Our research on the ground in Nicaragua shows that alternative trade structures – fair trade, organics, cooperative organization – have largely been coopted to reinforce in practice the hacienda system (control and information in the hands of a few) and neoliberal market relations.
As a result, our work has focused on helping local communities reflect on their experience and work together to promote truly participatory forms of organization, where key information, profits and leadership are shared.
But these efforts clash with a commercialization system that restricts producers´ access to information, reduces their share of the benefits of the coffee chain, rewards the concentration of power in the hands of a manager or president whose term never ends, and increases dependency on coffee as a monocrop. Peasant communities who follow this “path to success” typically experience the loss of family farms and land concentrated in fewer hands.
The experience of WPF has been that in a globalized world focusing only on the production side leaves local efforts for change hobbled.
So we are now committed to building a global/local alliance of community-based organizations – the vision behind the origins of the fair trade movement – to create a virtuous circle where the situation of every actor in the chain is visible and valued. A structure which directly depends on the conscious, combined efforts of producers and consumers is needed to overcome the siren song of traditional market forces, that promise quick wealth to those who focus on their individual betterment within a system where the community is invisible or considered irrelevant.
To that end, WPF is committed to using the second most traded commodity in the world, coffee, to create a global/local alliance to strengthen community. As a pilot experience in this 2021-22 coffee season WPF will buy at least one container of export specialty coffee from the cooperatives with whom we are working, use that coffee to work to begin to create a community of common interest with coffee roasters and consumers, especially students in the US. The goal is to establish a lasting and sustainable relationship between communities of producers and communities of consumers where knowledge of the reality of each is a valued part of the transaction.