Feb. 11, 2005
United Methodist Committee on Relief Coffee Project logo
By Linda Bloom*
YORK (UMNS) — When Hurricane Jeanne struck the Dominican Republic last
September, the resulting damage affected some 1,600 cocoa farmers.
farmers – or producers, as they are called by the National
Confederation of Dominican Cocoa Producers – are part of the United
Methodist Committee on Relief’s coffee project. The project encourages
people to buy “fair trade” items such as coffee, tea, cocoa and
chocolate. In 2004, United Methodist churches and individuals bought 34
tons of products through Equal Exchange, which markets fair trade items.
$10,000 grant from UMCOR, along with a similar contribution from Equal
Exchange, helped the producers recover from the hurricane, according to
Abel Fernandes, a manager with the cocoa producers confederation.
in 1988, the confederation links 9,000 small producers through nine
regional departments that serve 400 base associations.
when natural disasters like this hit our country, the entire
infrastructure of production is affected,” Fernandes told United
Methodist News Service, speaking through a translator.
hurricane, which killed at least 18 people in the Dominican Republic,
also damaged fruit trees and other crops that sustain the population.
assistance from UMCOR, the affected farmers would have had to sell
their labor to larger producers for immediate cash to buy food rather
than clean up their own damaged cocoa crops, Fernandes said.
confederation decided the best use for the grants was “to convert that
money immediately into food,” to allow the producers to look after their
own crops, he explained. The food was distributed through regional
offices and their associations.
who was in New York on Feb. 9 on the first stop of a 12-day North
American tour, presented a large Valentine’s heart to June Kim,
organizer of the UMCOR Coffee Project, as a token of thanks to United
the confederation, small cocoa producers in the Dominican Republic have
increased the quality of their products – to the point where 30 percent
of the country’s cocoa is now fermented for use in fine chocolate. They
also specialize in organic chocolate. “We have become the primary
producer of organic chocolate worldwide,” he said.
“One of our greatest accomplishments was receiving the official fair trade certification,” Fernandes added.
recognized fair trade standards require paying a fair price to farmers,
including a guaranteed minimum when market prices are low; working
directly with certified, democratically run farming cooperatives; and
encouraging ecologically sustainable farming practices.
10 percent of the yearly output of 12,000 tons of cocoa is sold under
fair trade certification, and the money “is invested in developing
social projects in the communities where the producers live,” he
projects include dispatching mobile medical vans, staffing rural
medical clinics, creating small plant nurseries, digging wells in
communities with no potable water, and providing assistance for students
in 2002, the UMCOR Coffee Project encourages local congregations and
individual members to buy and serve fairly traded coffee, tea and cocoa;
design fundraising projects using those items; and organize forums to
discuss fair trade issues.
to information from Alison Booth, the interfaith food-service
coordinator for Equal Exchange, United Methodist orders of fair trade
products increased from 13 tons in 2003 to 34 tons in 2004. Participants
included 1,098 churches and 78 individuals. As of February, 283
churches and 11 individuals have participated in 2005.
Exchange also has formal partnerships with Lutheran World Relief, the
Presbyterian Church USA, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee,
the American Friends Service Committee, the Church of the Brethren, the
Mennonite Central Committee and Catholic Relief Services.
More information can be found at http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/hunger/coffee.cfm online.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.