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From: "Dana Aldea" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Subject: Universal,Certifying coffee helps farmers and forests in Chiapas
Date: Fri, 11 May 2007 15:19:50 +0200

Certifying coffee helps farmers and forests in Chiapas

Wire services / El Universal
Viernes 11 de mayo de 2007

NUEVO PARAI'SO, Chis. - Miguel Moshan Me'ndez's troubles have piled up over
the past two years.
Like other coffee growers here in the impoverished state of Chiapas, he
suffered devastating losses when Hurricane Stan passed through 18 months

He lost half his trees, then borrowed money to get by. Now, he must find
extra work as a laborer to pay his debt, which will make it harder to
maintain his tiny farm.

"I have always fallen to the moneylender, God yes," he said. "We're all
thinking of it."

What may help, at least a little, is that his coffee-growing cooperative,
Comon Yaj Nop Tic, is part of a program that helps growers get higher prices
for their beans if they meet certain environmental and other standards.

Moshan Me'ndez's cooperative sells to Starbucks, which pays higher prices as
farmers meet more of its goals, such as producing beans of high quality or
using transparent accounting.

Other similar efforts, called certification programs, are run by
nongovernmental organizations.

To earn certification, farmers must show that they are protecting the
environment, investing in community projects and treating workers well.

The Fair Trade program, for example, requires buyers of its certified beans
to pay above the market price to the farmers. Other certification plans do
not guarantee farmers higher prices, but they say many buyers are willing to
pay more for coffee if they can offer consumers the assurance that the
coffee is produced with a concern for workers and the environment.

In this coffee region, known as Jaltenango, on the eastern slopes of the
Sierra Madre, higher prices for certified beans have trickled down to some
growers, and certification has also had an environmental impact.

In the past, the area has lost forest when poor farmers cut trees and switch
to cattle ranching or growing corn to try to make more money.

When the farmers earn enough money from their beans to stick with coffee
instead, the forest is protected; coffee trees here are traditionally
planted under a canopy of indigenous trees.

The rush to certify coffee is now drawing an expanding list of players,
including giant plantations and multinational traders, something that seemed
unimaginable just a few years ago.

Pioneers in the certified coffee movement watch the change with wary
approval. "The good thing is that you see these ideas gaining traction,"
said Rodney North, a board member at Equal Exchange, an importer in

But as the certification programs spread, they are drawing large
plantations, or fincas, to join, raising worries among small- scale
producers who fear they will lose their advantage as the original suppliers.

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