“Black Gold” Movie Review & What Should We Know about The Global Coffee Trade
The film juxtaposes how the coffee drinkers of the western world gladly pay cheaper for the high-priced coffee drinks, fattening the bottom lines of big corporations — while the crushingly poor farmers producing those coffee beans barely make ends meet. We can depict the huge Inequalities from people in the Global South especially in Ethiopia and those in Global North along with coffee consumers who often clueless of the origin of coffee beans that they drink daily. Unfortunately, farmers in Ethiopia don’t know about updated prices of coffee in global market and they cannot make any price negotiation when the big company buy their coffee. Fair trade coffee become the highlighted part of the movie where there is monopoly done by the big companies and western world on coffee prices that hurt small farmers in Global South. Unlike other developed countries, country like Ethiopia doesn’t provide subsidies for their farmers to buy inputs because their Government lack of capacity to afford subsidies. Thus, these kind of subsidies are not the solution to the problem and that resulted in inability to compete in world market where most of global north farmers were being subsidized to increase exports of their countries. These Ethiopian farmers felt like after all these years, they didn’t get equal rewards from cultivating coffee. Moreover, we see here the hero of the film is Tadesse Meskela, an Ethiopian man who travels all over the world, trying to get the farmers he represents a better price for their coffee. We see him at the Ethiopian coffee auction, pointing out which big corporations are represented by who and we see him talking to, getting opinions from, and participating in the decision-making for coffee co-ops in Ethiopia. Tadesse Meskela who associated with Oromia Coffee Farmers Union, tried to eliminate long chain of coffee buying processes and turned it to simpler process — from farmer to cooperative through their union and directly to the roaster. 60% of the chain is removed by working through co-operatives. Here we can see the importance of union as to help local farmers understand the global market situation and give them knowledge on how to improve their life in general as coffee farmers. Many farmers, triggered by money incentive also willing to grow chat (a kind of narcotic which is banned in United States) because it’s price is higher than coffee.
Sudama, the region where starbucks company get their coffee from, experienced severe famine. The people from outside their region helped to build therapeutic feeding centre as a treatment centre to address malnutrition. This malnutrition phenomenon is resulted from lack of knowledge on public health and lack of access including economic, social, and physical access to get food in their region. Not only malnutrition, the people in Ethiopia also suffered from lack of access to basic necessities such as water, food, and housing which are crucial for determining the quality of their livelihood. Further, these Ethiopian farmers also recognized the importance of education as a key to development. Their low economic capability made it hard for them to build decent school for their children in their community. After WTO meeting in 2003, Global South who was disappointed with the result of the meeting, felt like the Global North stood up for the right of corporations instead of small farmers. This power based organizations tried to manipulate Global South with regulations that hurt smallholders for the sake of greater profit. After that, US intensified their supplies on USAID for Ethiopia. The locals were not happy with the situation because they thought that if this continue in the long term, the future generation will have beggar mindset.
This case of Ethiopia is the perfect example on how AID created dependency among the receiving countries. Many of them didn’t feel like they have the capability to stand on their own feed anymore to provide for their families. This dependency will continue if the Ethiopian farmers were not given the right knowledge and platform to develop their own skills to compete in the global market. This can be done through school for farmers such as Farmer Field School and building local organization to provide farmers with necessary equipment and skills to increase their capability. Lastly, as a consumer, choose to buy Fair Trade Coffee. When we choose to buy Fair Trade, we are casting a vote for the ethical treatments of the laborers around the world who are responsible for our daily coffee fix!