The history of coffee production in Kenya is violent. First, the Arabs controlled coffee production while enslaving the Kenyans, then in the 20th century the British took control and caused more conflict, forbidding the Kenyans to grow their own coffee to keep the profits for themselves. Today another group is controlling coffee production in Kenya – men.
Another possible good outcome of this program? Research and psychological studies have shown that women have stronger ethical standards in business than men. This is not to say that men cannot practice ethical and sustainable business – after all, that is something everyone should strive to do.
So what can you, as a consumer, do? In addition to buying coffee from certified ethical and fair trade companies, you can buy direct trade coffee. What does “direct trade” mean? It’s not the same thing as buying coffee with a specific certification, like “fair trade”; direct trade means buying products with reduced – or shorter – supply chains, where the roaster actually visits the farm where the coffee is produced. He or she remains in communication with the producers and they negotiate fair wages.
So what can you, as a consumer, do to support equality?
For just one example of this direct trade approach, take Portland-based Stumptown Coffee Roasters. In 1999, Duane Sorenson followed his bold plan to travel the world in search of the best coffee beans, pay farmers a living wage to harvest them, and continue a dialog and transparency with the farmers. His plan worked. He visits the farms two or three times a year and negotiates prices directly with the farmers. Stumptown Coffee Roasters can be found in Portland, Seattle, New York, and Los Angeles.
Other direct trade coffee roasters are Counter Culture and Intelligentsia Coffee, which allow customers to order coffee beans from their websites.
With direct trade initiatives and programs like the one Nestlé is working on, we can brew a cup of coffee that is truly sweeter - ethical, empowering and sustainable.