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Coffee Grounds into Fuel for Refugees
Dozens of student teams at the University of Toronto (UoT) recently participated in the Clinton Global Initiative’s 2017 Hult Prize competition. Given today’s global context, the theme of this year’s competition was “Refugees – Reawakening Human Potential and Restoring the Dignity of 10 Million People by 2022.” Several students from UoT impressed the judges with their initiative to turn coffee grounds into fuel that can be easily implemented in refugee camps across the world.

The Hult Prize is one of the largest and most competitive student contests in the world. The competition focuses on improving social good, specifically reinstating the rights and dignity of communities affected by social injustice, politics, economic, climate change and war. The winners of the contest receive $1 million in start-up funds and mentorship from international business and humanitarian leaders.

The competition is run by the Hult Prize Foundation. The foundation has stated that it believes the number of refugees worldwide far exceeds the number estimated by the United Nations, which is partially what inspired this year’s theme. “Rather than focus on aid and charitable approaches to refugee migration, we focus this challenge on the reawakening of human aid,” says the foundation’s website.

In Canada, the government resettled more than 25,000 Syrian refugees between November 2015 and February 2016, so the theme of the competition is relevant for UoT students. Canada’s private sponsorship program continues to facilitate the relocation of even more refugee families from Syria.

Five students from UoT, Lucy Yang, Matthew Frehlich, Gotham Rakmachandran, Sam Bennett and Lucas Siow, have advanced to the regional semi-finals of the competition. They have designed a substitute for firewood, called Moto, made from coffee grounds, sugar and paraffin wax. The mixture is put into a loaf pan and baked. The product is easily produced and gets rid of waste from used coffee grounds.

A 2014 survey from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees found that 90 percent of refugees in Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda rely on firewood to cook and keep themselves warm. Moto will prevent the dangers that come along with searching for firewood outside of the camps.

The creators of Moto have used the log substitute to boil water and cook lentils, successfully turning the coffee grounds into fuel. The log can burn for up to 90 minutes.

The goal for Moto is to connect the idea with businesses in Africa and refugees living in Toronto in order to tweak the design to best meet the needs of refugees living in camps across the world.

The design is simple so that people living in developing countries can eventually learn to utilize the technique themselves. The idea of turning coffee grounds into fuel is a revolutionary one that has the potential to make lives easier for refugees all over the world.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

Protecting the Coffee Farmers
The exponential rise in demand for coffee has led to insuperable pressure on coffee farmers all over the world. The 22 percent decrease in global coffee exports has adversely impacted the supply of coffee as climate change patterns continue to debilitate.

The major cause of the decrease in supply lies in the rapidly rising global temperatures. This temperature spike has culminated in poor yields as the coffee plants thrive on more moist and cooler conditions for flowering and fruiting. If not, the crop becomes more vulnerable to the combined effects of pests and various diseases.

Consequently, a large proportion of coffee growers in developing economies in African countries, Brazil, Colombia and India are smallholder farmers. Protecting coffee farmers is especially essential because they do not have the means to support and adapt to the changes in the market, especially during the concurrent price volatility for coffee. There are around 120 million individuals who rely on this produce for their livelihoods.

A recent report consolidated by Australia’s Climate Change Institute highlighted that by the year 2050, 50 percent of the land dedicated to growing coffee would shrink. This will lead to negative impacts on yields.

Protecting the coffee farmers is vital to ensure continued production of coffee to meet the increasing demand. Using sustainable practices and approaches will be instrumental in achieving this goal, along with carefully monitoring supply chains. Many organizations have therefore recognized the need of addressing this key objective.

The 15-year collaborative effort that Conservation International has embarked on with Starbucks, with the establishment of the CAFE (Coffee and Farmer Equity) practices program, has been a pillar of strength to coffee growers. Moreover, the concept of Ethical Sourcing has brought about the inception of the components: Quality, Social Responsibility, Economic Accountability and Environmental leadership. These initiatives will ensure that coffee growers have an efficient way of sustaining their produce every year.

