For my January term course this year I made a week-long visit to Nicaragua with the to learn more about Fair Trade and the lives of small-scale coffee farmers. My trip was made possible by a scholarship for seminarians to go on Lutheran World Relief study visits. I traveled with a delegation of 20 people sponsored by Lutheran World Relief and the Center for Global Education of Augsburg College. Representatives from Equal Exchange, a Fair Trade organization that imports coffee, tea and cocoa, were also with the group. We heard from several people working with farming cooperatives, and the positive impact Fair Trade has had on their lives. We spent two nights with a gracious family from a coffee farming cooperative. I joined the nine year old son Julito (see picture) in picking coffee from the trees. We were able to observe all the steps involved in producing the coffee, which I will attempt to summarize. After picking the coffee, it is brought in burlap bags down to a Wet Mill, where it is de-pulped. Later it is brought to a Dry Mill where it is preserved and then cupped and tested for quality.
After this trip, when I drink coffee I can remember the nine year old boy Julito picking each coffee cherry off of the tree, and all the subsequent labor that was invested in it. This is the type of solidarity that Fair Trade offers. I will close with a reflection on the sermon we heard from the Lutheran bishop of Nicaragua who talked about the star that the Magi followed, and the ways that God’s revelation encounters us. I saw Christ’s presence revealed in countless ways in the hope and resilience in the people we met in Nicaragua, which had a profound impact on my faith, and will certainly have an impact on my future ministry.
Please take a look at my trip pictures at: http://picasaweb.google.com/JoshEbener/Nicaragua
To get a day by day synopsis of our trip, visit our online study diary at: http://www.lwr.org/studydiary/itinerary.asp?VisitID=13
For more information about Equal Exchange, Fair Trade and Equal Exchange’s Interfaith Program visit www.equalexchange.com, or call (774) 776-7366. For more information about the Lutheran World Relief Coffee Project, visit http://www.lwr.org/coffee/index.asp, or call (410) 230-2800.