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Today's word on journalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words as weapons:

"When he had a pen in his hand it was like giving a kid a machine gun."

--Peter Hall, theater director, on "Angry Young Man" playwright John Osborne (1929-1994)

USU students organizing to support fairly traded coffee

By Tabitha Lazenby

December 15, 2006 | USU students purchase goods at the TSC's Quickstop convenience store daily, which displays a sign with the words, "We Proudly Serve Starbucks Coffee."

According to its Web site, Oxfam America, an international social justice and development organization, recently called on Starbucks to "stop bullying the poor."

The call for fairness came after Starbucks refused to progress forward on negotiations to allow Ethiopian coffee farmers to trademark their most famous coffee names, according to Oxfam America.

"The problem is that the poor farmers who've grown this gourmet coffee for generations aren't seeing much of the profits," said the website.

"Ethiopian coffee farmers often collect about 10 percent of the profits from these coffees. The rest goes to the coffee industry players that can control the retail price, the international importers, distributors -- and roasters like Starbucks," according to the Web site. Seth Petchers, Oxfam International's "Make Trade Fair" campaign coffee leader, said, "Starbucks has engaged in some positive initial steps in helping coffee farmers living in poverty -- I don't understand why they won't take the next step and come to the table to discuss Ethiopia's proposal in good faith."

USU students are organizing a club to support the initiatives of Oxfam America and will work to get 100 percent fairly traded coffee on campus.

"It is contradictory and unacceptable that we are contributing to social injustice, by serving coffee that is not 100 percent fairly traded," USU student Leilani Vaiaoga said.

"I would think that because USU is traditionally an agricultural school and Cache Valley is an agricultural community, people would understand the issue and feel for local and international struggling farmers."

Vaiaoga said her family comes from Samoa, and she has seen social injustice.

"Action needs to be taken against Starbucks and large companies that exercise so much control over coffee and other industries and aren't willing to pay a fair price," said Vaiaoga.

According to Randy Wirth, a Cache Valley resident and co-owner of Café Ibis, which has its specialty coffees available in two venues on campus, "Fair Trade is much more than paying a fair price to farmers regardless of the market conditions."

Café Ibis upholds the mission to be "unbeatable for quality and freshness, while supporting social and environmental responsibility."

In addition to women and children being exploited in coffee-growing countries, said Wirth, "These women have much higher rates of uterine cancer and birth defects due to 12 chemicals widely used in international coffee farming of which are illegal in the U.S., including DDT."

According to Wirth, Fair Trade cooperatives promise that women will receive the same amount of pay for the same amount of work as men.

Wirth said the Café Femenino cooperative that Café Ibis works with, started out with 76 abandoned, abused and widowed single Peruvian mothers and has turned into a huge success with more than 800 women farmers growing coffee within the cooperative.

The women not only receive a fair price and premiums for their coffee but they receive an additional premium to benefit their communities and lessen male resentment within the community, said Wirth.

Female USU students are also benefiting from the sale of fairly traded Café Femenino coffee, said Sally Sears, the co-owner of Café Ibis.

Ten cents of every pound of Café Femenino coffee sold benefits the USU Women's Center, said Sears.

According to Wirth, it's up to the USU Women's Center to decide how this money is spent, but often it helps to pay tuition and fees of struggling female students.

"USU was the first university in the country to have fairly traded coffee," said Wirth."There is no excuse not to have 100 percent fairly traded coffee on campus."

"It is imperative that we support a practice that establishes profits that are put back into the hands of farmers," said Vaiaoga.

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