The Smart Coffee ID Card has also helped in protecting the coffee farmers in Colombia. Through this scheme, farmers get a chance to make payments effectively. Digitizing payments has been proved to stimulate more financial and social inclusion within communities to help combat poverty, as accentuated by the U.N. led coalition, Better Than Cash Alliance.

Fortunately, this channel is now also being used for the provision of government subsidies and incentives. From 2007- 2014 alone, a record 5.4 million payments were made.

Moreover, the Kagera Co-operative is also protecting coffee farmers. It has a widespread influence in Tanzania and reaches out to 60,000 smallholder farmers who aspire to sell their products on the fair trade market. Fair trade Coffee Cooperatives have a massive outreach with a renowned reputation for alleviating trading and price restrictions, along with granting workers considerable autonomy.

Overall, protecting coffee farmers effectively can be achieved by the concerted efforts of the coffee farmers, governments, local charities and international organizations so that coffee farmers continue to have an outlet for their produce and can earn high returns. Collaboration in this manner will pave the way for a sustainable future, where conservation, farming practices and livelihoods are all safeguarded.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

shop_ethically
Clothes, food, technology. These are things everybody needs but also have strong associations to ethical problems. Shopping ethically is a growing concern for many people, yet the idea that ethical purchases are not affordable is pervasive. In addition, the constant bad news surrounding the practices of companies makes it seem impossible to be an ethical shopper. All of this leaves many of us with one question:

How can I shop ethically?

It is a question being asked a lot these days. And even though it might not seem easy, a little extra attention can go a long way, and it is not as expensive as it may seem. Here’s a few easy ways to shop ethically.

Do Your Research

In the fight to shop ethically, research is everything.

The biggest companies can afford to market themselves as ethical to shoppers. This allows them to manipulate concerned consumers into purchasing their products.

Luckily, there are ways to know what you’re buying before you buy it. Ethicalconsumer.org, for instance, ranks products in a variety of categories based on different metrics. Much of this information is available for free on the site, though some more in-depth information requires a subscription.

Doing research on products is a good way to be sure that what you’re buying is an ethical choice. In addition to researching, remaining vigilant in reading labels to spot companies notorious for ethical violations, such as Coca Cola and Nestle, is a key element in shopping ethically.

Thrift Shop

Goodwill currently operates over 2,500 stores in the United States. Savers operates over 270 stores. There are also countless independent thrift stores, providing good clothing for a low price. For consumers looking to ethically shop, thrift stores provide an affordable way to avoid incentivizing the abusive practices of the larger clothing industry.

Unethical labor practices is the biggest concern proponents of ethical consumerism have regarding the clothing industry. Though a variety of clothing sources exist that do not support this, many of these sources are not cost-effective. By purchasing clothing at a thrift shop, fashion-conscious activists can both avoid feeding into unethical labor chains and support their local communities.

Make it a Treat

Let’s get this out of the way: most ethical chocolates and coffees will be more expensive than their less ethical alternatives. Unfortunately, the exploitation of the developing world that is all too common within these industries is, more often than not, a cost-cutting measure. When cocoa farmers in the $16 billion-per-year chocolate industry receive between $30 and $100 per year, this is a measure by those in power to cut costs.

This does mean that, in general, most ethical chocolates and coffees will be a bit less friendly to your wallet. But by treating these items as occasional treats, you can save up for the ethical, and better, brands and indulge guilt free.

Shopping ethically is just as much about what we don’t buy as it is what we buy. When chocolate from Côte d’Ivoire, where CNN stated slavery within the chocolate industry is “normal,” is purchased, shoppers incentivize the highly unethical practice. Though more expensive and ethical options may not be purchased with the same regularity, purchasing them exclusively while buying chocolate less exclusively both supports ethical production of chocolates and rejects the lack of ethics within the chocolate industry.

