A group of Canadians from Calvary Christian Reformed Church, in Flamborough, Ontario, recently created a partnership with Honduran coffee farmers to import 5,700 lbs. of direct-trade coffee to ensure a fair wage for the growers.
The new arrangement eliminates middlemen called “coyotes, who keep the workers and their families in poverty by paying unfairly low prices for their crops.
The direct-trade coffee program pays farmers a premium for their crop while making high-quality, reasonably-priced coffee available to Canadians. Profits return directly to Honduran communities.
That means workers no longer need to pull their children out of school to make the harvest profitable. In addition, the farmers, many of whom are members and elders of the local El Carrizal CRC, use environmentally sustainable farming techniques.
“And it’s fantastic coffee!” said member Ken Bosveld.
The plan has its roots in a mission trip a decade ago when a half dozen members organized themselves into the Carpenteros (a blend of the Spanish and English words for carpenters), to build a house in El Salvador after an earthquake.
Along the way, the Carpenteros, who now do most of their work in Honduras, developed a more longterm approach to doing justice.
Bosveld said that with the help of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee they adopted a model for doing service that begins by asking Hondurans what they see as their greatest need given their circumstances.
“It’s paternalistic to say, ‘What you need is a house,’” said Bosveld.
Over the past decade, they have raised as much as $70,000 some years, supporting initiatives that include microfinance cooperatives, community development, education, health, and nutrition, and now—fair trade coffee.
Most of the first coffee shipment has already been sold to churches, businesses, and individuals.
"We are working on creating a business relationship between the growers in Honduras and a specialty coffee company in Toronto," said Bosveld, who hopes the effort represents the beginning of a long-lasting partnership.