(L-R) Joana Bettocchi, Sarah Heim, and Prodpran Wangcherdchuwong on their trip to Costa Rica.

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Fair trade and its impact: SFU students travel to Costa Rica to meet local farmers and producers

November 18, 2016
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By Justin Wong

Have you ever wondered why SFU is a fair trade campus and how it impacts the people who produce the coffee, tea and chocolate products served at our dining locations?

Sarah Heim, Prodpran Wangcherdchuwong and Joana Bettocchi found some real world answers to those questions when they took a SFU Ancillary and Dining services-sponsored trip to Costa Rica.

During their trip, they met with local farmers and other producers to learn more about fair trade and its impact on the Costa Rican economy.

One couple shown below had 40 years of experience farming coffee beans. By working with fair trade partners they say they have a viable incentive to use fewer chemicals on their crops compared to conventional agricultural farms.

The students also learned and experienced the labour-intensive intricacies of growing and curing coffee beans. The machine seen below is used to clean the coffee beans before they are dried.

One of the first steps is picking red coffee beans. Surprisingly, the raw taste is quite sweet immediately after picking.

Here are three lessons the students say they learned during their trip down south.

It’s critical to practice responsible trade and consumption

Wangcherdchuwong: "Far too often producers of everyday products that we enjoy in Canada, such as coffee, sugar or bananas, receive a very low compensation for the hard work that they do. Paying a price that helps ensure a better standard of living and basic labour rights should be our responsibility as consumers as well as policy-makers."

Fair Trade contributes to a sustainable work environment and farm network

Heim: "Fair trade enables farmers to organize, negotiate with their customers, and to connect with each other to secure a sustainable and healthy work environment as well as a reasonable wage."

We should all appreciate the work of farmers and producers

Bettocchi: "Only once did we have to experience the arduous journey that the farm workers perform on a daily basis. Our bodies were covered in itchy red welts from the mosquitos regardless of how much repellent we sprayed on ourselves. This experience gave us a new appreciation for the work they do. A single day of rain can ruin half of their crop, and a drop in the market can ruin their finances for the year."