New Course, Study Tour Investigate Fair Trade in Nicaragua

Story Highlights

  •  In Central America, coffee’s price per pound fell dramatically between 2000 and 2002, leaving many farmers without the means to continue growing crops.
  • New course entitled “Fair Trade Coffee: From Co-op to Cup,” the course is designed to teach students about the process of producing fair trade coffee.
  • This summer, the class will travel together to La Corona, Nicaragua, where they will live among the workers of one of the poorest regions of the country.

Monday, January 30, 2012

While many Americans have watched the price of gas rise and fall during the past decade’s energy crisis, few were aware of a similar crisis affecting their morning java. In Central America, coffee’s price per pound fell dramatically between 2000 and 2002, leaving many farmers without the means to continue growing crops. This semester at SJU, Keith Brown, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology, brings the coffee crisis and the fair trade movement working toward its resolution to a class of 15 Hawks prepared not only to learn about it, but immerse themselves in one of the cultures most strongly affected.

Entitled “Fair Trade Coffee: From Co-op to Cup,” the course is designed to teach students about the process of producing fair trade coffee – coffee designed to improve the social, economic and environmental living conditions of farmers –  and how that process benefits farmers in Central America. This summer, the class will travel together to La Corona, Nicaragua, where they will live among the workers of one of the poorest regions of the country, meet cooperative leaders, and witness the labor intensity of the trade.

“In some respects, the coffee crisis has been more devastating to Central America than Hurricane Katrina was to the U.S., especially in terms of widespread malnutrition and mass migration,” says Brown. “It’s not something that’s on the average person’s radar. These students are going to be challenged with what it means to be a traveler in the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere.”

During the spring semester, students will be responsible for keeping up-to-date on current trade events and lead their peers in seminars based on scheduled readings. Rather than teach from a specific perspective, the course is meant to inspire debate and discussion about the benefits and detriments of the fair trade movement. They will also hear from representatives of the local fair trade coffee community.

“Experiential learning is so valuable,” says Brown. “After their trip to Nicaragua, these students are going to more strongly consider whether they can make a difference through their everyday purchases.”



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