Most of us don’t think too much about the cost of a cup of coffee, except for the occasional sticker shock when splurging on a super-charged latte. However, most of us would be truly shocked to learn that the majority of people who do the hard work of growing our coffee live in dire poverty, often unable to afford the most basic necessities, such as clean water, food, and shelter.
The term black gold is usually used in reference to oil (petroleum). But here is a startling fact: after oil, coffee is the most actively traded commodity in the world, representing about $80 billion in the retail marketplace. There are about 25 million coffee growers in 50 countries, and about 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed world-wide very day. Another startling fact: most coffee farmers, who are very small-scale, earn less than 3 cents per cup.
The film does a superb job of telling important stories and conveying a lot of information in a compelling way that holds our attention and interest all the way through. Following the journey of Tadesse Meskela, the representative of the Oromio Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union in Southern Ethiopia, as he works to get a higher price for their crops, we meet some of the coffee farmers, and learn of their urgent need to feed their families, and their fervent desire to send their children to school, along with the harsh realities of the international marketplace that leave these people praying to be paid fairly.
Black Gold does not inflict a guilt trip on us, however. It opens the door of knowledge and understanding so that we can make choices, like voting with our dollars, and buying Fair Trade coffee, which empowers the producers in the trade process, guarantees that they receive a living wage, and supports their community development projects such as health care and schools.
We have options, and more influence than we realize, just brewing in our daily cup.
–Reviewed by Karen Adler