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