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In the documentary Black Gold, it explains the story about Ethiopian coffee farmers who struggle to seek higher prices for their coffee beans. Ethiopia is the largest producer of coffee in Africa and makes up 67 percent of export revenue in Ethiopia. With over 15 million individuals depending on coffee farming and production for survival. Throughout the movie, the manager of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-operative Union, Tadesse Meskela, narrates their battle for their rights for a higher wage.
Tadese goal is to cut out the middlemen in the chain of coffee production because by that time the green coffee will have traveled through several channels: Processing, Importing, Roasting, Packaging/Distributing, Retailing. The farmer sees the smallest percentage of income in this process.Since Ethiopia relays so much on coffee most of the citizens are born into coffee-growing families and have very 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. Compared to other countries where farmers get subsidies from the government Ethiopian coffee farmers do not. So the 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 developing nations are not able to have their voices and problems heard. The World Trade Organization 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. Fairtrade 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 a dollar day. We do not see their children who go hungry. We only see the coffee in our cup and we are satisfied.
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