Congratulations to Ballarat Grammar VCE student, Matthew Hall, who has won the national final of the Plain English Speaking Award and will now represent Australia at the International Final next year in London. Here is an extract of the speech he prepared – on the coffee trade – that helped send him there.
You close your eyes. A complex, earthy aroma floods the air beneath your nose. You feel warmth emanate out through your hands, gentle steam on your face. At last it reaches you, finally; luscious hot liquid touches your lips. That smooth, fruity yet slightly chocolatey latte flows gently over your tongue, and you let out a smile.
Fair trade. It sounds almost as good as it tastes. You can almost see the world-changing good you are bringing about: the schools you’ve built, the roads you’ve fixed, the smiling, well-paid farmers whose financial development you’ve selflessly fostered. Lowering the cup from your mouth, you open your eyes, and greet the golden sunrise that illuminates your morning coffee ritual. You sense you’ve just single-handedly solved poverty, and deserve the Nobel Peace Prize at the very least. How does it feel to change the world?
Far away, but deeply connected, that same sun rises to illuminate more coffee, though here it is still connected to a large green bush. A man named Magomu awakes to the dawn light, rising from a hessian sack, walks across a dirt floor and steps out to greet the crisp Ugandan morning.
As always, Magomu has a long hard day ahead of him. It is the height of the coffee season, and he works as a plantation labourer – paid a dismal wage of around a few dollars a week to spend arduous long days in the sun selecting ripe coffee beans by hand.
Ten years ago, the cooperative he works for signed up to certification by a new global organisation that promised to change everything. All the labourers were told of higher wages, new buildings and a better lifestyle. And yet, a decade on, he is paid exactly the same, none of his four children go to school, and the family continues to survive on a single meal a day. But this was meant to be fair? How can a huge organisation within a 20 billion dollar trade afford only a few dollars to a man who actually produces the stuff?
We need a radically different way to grow the coffee industry…