Fair wages for small-scale farmers was among the concerns addressed by The United Methodist Church’s quadrennial legislative meeting. Through the adopted resolution, United Methodists are encouraged to purchase fair-trade coffee and other products and to increase awareness about how fair trade helps raise small-scale farmers out of poverty.

Coffee is one of the most heavily traded commodities in the world. An estimated 20 million people grow coffee for their livelihood but, for small-scale farmers, the benefits are meager.

The statement supports fair-trade practices that help small-scale farmers earn fair prices for their crops.

100-Ton Challenge Begins May 10

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is challenging churches to help farmers earn fair prices for their crops by participating in UMCOR’s 100-Ton Challenge. This 12-month campaign encourages United Methodists increase the amount of fairly traded coffee, tea, chocolate, and snacks purchased through the UMCOR Coffee Project and its partner Equal Exchange. Purchasing fairly traded goods allows small-scale farmers to invest in farm improvements, reduce debt, and improve their communities while providing a better life for themselves and their families.

UMCOR’s 100-Ton Challenge begins on Saturday, May 10, in observance of World Fair-Trade Day, and ends on May 9, 2009. The goal is to increase awareness about fair trade in United Methodist churches everywhere and leverage fairly traded products to help promote better lives for farmers in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the United States.

Every Pound Counts

In 2007, United Methodists bought 68 tons (136,000 pounds) of fairly traded products through the UMCOR Coffee Project–100 tons would be a new record. With every pound of product sold through the UMCOR Coffee Project, 15 cents goes to support farmers through UMCOR’s Sustainable Agricultural and Development Program. Through this program, farmers learn new methods of cultivating their crops that produce good yields and nutritious food. Farmers are better able to support their families, live healthier lives, and send their children to school. Join the 100-Ton Challenge and commit to doing more to support fair-trade practices.

Fair Trade Is Better for Farmers

The conventional coffee trade involves a long chain of buyers, processors, exporters, brokers, and distributors between the farmer and the consumer–each taking their share of the price. Fair trade eliminates the middlemen and allows farmers to earn a stable and fair price for their crops while delivering a fair price to consumers. Under the principles of fair trade, importers also commit to buy only from small-farm cooperatives and to establish direct, long-term purchasing relationships with the co-ops, including support for sustainable agriculture and the offer of low-cost, pre-harvest credit.

*Judith Santiago is the Program Coordinator for UMCOR Communications