Up a rugged, mountainous road in San Salvador lies El Jabali coffee, a certified organic and fair trade coffee cooperative. Coffee remains one of the major agricultural exports of El Salvador. 80 members formed El Jabali coffee co-op in 1980. Together, these cooperatives employee anywhere between 50 and 300 people from the local communities.
To be certified organic means to be produced without artificial chemicals (such as pesticides or additives) and to be certified fair trade means to be a small farm or company (or divided into several to form a cooperative) that is democratically run, does not use child labor, and the producers must receive a minimum price for their coffee.
What are the social justice issues?
Locally, Jabali and other agriculture-producing farms struggle to provide work for the employees due to crop disease, rain loss, and other environmental factors. This impacts the neighboring communities directly as well as the entire country more indirectly. Internationally, the organic certification costs $8,000 annually–a seemingly favorable policy for large producers–and the current trade policies limit opportunities for small, fair trade farms and co-ops.
So what can we do? Support fair trade producers at our local grocers in the U.S.A. The easiest thing is to start with oneself and one’s choice to buy products labeled “fair trade”. We can also raise awareness. Talk to friends and family about it, use social media (clicktivism) to raise awareness, and if one is really ambitious, work at the macro level in order to change policy.