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325. Top 10 posts of 2012

2013-01-03 Comments Off on 325. Top 10 posts of 2012

For the second year in a row, the most popular posts to the CRS Coffeelands Blog were related to our coverage of changes in the Fair Trade system: posts on Fair Trade for All took seven of the 10 top spots for 2012.  Rounding out the top 10 were posts on water resource management and impact assessment, and a tribute to a very special priest who died last year after more than four decades of committed work in the coffeelands.


In 2012, Fair Trade USA rewrote the rules of the game for the U.S. Fair Trade market as part of its ambitious effort to double the impact of Fair Trade by 2015.  The “Fair Trade for All” initiative has altered the Fair Trade landscape and ushered in a period of considerable uncertainty.  CRS has engaged actively with the sweeping changes in the Fair Trade system in the hope of learning from them in ways that help us advance our mission, and with the explicit intention of influencing the evolution of Fair Trade Certification.  The reflections we have published here on the basis of our engagement have been widely read and generated discussion that is sometimes pointed and always thoughtful.

A market leader weighs in on FT4All

  • Guest post: Ed Canty explains Green Mountain’s approach to FT4All
    Green Mountain Coffee Roasters purchased over 50 million pounds of Fair Trade Certified coffee in 2011, making it the world’s largest Fair Trade coffee buyer.  The person responsible for all those purchases is Ed Canty, the company’s certified coffee buyer.  In this post, Ed explains Green Mountain’s policy for sourcing coffee from the FT4All pilots.  (published 2 July 2012; overall rank: 1)

The FT4All debate

  • More on The Nation’s coverage of Fair Trade
    In August, The Nation magazine published an article titled “The Brawl Over Fair Trade Coffee.”  It was at the time — and remains, in my estimation — the most rigorously researched and thoroughly reported account of the split in the Fair Trade movement to date.  But there may still be room for improvement in the coverage of Fair Trade for All and our understanding of the issues. (published 6 September 2011; overall rank: 4)
  • The FT4All debate: It’s getting personal
    I published this post after Fair Trade pioneer Equal Exchange attacked Fair Trade leader Green Mountain Coffee Roasters for its support for Fair Trade for All.  Equal Exchange’s ad in the Burlington Free Press challenging Green Mountain to break ties with Fair Trade USA echoed confrontational Fair Trade ads published nearly a decade ago by Dean’s Beans.  In the comments generated by the post, the author of those earlier ads weighs in on the current debate. (published 21 May 2012; overall rank: 8)

Two posts from late 2011 showed staying power this year: interviews with FTUSA CEO Paul Rice, who makes the case for FT4All, and CLAC President Merling Preza, who makes the case against it, were widely read and cited in 2012, and finished among the 10 most-read posts for the second year in a row.

CRS and FT4All

  •  CRS is getting involved in an FT4All pilot.  Here’s why.
    CRS announces its engagement with a Fair Trade for All certification pilot with independent smallholder farmers in Colombia.  Our goals: influence the evolution of the Fair Trade system, expand the impact of our current coffee programming on independent smallholder farmers, and improve our approach to organizing independent smallholder farmers for the marketplace.  (published 29 May 2012; overall rank: 10)
  • CRS is piloting FT4All.  Not endorsing it.
    Our engagement with a single FT4All pilot project in Colombia does not constitute an endorsement of the FT4All program, but represents an effort to test a new approach to organizing independent smallholder farmers for the market that is consistent with the way CRS is constantly field-testing new ideas in a broad range of programming areas in an effort to better serve poor people.  (published 4 June 2012; overall rank: 9)



We published 16 posts in 2012 on the relationship between coffee and water resource management at origin.  One got more traffic than the rest.

  •  The water footprint of your coffee
    Reflections on a report showing that it takes 37 gallons of water to produce a single cup of coffee.  The report’s greatest contribution, in my mind, is the cautionary note it sounds regarding the importance of water-efficient processing and wastewater treatment: less than 1 percent of all the water needed to produce coffee is used in the post-harvest process, but the water going into the milling process is sometimes scarce and the water coming out is often polluted.  (published 11 September 2012; overall rank: 3)



One of the pleasantest surprises of 2012 for me was the keen interest among readers in efforts to use data to assess the impact of different approaches to the coffee trade.

  • CAFE: Trading data and infographics
    This post represented my first effort to mine the final data from our CAFE Livelihoods project to draw some tentative conclusions about the relative merits of different trading models.  It generated some good discussion, much of it focused on the shortcomings of my analysis of the data.  Two weeks later, I published this post to show how even subtle shifts in emphasis can radically change the implications of data — by privileging total revenue over price, the same data led to very different impressions about what trading models generate the most impact at origin.  While these posts together show that we still have a long way to go to effectively leverage the evidence we generate in the field to contribute to the sustainability discussion, the eager embrace of even these primitive data seemed to indicate just how desperately we need to ground our thinking about sustainability at origin in results-based evidence.  (published 9 December 2011; overall rank: 7)



  • A light goes out in Guatemala
    Fr. Greg Schaffer was a priest from Minnesota who spent most of his life far from home, on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, where he worked for over 45 years to foster processes of social and economic development among the community’s Kaqchiquel-speaking indigenous people.  These efforts included a coffee project that CRS supported from 2009-2011.  In this post, I share a personal reflection on Fr. Greg’s courage and pastoral commitment based on my experience living and working with him in Guatemala.  (published 28 May 2012; overall rank: 2)