Ethical consumerism is a increasing concern. This is good, but it is also easy to feel nihilistic when faced with a structure which, previously, hasn’t had to take things into account. But by being smart and patient, consumers can find easy and affordable ways to shop according to ethics.

– Andrew Michaels

Sources: Ethical Consumer, Time Green America, CNN Blogs
Photo: Natura Magazine

coffee_farmers
The Gates Foundation and the company TechnoServe have developed a solution to the endemic poverty of smallholder farmers in Africa — The Coffee Initiative. Across Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and more, the Initiative empowers each wrung of the business ladder involved in the coffee making process, increasing income and lifting communities out of poverty.

Today, around 4.2 million households of smallholder coffee farmers (20 million households) live below the poverty line.

“Without access to technical knowledge, professional processing and milling services, reliable markets or working capital, these farming families are forced to sell their coffee at low prices. Under these circumstances, it is extremely difficult for these farmers to escape poverty, despite the backbreaking work they put into their coffee harvests,” explains the Gates Foundation on its website, Impatient Optimists.

The Coffee Initiative has helped to break this cycle in many communities. TechnoServe adapts its education programs and implementation strategy to the unique cultural, financial and physical context of each farm.

It aims to help communities realize their potential; East Africa is one of the most conducive places in the world for coffee to grow. Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania have rich soil, high altitude and temperate climates, enabling them to produce some of the most high quality coffee in the world.

To help communities reach their full potential, TechnoServe teaches private, coffee export companies how to work with credit, quality assurance, administration and price risk management.

These export companies then sell their newly acquired services to small coffee cooperative farms, enabling increased effectiveness and efficiency for both farms and service providers.

Every level of business involved in the coffee making process benefits from TechnoServe’s initiative and has incentive to continue to implement the new techniques they have learned.

“The smallholder farmers earn more, as they can sell the higher-quality beans for a premium to more reliable markets. (Beneficiaries of the program saw their coffee incomes increase by an average of 22% across the region, while that figure rose to 50% in Rwanda.) The coffee service providers, meanwhile, collect a percentage of the sales and thus have strong incentives to continue providing services and financing to the coffee farmers. And the financial institutions have gained a reliable customer base with a strong record of repayment, encouraging them to continue to provide financing,” explains Impatient Optimists.

Technoserve teaches smallholder farmers how to improve the quality, sustainability and yield size of their coffee. Farmers who participated in the education program increased their coffee yields on average by 42 percent.

TechnoServe has built over 266 wet mills, which process raw beans, since 2000. Over 250,000 farmers have benefited from this. TechnoServe also facilitated lasting relationships between small farms and large, corporate coffee roasting companies, which are now purchasing more coffee from East Africa.

“For instance, the ‘Uzuri African Blend’ from Peet’s Coffee & Tea consists entirely of coffee from Coffee Initiative clients and represents the company’s first African coffee blend. Similarly, high-end coffee roasters Intelligentsia and Stumptown Coffee Roasters have marketed individual Ethiopia wet mill client coffees as single-origin products with the cooperative name displayed on the coffee package,” explains TechnoServe.

The Coffee Initiative has made an enduring impact in Ethiopia. Ethiopians have grown coffee for centuries; however, they previously used traditional, dry processing methods. Little attention was given to quality.

Though the climate and altitude were perfect to produce high quality beans, the region was known for bad coffee. Farmers received very little for their crops and, subsequently, remained impoverished.

In 2010, the Coffee Initiative took action in Ethiopia. One hundred local farms unified into a cooperative called Duromina. TechnoServe helped them with financial planning and built a wet mill so the coop could fully wash its coffee.

Just two years later, a panel of judges voted Duromina’s coffee the best in Africa. “Buyers from Stumptown Coffee Roasters described Duromina’s coffee as an ‘extremely complex yet clean cup that flaunts notes of lemon, cinnamon, sweet hops, ginger and nectarine accented by jasmine,’” says TechnoServe’s website.

