Pictured above, left to right: Mebs Lalani, General Manger of SFU Dining Services, Joana Bettocchi, SFU MA Candidate in the School of International Studies and Kelly Contreras, SFU Manager of Student Experience, SFU Dining Services

Costa Rica Origin Trip shows SFU students local community fair trade impacts

by Torrye Mckenzie and Ashleigh Erwin


Travelling through Caribbean habitats of Costa Rica’s spectacular Talamanca mountain range, SFU students Sarah Heim, Prodpran Wangcherdchuwong and Joana Bettocchi will visit various fair trade coffee co-ops along with fair trade sugar, cocoa and banana farms, from November 7-12th.


Joined by national University administrators, Fair Trade business and corporate food service representatives, the students will connect with farmers and producers to see first hand the benefits of fair trade on local economies.  Supported by SFU Dining Services, the trip is part of the Canadian Fair Trade Network’s larger program Fair Trade Origin Trips.


“Fair trade has the power to educate people on global issues, raise awareness about unfair labour practices around the world and improve others' living and working conditions,” shares third year International Studies major Heim. “It is crucial to have a fair trade campus such as SFU that promotes ethical consumption practices among students.”


Having advocated for fair trade goods since middle school, Heim sees fair trade as a fascinating concept incorporating many of her areas of study, such as spatial relations, Western demand of developing countries’ goods, environmental implications of monocultures, social and structural challenges of fighting poverty and migration patterns of seasonal workers on global farms.


“Costa Rica is a beautiful region in the world where ecotourism is salient,” she explains. “So I am very excited to visit it…to see the practical side of fair trade…and what advice they may have for consumers and improvements to fair trade.”


Understanding the reality of asking consumers to base their purchasing decisions on ethics instead of costs, Heim realizes a major limitation of fair trade implemented by most labels and businesses. Nevertheless, she considers Fair Trade Campuses, like SFU, necessary to provide innovative solutions to this problem.


“University students are the leaders of tomorrow, they are the people who might run a business that sells goods from somewhere else, so their contribution to the fair trade of goods can make a huge difference.”


Having interned at the Consulate General of Mexico and assisted the department of seasonal agricultural worker’s program, fourth year International Studies major Wangcherdchuwong, views fair trade from a development, economical and environmental lens.


“The philosophy behind [fair trade],” she illustrates, “is much more ethical and healthy than how [most] transnational trade is conducted today by multinational corporations. Adopted more widely, [it] has the potential to better the lives of both producers and consumers [by] striving to make trade more equitable on the ground.”


Spending her childhood in Latin America, working with businesses to serve locally harvested and ethically sourced meals, MA student Bettocchi is most interested in how fair trade may safe guard producers and growers from market fluctuations. With her current research focused on Latin American migrant farm workers’ access to health care services in BC and Ontario, seeing how fair trade farmers operate would enable her to share her experience with individuals who are frustrated with being priced out of their local markets.


“Economic stability profoundly impacts migration patterns,” she explains, “particularly for agricultural producers and small scale farmers. The fair trade movement inspires consumers to think about where their food comes from and how it is produced. It inspires people to support growers, whether local or international, and it informs them about ways to lead more socially responsible lives.”


Follow Bettocchi’s SFU Dining Services Instagram takeover on November 9th from Costa Rica or get involved on campus.