Monday, May 04, 2009

Selva Negra

As most people who know me by now realize, I am passionate about fair-trade coffee. This is high-quality coffee that is sold at a premium price by farmers with small plots of land who are organized into democratic cooperatives. It is a terrific movement and I devote a lot of time to supporting it and to supporting companies that participate.

Fair-trade certification would not be necessary, if farmers everywhere were treated as they should be -- getting an honest share of the profits from the world's second-most traded commodity (oil being first).

Fair-trade certification is also not possible for large coffee farms, but many thousands of people work on such farms throughout out the world. How can access to a decent standard of living be ensured for them? Again, eventually I would like to see fairness throughout the coffee business, but until that happens, it is helpful to know the producers. Rainforest Action Network certifies producers in rain forest areas that meet certain social and environmental criteria.

A real showcase of this program is the Hammonia estate at Selva Negra, in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. I have had the privilege of visiting this estate with students in 2006, 2007, and 2009. We plan to return in January 2010. Meanwhile, we were delighted to have a visit to Bridgewater State College of Mausi Kühl, who owns Selva Negra with her husband Eddy.

Every time I visit this cloud-forest farm, I learn something new and am even more deeply impressed with how its 600 people practice social and environmental sustainability. With Mausi's visit to my coffee classes and my neighborhood organic farm, I continued to learn how much can be done with hard work and ingenuity, to improve the coffee and the lives of those who grow and consume it.

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