Duromina repaid its loan in just one year, rather than the four year plan. “In 2012, four major international roasters purchased 71 metric tons of green coffee through direct trade relationships with Duromina, paying an average of $3.68 per pound, a 65 percent premium over the international commodity price,” explains TechnoServe.

The community experienced economic stimulation, and with this new income, were able to improve the quality of life. For instance, the cooperative invested in a bridge. Before it was built, during the rainy season the river would flood and cut off community members’ access to markets and medical clinics.

“So many people were injured falling into the river when attempting to cross during heavy rain. We could not benefit from many government services because of the river, and some pregnant women even died because they could not reach the clinic,” said Nizamu Abamecha to TechnoServe, Duromina’s chairmen. Today, because of the Coffee Initiative, more remote community members are able to cross the river during the rainy season.

Farmers have also been able to invest in tin roofs, new furniture and solar power. Many are now able to send their children to primary school, and some can send their children to even secondary school or college.

– Margaret Mary Anderson

Sources: Global Dev Incubator, Impatient Optimists, Technoserve
Photo: TechnoServe

coffee_growers
Near the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, coffee is a staple crop. Coffee growers range from huge commercial enterprises with factories and automated systems, to family farms doing everything by hand. The commercial farms have the clear advantage, but a new technology designed by an international crew of innovators may help the smallest farmers close the gap.

To make coffee, farmers must harvest the bright red coffee cherries and split them in half to access the bean inside. This process, called pulping or shelling, is vital to coffee production and is extremely labor intensive. Doing it by hand is too slow to be feasible. While the big factory farms have machines that require very little labor to operate, smaller villages make do with hand-powered cranks that require a great deal of strength and patience.

The MIT-sponsored International Development Innovation Network Summit this past year played host to hundreds of inventive individuals looking to solve problems like this one. The group included Tanzanian business school student Yesse Joshua Olijange, whose parents are farmers originally from Leguruki and Bernard Kiwia, a Tanzanian bicycle mechanic turned inventor.

Kiwia supervised the summit team Olijange was a part of. The team also included self-taught Tanzanian inventor Mwanaharusi Goha,  Brazilian engineering student Eduard Eric Schardijin Ghanaian, engineering student Helen Amorin, German industrial designer Mona Mijthab and El Salvadorian nonprofit worker Geovany Moreno. Together, they designed a simple improvement to the hand-powered pulper.

According to designer Mona Mijthab, “Most people [in Leguruki] have bikes,” she said, “We thought, we can use parts of the metal pieces instead of the real bike. Things like the frame—these materials are available.”

The team attached the pedals of a bike onto a sturdy metal frame and hooked it up to the hand-cranked pulping machine. Now, instead of requiring immense upper-body strength, a person can operate the machine as they would ride a bike. The machine, which is around three feet tall, takes raw cherries in through a funnel on its top and runs them through a rotating drum with spikes on its interior. The spikes take the outer shell off of the coffee and spits them out separately from the beans. Using a hand crank, farmers can pulp about 33 pounds of cherries every 10 minutes. With the new prototype, the time is reduced to two minutes.

This is only one of many exciting prototypes to come out of the IDIN Summits. Since 2012, IDIN has been connecting innovators from different countries and industries around the world to challenge them to develop not only designs, but prototypes that can improve the lives of those living in poverty. Interest in IDIN’s methods and solutions is growing, and this year three summits will be taking place in Colombia, India and Botswana.

These summits are part of a bigger trend in innovation as the world’s most creative minds apply themselves to solving the problems facing the world’s poorest populations.

– Marina Middleton

Sources: Smithsonian, International Development Design Summit, International Development Innovation Network, D-Lab
Photo: Enlightened Consciousness

cameroon's coffee
Despite Cameroon having one of the better economies in sub-Saharan Africa, the country faces a relatively flat per capita income of $1,270 dollars annually with a 39 percent national poverty rate. In rural areas, slightly more than half of the population has access to clean water, leaving 48 percent of the rural population without vital resources. Contributing factors to Cameroon’s poverty include corruption, economic disparity and an unstable business climate.

