Fair trade, sustainable agriculture, and cultural impacts in the coffee industry
Coffee production focuses on two species of the plant, Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora, also known as Coffea robusta. This plant is a tropical cash crop that has a wide range of quality and production standards, and provides a unique means for the study of economic, agricultural, social, and ecological issues. Many works discuss groups of people who produce coffee as a cash crop, ranging from Verena Stolcke's (1988) monograph, which analyzed the Brazilian colonato system, closely linked to colonial slavery, to Daniel Jaffee's (2007) fieldwork in Oaxaca and discussion of democratically organized cooperatives, whose goals include organic and Fair Trade certification. The coffee industry has a rich and complex history that has played a vital role in the development of modern commerce. This work discusses research concerning the roles of Fair Trade, organic, and other third-party certifications on societies that produce and consume coffee. While some data from the Far East and Africa are included, the majority of published literature focuses on Central and South American producer nations, and their relationships with the consumers of the North, namely North America and Europe. Certification of organic, Fair Trade, and sustainable agriculture standards by third-party labelling institutions provides new niches for coffee producers to improve standards of living in developing nations, and offset the crisis imposed by wild market fluctuations related to deregulation. The majority of this work consists of literature review and discussion. The remainder pertains to the author's work experience at a specialty coffee retailer in Wichita, Kansas. This work concludes that the coffee industry acts as a part of the global economy, and changes in the production, trade, marketing, and consumption of this product can affect and be affected by cultural change at any point in economic exchange. Furthermore, it demonstrates that social and environmental responsibility in global commodity exchange benefits all members of that exchange and mitigates their ecological impacts, despite the critiques of Fair Trade and organic labelling initiatives.
Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Anthropology