Fair Trade Day forum discusses campus, global effect

Kimberly Selway

César Rivas Peña sat curiously behind the front table in one of Bartley Hall’s high tech auditorium classrooms. He was surprisingly at ease despite the fact that he was about to address a group of approximately 100 students and faculty, none of whom spoke his native Spanish language.

“Sorry, no speaking English,” Peña said, and the rest of his address was dictated through an interpreter.

Peña was one of the keynote speakers during VSB’s “Fair Trade: Blending Value with Values,” the concluding event for the University’s Fair Trade Day. The forum followed a day long bazaar selling Fair Trade products in the Bartley Atrium.

Representatives from TransFair USA, Catholic Relief Services and Pura Vida Coffee attended the dialogue about the impact of fair trade products on a global scale, as well as on campus.

The bazaar was run by CRS student ambassadors and generated $600 in profits for Fair Trade.

Peña is the general manager of La Florida Cooperative, a fair trade coffee cooperative located in the Chanchamayo Valleys of Peru. He explained to the audience the impact that Fair Trade has had on his business.

“Through Fair Trade we were able to get direct market for our product,” he said. People gained confidence in their product, and new friendships with other cooperatives and clients resulted.

David Funkhouser from TransFair USA explained how his organization certifies Fair Trade products to be sold in the United States from groups that comply with their regulations. Many of these products are available on-campus, such as the coffee brewed at Holy Grounds, the candy bars in Second Storey and, most recently, the bananas in the dining halls.

“You’re looking at the Fair Trade series of relationships right here, from us as consumers to Cesar as a producer,” said Michael Sheridan, director of the CRS Fair Trade Coffee Program.

CRS is expanding its operations to four college campuses, including Villanova. There are currently 13 Villanova ambassadors covering issues such as immigration, HIV/AIDS and Fair Trade.

“The idea is to raise awareness among college students, faculty and staff to get people to act on these issues,” said senior Christen Williams, a CRS Fair Trade Ambassador.

Villanova has been a forerunner in offering Fair Trade goods throughout its facilities. Dining Services has been providing these products for the past seven years after students contacted the administration requesting that Fair Trade foodstuffs to be offered on campus.

“It’s really about not being recognized,” said Tim Dietzler, customer service coordinator of Dining Services. “We’re proud to serve Fair Trade.”

“If the Villanova community can see the importance of Fair Trade and ask for Fair Trade coffee everyday, that would be a huge step,” Williams said. “Seeking out Fair Trade products is important because it gives the farmer with limited market access more of a chance to live a decent life.”

In addition to the products offered on campus, a mission trip to Nicaragua is in the works, according to Jonathan Doh, director of the Center for Responsible Leadership and Governance. Students would be able to visit and provide assistance to a coffee farm that is in the process of becoming Fair Trade certified.

“The world has changed with globalization,” Peña said, when asked about pressures he faced from the Peruvian government and other coffee intermediaries. “The system isn’t as receptive to change.”

In 1993, only one percent of the coffee Peña’s cooperative produced was sold into the European market.

This year he anticipates that 80 percent of his crop will be sold into the world market, 60 percent of which will be in the U.S.

“And for that I want to thank you for drinking our coffee,” he said.