Omer Maledy Gaetan, executive secretary of the Council for the Cocoa and Coffee in Cameroon explains, “Cameroon used to be one of the biggest coffee producers in the world.” Coffee is important to Cameroon’s economic success as it comprises six percent of the country’s gross national product and provides a living for approximately 400,000 farmers. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Essimi Menye notes that “coffee remains a key crop that could contribute to Cameroon’s planned development by 2035.”

Starting in 1990, Cameroon began working with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in reform efforts, spanning from attracting business investment to increasing the productivity of its agricultural industry. However, these efforts have not stopped the decline of the coffee industry.

In recent years, Cameroon’s coffee production has continuously declined and in 2013 production fell by 56 percent from the previous year. This translates to a decrease of an estimated 21,000 tons of coffee in one year. Furthermore, Cameroon’s harvest in 2012 was one-third of its 140,000 ton harvest in 1986.

Gaetan explains, “Our coffee is currently in very bad shape, [the 2013 yield is] the lowest figure we’ve known since Cameroon started growing coffee in 1957. And yet, we’ve known prosperous years. In 1990, we exported 156,000 tons.” But why is the industry declining at a continuous and recently rapid pace?

Following the Cameroon government’s decision during the 1990s to do away with the agriculture sector’s subsidies and economic protections, the prices of inputs such as fertilizers rose quickly. Coffee Farmer Isaah Mounde Nsangou explained, “Without fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides and sprayers, it was hard for many farmers to sustain their farms.” The liberal reforms led to other unpredictable costs for farmers, like costs incurred from lack of infrastructure maintenance.

Gaetan explains, “In 1980, we were ranked the 8th world coffee producer. In 1992, when we liberalized the sector, Cameroon was ranked 12th in the world. Today, we are ranked as 30.” Despite the decline of the industry, Cameroon is looking to boost its productivity in response to increased worldwide demand for coffee, which has risen by three percent every year. The CICC has begun a project called New Generation, which is working to engage the youth in the coffee industry.

The CICC will also be disbursing approximately 1.5 million dollars through assistance programs over the next five years in order to stop plummeting harvests. This past February, the European Union signed a 30 million euro contract, which aims to revitalize the coffee sector during the next six years by offering various forms of support to farmers. Farmers have proposed restarting abandoned farms and improving upon commercial delivery, networking and product quality. Other objectives include the creation of an additional 3,600 hectares of coffee plantations over the upcoming six years.

In a country like Cameroon where rural poverty is still an issue, investment in the agriculture sector will provide opportunities for many farmers to escape poverty. The strategies at play, from getting the youth involved to investing in support programs and new plantations, are promising. The potential for growth is present, and it seems Cameroon’s farmers are more than willing to seize the opportunity.

Christopher Kolezynski

Sources: Global Issues, VOA News, CIA, World Bank
Photo: RecorderLine

black_gold_coffee_ethiopia
The coffee farmers of Ethiopia are told that their coffee is gold. “If our coffee is gold,” the farmers ask, “then why do we get nothing?” Two billion cups of coffee are consumed every day around the world. Coffee beans are grown in poorer, developing nations and then shipped off to the West for consumption. The price of a cup of coffee is $0.12 in Ethiopia, while a cup in a Western country costs up to $2.90.

Four major multinational corporations dominate the world market: Kraft, Nestle, Proctor & Gamble and Sara Lee. Until 1989, an International Coffee Agreement regulated the supply of coffee on the world market. Now, the international price of coffee is established in the New York and London Stock Exchange, where coffee is the second most actively traded commodity.

Black Gold is a documentary about Ethiopian coffee farmers’ struggle to seek higher prices for their coffee beans. Ethiopia is the largest producer of coffee in Africa, with over 15 million individuals depending upon coffee farming and production for survival. Coffee makes up 67 percent of export revenue in Ethiopia.

