Full of Beans
1st March, 2005
According to a Mori poll in March 2004, the fairtrade mark is now recognised by 39 per cent of the British public, up from 11 per cent five years ago. But what difference does fairtrade actually make to the lives of the producers? John Atkin looks at the Nicaraguan community of La Pita who sell half of their coffee on the fairtrade market
La Chureca, Managua’s city dump, is a desolate monstrosity - teeming with the putrid stench of rotting goods and industrial waste. Over a thousand people, many of them children, live and work here, fighting with flocks of vultures amongst hypodermic needles as they scavenge for scraps of food and resaleable items. In the midday sun the undulating horizon gains an unnatural white glare and you are left wondering whether or not those are really cows you see making their unsteady way across the rubbish.
As it turns out, they are, as the City Council leases the land out to a dairy farmer who sells their milk, contaminated by heavy metals, to the local community. There are similar scenes of unsustainable desolation across the developing world and while Altamira - a wealthy suburb of repatriated Nicaraguans, returned from Miami - may supply the most obvious contrast, the coffee-producing town of La Pita is more apposite.
Lying in the north of the Central American country, some 100 miles from the capital, La Pita is a co-operative of 16 families that grow coffee in the shade of the forest on the steep slopes of the surrounding mountains. Unlike much of the country, the Howler Monkeys that abound are as...
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