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Dominican Sisters of Houston
Human Trafficking and the Four Cs: Coffee
November 19, 2011

This is the second in a series of articles that will address the Four Cs and their relationship to human trafficking (Coffee).

COFFEE: How many cups of coffee did it take to wake you up this morning?  How many cups does it take to get you through the day?  Did you know that unless the coffee you drink is Fair Trade Certified, it is probably provided by tiny laboring hands of mistreated children in foreign countries?

Coffee is the second largest commodity after oil in international commerce?  Coffee is grown in 50 countries and provides jobs to more than 20 million people.  Did you know that many of those jobs are performed by children?  Up to 60% of coffee labors are children, who start working when they are tall enough to reach some branches of the trees. These children are Child Slaves and have no rights. They are frequently subjected to brutal treatment and sub-human living conditions.  They are subjected to many safety and health risks.  They face long hours, hot temperatures, overexposure to the sun, and the risk of snake bites.  They are exposed to chemical fertilizers and pesticides that are banned in the United States.

You might be asking how does this happen that children are forced to work under these conditions. Children are forced into bonded labor or debt labor as a result of some financial transaction (often a loan).  This occurs because parents have no other source of credit available and are forced to pledge their children's labor as payment or security on a debt.  Parents assume their children will be able to repay the debt out of future earnings, but a combination of low wages and high interest rates, many times make repayment impossible.    (Source: Plight of Coffee's Children)

What can you do?  Buy Fair Trade!  Many local supermarkets are now stocking Fair Trade Certified Coffee.  If yours does not, ask the manager to consider stocking it.  You can also buy it online from Equal Exchange. 


To learn more about what you can do to abolish this form of modern day slavery contact the Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition at

By buying Fair Trade products we can play a part in supporting slave-free products... your dollar does make a difference!  The Fair Trade Certification process guarantees a fair price to the producers and insures that no child or forced labor of any kind is used.  In order to use the fair trade label, 100% of the primary ingredient must be certified.