Tadesse Meskela manages the Oromia Coffee Farmer’s Co-operative Union, which represents 74,000 coffee farmers. Through their union, they are cutting out the middlemen in the chain of coffee production. Not only do the farmers grow the coffee beans, they also roast the beans themselves.

These farmers and their families depend on the coffee beans to survive. These people are born into coffee-growing families and communities and they have little chance to escape. They are forced to become coffee farmers and to remain stuck in poverty.

The coffee beans create a single production economy, making the economy extremely dependent upon Western companies and consumers. These coffee farmers in Ethiopia do not receive subsidies from their governments. Slight fluctuations in price will greatly affect the local farmers.

There are many various interlinked factors that have created these unequal global trade relations. Many of them have links to colonial and post-colonial relationships. Through social, economic and political policies Western nations have forced developing nations to remain dependent upon them for survival.

In international organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) developing nations are not able to have their voices and problems heard. The WTO sets rules of global trade, but is dominated by the larger, richer developed countries. These negotiations take place behind closed doors and the smaller delegations have been losing.

Consumer awareness of the farmers’ conditions is vital. While large multinational corporations and middlemen are benefiting from coffee production, the farmers themselves get almost nothing. Consumers need to be aware and ask for fair trade products. Fair trade coffee beans are labeled and available at most grocery stores.

In this age of increased globalization, it is important to be aware of how we are impacting the lives of other people, and how we are impacting the planet. When we go to Starbucks, and buy that cup of steaming coffee, we do not see the human lives that have been put into that cup. We do not see the coffee bean farmers praying for the weather to be kind. We do not see the women who pick the coffee beans for less than 50 cents a day. We do not see their children who go hungry. We only see the coffee in our cup and we are satisfied.

– Sarah Yan

Sources: Black Gold Film,The New York Times
Photo: Universal Cargo

Doi_Chang_Coffee_Harvest_Thailand
Do you like to drink coffee? If you are like me and happen to need a cup every morning in order to function properly, here is a chance to drink your single-origin morning nectar and help to alleviate poverty all at the same time.

Some readers may have heard of the Golden Triangle, or the border area of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. It is one of the largest opium-producing regions in the world.

One of the reasons that people resort to growing and selling opium is the grinding poverty experienced by the ethnic minorities that live across the borders of the three countries. Many of the minority groups have very few rights and are often discriminated against.

In the case of Thailand, many hill tribes members do not possess Thai identification documents—rendering them unrecognized as Thai citizens.

This consequently impedes them from accessing many basic public services such as health care and education. This combination of decades of poverty and disenfranchisement has driven minority groups towards illicit drug trade.

However, for the past few decades some tribes—among them the Akha of northern Thailand—have shifted to growing cash crops such as coffee. Nevertheless, the revenue they receive through trading with large companies was far from mutually beneficial. Enter Wicha Promyong—a successful Southern Thai entrepreneur—and his Canadian colleague, John Darch, who had spent many years in the banking sectors of Canada and England.

Together, they founded Doi Chaang Coffee with the goal of bringing development and sustainable prosperity to an Akha village on Doi Chaang Mountain.

What the Canadian-registered company does is unprecedented: 50% of the ownership of the company is given to the tribe, who also receives 50% of the profits as well as all of the money obtained from selling the green beans. Amazing!

What has this innovative and charitable form of a corporate-grower relationship achieved for the village so far? Well, they have done a good many wonderful things.

From an isolated village that was hitherto neglected by the authorities, left without paved roads, a hospital, schools, or even running water, the income from growing coffee allows the Akha tribe to become more self-sustainable. The village now has its own all those that it had erstwhile been lacking. It even has its own library and a coffee academy!

The business philosophy of Doi Chaang Coffee demonstrates that multinational commodity trades do not have to be exploitative in order to be profitable. It also suggests that perhaps the key component in establishing an equality and dignity based business model is simple and straightforward: the desire to be fair.

Readers in North America can purchase Doi Chaang Coffee both at their local Safeway and other supermarkets—if they are in Canada—as well as on their website if you happen to be in the U.S.

