make the trading chain both...

  7. CHAPTER ONE A Movement or a Market?
    (pp. 11-35)

    The unfairness of international trade has for centuries troubled many people who have witnessed its human and environmental effects.¹ The terms of trade between North and South—the low prices paid for agricultural products relative to the cost of imports (on a national level) or the cost of living (on a household level)—have long been unequal, but they have worsened significantly for the global South since the 1970s. Such “unequal exchange” has a number of harmful effects: for example, subsistence farmers are displaced and hunger increases as land is converted to export crops and cheap—usually subsidized—agricultural imports...

  8. CHAPTER TWO Coffee, Commodities, Crisis
    (pp. 36-57)

    In 1985, at the height of the Sandinista revolution, I traveled to northern Nicaragua to pick coffee with an international volunteer harvest brigade. I didn’t drink much coffee then—just the occasional cup to get me through an all-nighter writing a college term paper—and I hadn’t given a lot of thought to its origins. As it turned out, this wasn’t a typical coffee harvest: we found ourselves in the very heart of the contra war zone, and during the four weeks we spent on the state-owned farm, two neighboring farms were attacked and several of their inhabitants killed by...

  9. CHAPTER THREE One Region, Two Markets
    (pp. 58-92)

    It is now May 9, the hottest part of the year in the Rincón de Ixtlán. The air is still, humid, and stifling, and the view down into the river gorge is almost completely obscured by the smoke from nearby forest fires. Virtually the only things moving are the vicious biting flies; the entire place seems to be waiting for something to happen. Just walking across town in the village of Teotlasco—a climb of 1,200 feet—leaves me exhausted and drenched in sweat. Here, too, there’s an open-air market, below the basketball court next to the town’s sixteenth-century church....

  10. CHAPTER FOUR The Difference a Market Makes: Livelihoods and Labor
    (pp. 93-132)

    Everyone in Yagavila and Teotlasco has been affected by the coffee crisis, and many people voice the opinion that “we’re all poor here.” Beneath these commonalities, however, the families in these villages have developed two distinct responses to the crisis—responses which, more often than not, break down along the lines of the two parallel coffee markets that operate here: conventional versus fair-trade organic. What kind of benefits does participation in fair trade provide to the households that belong to Michiza? How much better off are they than their conventional neighbors?

    Such questions are challenging to answer, for a number...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE A Sustainable Cup? Fair Trade, Shade-Grown Coffee, and Organic Production
    (pp. 133-164)

    It is June, and the rains have finally come. By three o’clock every afternoon, gray clouds slide in from the Gulf of Mexico up through the valleys of mostly undisturbed tropical forest to the north of the Rincón, and the cool water comes down in torrents. Some days it doesn’t stop raining. The coffee plants start to bloom, producing tiny white blossoms that brighten the mountainside for just a week or two. Thin plumes of smoke rise from the greening hills around Yagavila and Teotlasco and the villages across the valley as people burn the slash they cut in the...

  12. CHAPTER SIX Eating and Staying on the Land: Food Security and Migration
    (pp. 165-198)

    July, August, and September are themeses flacos,the lean months, in the Rincón. The supplies of corn and beans from last year’s harvest have run out in almost every home, themilpawon’t be ready until the fall, and there is very little coffee left to sell. The road through Yagavila is quiet, except for a few kids playing and munching on junk food out of tiny bags and drinking fruit soda from plastic bottles. When I go into the home of Celia, aproductora librewho has four children out in the backyard, I experience a first. She...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Dancing with the Devil?
    (pp. 199-231)

    When Starbucks capitulated to activists’ demands in April 2000 and agreed to sell fair-trade-certified coffee in all 2,300 of its U.S. stores, Deborah James, Global Exchange’s fair-trade program director, was ecstatic: “This is a huge victory for farmers in the developing world. Thousands of farming families in poor countries will see their incomes triple with this purchase.”¹ Despite the hyperbole, this was indeed a milestone: the fair-trade movement had successfully mobilized consumer pressure to crack the mainstream of the specialty coffee market. If Starbucks—the icon of corporate coffee-bar culture, a multibillion-dollar company accounting for more than 2 percent of...

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT “Mejor, Pero No Muy Bien Que Digamos” : The Limits of Fair Trade
    (pp. 232-246)

    Shortly before I leave the Rincón on my last visit, I accompany Miguel, Fernando, Camilo, Alma, Manuel, and four or five other producers to a meeting of local Michiza representatives from the five communities in the Rincón. The meeting is in Tiltepec, the only village in the region still not reachable by road. It is now May again, and when we start out early in the morning the air is clear but already warm. We catch the battered daily bus as far as the town of Yagila and luckily catch a ride in a pickup truck with a merchant who...

  15. CHAPTER NINE Strengthening Fair Trade
    (pp. 247-258)

    Fair trade has improved the livelihoods of producer families in the global South, and it has demonstrated that economic exchange under a very different set of rules is indeed possible. Yet fair trade can be made stronger, and fairer. It can deliver more economic benefit to producers who are already part of the system, and it can become more inclusive of those who currently do not or cannot participate. Fair-trade organizations can bring more consumers into the movement and better educate them about alternatives to the current economic system. And the movement can be made far more effective in altering...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 259-266)

    Before discussing further the road that lies ahead for fair trade, let us return to some of the key points about its effectiveness and principles. The first is the issue of what fair trade accomplishes for the small farmers who were the reason for its creation. In Yagavila and Teotlasco, Oaxaca, the coffee producers who belong to organizations participating in the fair-trade market clearly receive real and significant benefits—social, economic, and environmental—even in the midst of a severe price crisis. Fair trade is redirecting additional capital to these Zapotec peasant households, and in the process it is buying...

  17. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 267-270)
  18. Appendix: Research Methods
    (pp. 271-288)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 289-306)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 307-318)
  21. Index
    (pp. 319-331)