Fair Trade Coffee by Claudio Verbano 25.jpg

Fair Trade Coffee?

Edes is putting on his shoes and preparing his bag. The sun has not yet shown up in the small village situated on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, the coffee center of Tanzania. The air is wet and stifling. In his small wooden shanty on the edge of a coffee farm he is living with his mother and his wife. Everyday Edes starts at sunrise to collect raw coffee. In the steep and almost impassable area he has to walk up to 14 kilometers per day. Before his wife Theodora became pregnant she was working on the coffee plantation as well. Now the family struggles because her income is missing. Since the coffee price was liberated in 1993 the work is paid less and less every year. Before 1993, the raw coffee price was almost stable at around 2 USD per kilogram. During the coffee crisis between 2001 and 2010 the price went down drastically and never really recovered. For the 200.000 families around Kilimanjaro working in the coffee industry, the work is hardly cost-effective. Many workers arrive from far away during harvesting season. They get carried to the plantations on trucks or containers. In 1975 the salary for most workers was sufficient to pay at least the costs for school, health insurance and medicine. It is a difficult situation for Edes and his wife Theodora.

At the same time big companies are trying to expand and increase productions by using more monocultures and genetically modified seeds. The water resources of Kilimanjaro are already limited. A bigger production will need more water. Producers are using about 4 liters of water to wash 1 kg of raw coffee and therefore built private and protected water reservoirs. A bigger production might again decrease the already low price level for raw coffee. As all coffee-importing countries are charging tolls for roasted coffee it is impossible for Tanzania to profit from roasted coffee prices. Only 2% of the raw coffee remains on the local market. At the harbour in Dar-es-Salaam the raw coffee is loaded into containers and carried to the big ships. Coffee Traders from CotaCof say that transport has never been as cheap as today, but the profit is done somewhere else and burocracy is getting worse. In a warehouse at the harbour thousands of women are cleaning raw coffee for about 2 USD per day. The big ships are departing daily to Europe, USA, Australia and Asia. Edes and his family don’t know anything about this process. While big producers are maximizing profits, his family doesn’t have enough money to afford the checkup and treatment in the hospital. Theodora gave birth to her son Erik in august 2017.