Peewara Sapsuwan

Sources: Doi Chaang Coffee, Fair Trade , YouTube

fair_trade_coffee
As responsible consumers, fair trade products ensure money goes towards companies that use ethical business practices, green technology and safe working conditions.  The fair trade logo supposedly signals that coffee is produced with certain standards in mind.  In the coffee industry, the fair trade movement seeks to benefit coffee growers in impoverished areas by donating some of the proceeds to community projects.  Fair trade producers work directly with importers and buyers.  By cutting out the middleman, the fair trade program offers growers a higher price for their beans.  Companies that use fair trade products have to pay a licensing fee to companies like Equal Exchange or Fair Trade USA.  Some of these proceeds go back to the plantation community.

However, Fair Trade USA has implemented some changes to the program that have raised eyebrows.  Equal Exchange, the country’s oldest fair trade company, withdrew support for Fair Trade USA in late 2012 after the USA branch cut ties with parent company Fairtrade International.

Fair Trade USA also stated it would give certification to large plantations as well as small, democratically run cooperatives. This creates a problem because large plantations are already turning profits, while many smaller farms are struggling to survive. The fair trade movement sought to support the cooperatives that were often exploited or overlooked by the big coffee companies. Giving larger plantations accreditation and trade rights eliminates the advantage fair trade was providing for the smaller plantations.

Paul Rice, chief executive of Fair Trade USA says the move was meant to promote the fair trade movement by increasing the supply. Large plantations can grow more beans to meet the demand for fair trade coffee. This allows big-chain retailers like Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and Whole Foods Market to sell fair trade coffee in their stores.

– Stephanie Lamm

Sources: The Nation, New York Times, Fair Trade USA

south_america_coffee
South America, the fourth largest continent in the world, arguably boasts the most impressive untapped natural resources in the world. South America has a solid agricultural background, and there could still potentially be room to grow.  It is one of the world leaders in agricultural production, and is in position to continue this trend for generations to come. Other South American countries have begun to follow the example Brazil has set in being the agricultural leader while the continent as a whole has profited from the benefits of exporting valuable food and other resources.

South America is a hotbed for agriculture for two main reasons; the rich untapped natural resources, and the various climates the continent possesses. The continent retains four climates, which range from tropical (wet and dry) to temperate (mild weather changes from season to season) while certain areas remain cold or arid.

The varying tropical climates cover over half of the continent with tropical wet and dry conditions occurring in the Orinoco River basin, the Brazilian Highlands and in a western section of Ecuador.

Many crops tend to thrive in the tropical areas of South America. Cashews and other kinds of nuts are cultivated in these regions, making them one of South America’s largest exports.

In fact, some of the world’s most popular fruits, such as avocado, pineapple, papaya and guava, are all produced in large increments in these tropical areas of South America. Not only do these edible, easy to manage crops improve South American agriculture, the continent has also become a strong resource of cash crops for the world.

Coffee was imported from the Old World in the 1800s and is grown in the highlands of Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. Nowadays, it is exported in large amounts from the key manufacturing parts of Colombia’s Cordillera Central, the basis of some of the world’s highest-quality coffees. The most notable native beverage, yerba maté, is brewed from the leaves of a plant indigenous to the upper Paraná basin. It is still gathered in its wild state in Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina.

Another cash crop, tobacco,  is cultivated in many countries but is produced commercially in large amounts in primarily Brazil and Colombia. The two most important native South American spices—allspice and red pepper—are exported from Brazil.

South American temperate climates are home to large numbers of livestock and other industrial crops. In these climates, corn runs as king of the crop. Corn is mass-produced in these areas, and is one of the biggest money-makers of the continent.

South America has steadily brought itself into an agricultural leader in the world. It produces many reliable crops and invests in the cash crop profits. By banking on the expansive natural resources, South America has found a model of success it can follow for generations to come.

 Zachary Wright

Sources: National Geographic, Mbendi, World Hunger, Inter-American Development Bank, Encyclopedia Britannica