“La Esperanza” The Hope

By Emily DiNardo (Dominican Working Group)

Hundreds of North Americans start their busy days with a hot cup a coffee first thing in the morning, as they make their way to work, drop off the kids at school, or start a busy day of essays and reading at school themselves. Conveniently for us, there is a Tim Horton’s or Second Cup within a foot of one another- where a good old cup of Joe only costs us between one to dollars to help kick off our day. But what we don’t often think about while idling in our cars- waiting for the fresh brew of coffee to be made is who is affected by our purchase. How could we when we are so wrapped up in our own busy schedules; why create a ruckus about such an accommodating thing?

Many coffee consumers are not aware or concerned that the farmers who harvest and grow the coffee beans they consume daily are often living in oppressive and unsustainable living conditions. Let’s say for example that a cup of coffee costs approximately one dollar. Many do not realize that the farmers who work in exploitative working conditions only receive about six cents a cup for their daily manual labour in harvesting coffee beans. Poor and underdeveloped countries cannot compete with the power of corporations who profit substantially in the market. (D’Amico) Many do not realize there are other options to help to support and strengthen underdeveloped communities instead of supporting the deterioration of communities, by supporting Fair Trade organizations instead of the conveniences corporations create for us.

In a community called Los Cacao, The Dominican Republic, live a population of about 10, 000 people of which 80% are coffee growers. (La Asociation) In 1979, the people of this community began a Fair Trade organization called, La Esperanza- the hope, after Hurricane David left their people and villages in turmoil after destroying 90% of their coffee plants. (La Federacion) It virtually left nothing for the people to live off of, as their crops were the foundation of sustainability in their region, “as [they] remained alone- without support.” (Rufino)

The president of the association, Rufino Herrera states, “that coffee growers actually lose when they sell their coffee in the international market. The only profit they make is though the sale of coffee to the Fair Trade Organizations.” (La Asociaion) By being able to sell and harvest their fair trade coffee enables their communities and people to sustain their needs and living conditions. It is a non-profit organization, in which all earnings are put back into developing and sustaining their communities, as well as paying farmers an ethical wage. (La Federacion) By doing this has allowed for the community to develop and rebuild after the devastating hurricane and already existing poverty.

Today it has a permanent doctor, a pharmacy, school, and paved roads. (La Federacion) It also allows the community to send their people to university, so they can return to assist the production of their trade. All benefits that would have certainly been divested of if corporations and businesses were to take over. Unfortunately, this continues to be the case for other coffee growing countries, and regions of the Dominican Republic who are controlled by corporations who are divested of rights such as proper housing, drinkable water, electricity, health care, education, and proper roads. (La Asociacion)

Fair Trade enables people to sustain themselves and their communities to develop and secure a better future for their people. (La Asociacion) It has the potential to sustain and eliminate the existence of extreme poverty occurring in many regions of underdeveloped countries, and moreover creates a positive future for those left without hope. It is amazing how much of a difference a cup of coffee can make, and should certainly come into consideration the next time you take a sip of coffee.

Works Cited
D’amico, Josie. Personal Interview
Herrera, Rufino La Esperanza. Interview
La Asociacion De Caficultores- La Esperanza. Los Cacao, The Dominican Republic. Interview
La Federacion de Caficultores de la Region Sur