Since 2006 we have been fortunate to have a friendship link with Choche Coffee Farmers’ Multipurpose Cooperative, a Fairtrade certified producer organisation in southwest Ethiopia. And since 2010 the involvement of the Rotary Club of Keswick and the Rotary Club of Jimma Central has considerably enriched the link.
Almost every year we have visited Choche, and through these visits we have formed good friendships with many coffee farmers there. Through them we have been able to see for ourselves, and record, the impact of Fairtrade on their lives and on the wider community. This has been very important to us in our Fairtrade campaigning.
Another outcome of our visits is that we have learned a great deal about coffee, coffee farming and the world coffee trade. We have also learned about the hardships coffee farmers face from global economic forces over which they have absolutely no control and of which they have very little understanding. In their case these forces are the result, amongst other things, of highly speculative trading on the futures market of the New York Board of Trade (NYBOT) Coffee Exchange. (This is where the global price of arabica – their type of coffee – is set.) And we are now learning more about how the natural variability of their weather patterns is being exacerbated by climate change.
Choche’s coffee farmers’ lives are tough. None of them makes a fortune from coffee, but in good years most make enough to get by. However, since 2004, when their cooperative was Fairtrade certified, significant improvements have come to the community. And since 2010 Rotary has played an important part in enhancing the benefits of Fairtrade.