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Coffee project

The MCC U.S. Coffee Project links Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches with small farmers growing fair trade coffee.

Coffee is a big business—it is one of the most heavily traded commodities in the world. But for the majority of small coffee farmers, the benefits are small. The chain of events that leads from the coffee farmer to your cup is long and expensive, often leaving the farmer with very little to live on.

Most small coffee farmers live in isolated communities in some of the poorest countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. They usually sell their coffee through intermediaries, known to Central American farmers as "coyotes." With prices in constant flux and coyotes offering the lowest price possible, farmers never know how much they will get for their crops.

Coffee farmers—some 25 million people often struggle just to make a simple living. In recent years farmers typically earn less than 50 cents per pound, not even enough to cover their production costs.

MCC began the Coffee Project in 2003 in partnership with Equal Exchange, as a way to assist small farmers around the world after coffee prices hit all-time lows.

The Coffee Project is co-sponsored by Ten Thousand Villages and Mennonite Mutual Aid (MMA).

Get involved

Drink Fairly Traded Coffee

Churches, colleges and businesses participating in the Coffee Project serve fairly traded coffee, tea and cocoa at various events. Members of churches can also join together to purchase fair trade products for use in their homes. There are two ways to purchase coffee:

  • At your local Ten Thousand Villages store.
  • Buy in bulk from Equal Exchange at wholesale prices (774-776-7366). Equal Exchange sells a variety of fairly traded items, including tea, cocoa and chocolate.

Use the form on the right to order coffee and sign up for the coffee project.

Online purchases can be made at the Equal Exchange website. When you make an online purchase, please be sure to complete the form asking for congregational or denominational affiliation and contact information.

Be an Advocate

As a consumer, how you choose to spend your money and the products you choose to support sends a powerful message to the companies who provide those products.

You can also advocate to the U.S. government for trade justice.

Other Ways to Get Involved

  • Locally: Encourage local supermarkets and cafés to sell fairly-traded coffee. Drop a note in the suggestion box, or send a letter. See sample letter on the right.
  • Nationally: Corporations such as Nestle, Kraft (owner of Maxwell House) and Proctor & Gamble (which owns Folgers) play a large role in the production and price of coffee.
  • Globally: See first-hand how small farmers' lives are changed by fair trade.
    • MCC organizes learning tours through its regional offices—check with your local MCC office for further information.
    • Global Exchange is a human rights organization that seeks to raise awareness about the root causes of injustice, and offers many "reality tours" focused on fair trade. Check out their travel schedule.
    • Witness for Peace is a grassroots organization that seeks to educate Americans about how U.S. policies affect Latin America. Check the delegation schedule for delegations relating to globalization, trade and debt.
Photo credit: Arnaud Gaillard/Wikimedia Commons