If you’ve ever wondered, “where does my money actually go when I buy a cup of Fair Trade coffee,” then this one’s for you.
Nestled high at the top of a mountain in the tiny farming community of La Dalia, Nicaragua, rests Finca La Revancha. La Revancha is a family-owned coffee estate, with about 90 permanent workers (many more during the harvest). For the last year they’ve been working hard to meet the Fair Trade standards in order to become Central America's first Fair Trade Certified coffee estate.
One of the requirements to get certified is that they must form a workers committee. This is a group of democratically-elected farm workers, who are responsible for the management of the Fair Trade Community Development Premium. For anyone new to Fair Trade, this Premium is a key defining factor of what makes Fair Trade unique.
Basically, for every pound of coffee sold, the buyer pays an additional .20 cents that goes into a separate community fund. In 2012, Fair Trade USA certified 163MM lbs of coffee, helping coffee farmers and workers across the globe earn $32 million in premiums for social and productive investment.
At La Revancha, the workers committee recently conducted a “needs assessment,” to determine which pressing issues in their community they might be able to address with their first Fair Trade premiums. Not knowing how much Fair Trade coffee the farm will sell in the upcoming harvest, they forecasted conservatively, making a plan for what they could do if one single container of coffee was purchased.
The farm workers of La Revancha are very poor. Few have electricity, running water, or toilets, and many of their homes are lean-tos made of a dirt floor and scrap metal. They are also kind, humble, and generous beyond belief.
If just one single buyer were to purchase one single container of Fair Trade coffee from La Revancha, the workers would receive $8,000 in premiums for their community projects. And here is how they plan to spend that money:
1.) 22 bathrooms
In addition to the new latrines built on the farm to comply with the Fair Trade standards, the workers determined that improving sanitation in their surrounding communities was also a top priority. Hundreds of people in the area do not have access to a toilet; these new latrines will benefit 135 people part of 22 local families. In addition, there will also be trainings on sanitation to help people learn best practices around things like disease prevention.
2.) Doctors, for 900 people
The second project will be to bring three different specialized doctors—one for adult medicine, a pediatrician, and a gynecologist—to the farm for several days this coming winter. Individual workers and their families (over 900 people) will have access to medical exams, basic medications and procedures—many for the first time ever.
3.) Food for the elderly
The final project that the workers of La Revancha will implement with the rest of their $8,000 is one we really haven’t seen before in Fair Trade; they came up with it all on their own. They plan to fund a program that delivers hot meals to elderly people in the community who have no families and live in extreme poverty.
As you can see, the sale of one container of Fair Trade coffee and $8,000 in premiums goes a long way. Just imagine what could be done if they sold 2 containers...what about 3?
So think about that cup of coffee in your hands, and everyone who touched it before it arrived at your grocery store, restaurant or café. What power you have, simply by choosing Fair Trade, to significantly improve the lives of farmers and farm workers like the people of La Revancha. What power you have to make all the difference in the world.