Coffee’s past is deeply shrouded in the terrible history of slavery, which is a reminder of the importance of Fairtrade. This affected countries such as Brazil, Haiti, Barbados, Jamaica, St Dominique, Trinidad and Cuba, amongst others. The huge influx of slaves from Africa completely changed the social make-up of communities. The Haitian Slave Rebellion was a rare victory and many people waited until the abolition of slavery in the European country of their owners to finally be freemen.
One of the key reasons for the demise of England’s coffeehouses and the growth of tea drinking can be linked to the lack of British coffee growing colonies. British shipping companies earned little money from importing coffee, but they made lots from importing tea from India and China. And so began the gradual cultural change from a coffee drinking to a tea drinking nation.
Coffee was first brought to Haiti in 18th century by Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu, on his epic journey from Europe. During this period the Haitians supplied half of the world’s coffee, due to their position as a French colony. However, the plantations were worked by African slaves working in terrible conditions. This influx of people from Africa would change the social and political background in Haiti forever.
The Slave Rebellion of 1791 was a major turning point for Haiti, and, after years of fighting, they finally declared independence in 1804. The outcome of so many years of war was a country in devastation. Agriculture and commerce were almost completely destroyed.
In recent years the coffee industry in Haiti has faced new challenges, not just the one’s facing the worldwide coffee market, but natural disasters and huge deforestation. As a result, Haitian coffee is not grown in plantations, but in coffee gardens alongside other crops. Many farmers have lost the skills and knowledge to grow coffee. However, it continues to be of great importance to the Haitian economy.
For more information about the cooperative we work with in Haiti visit out Fairtrade section of the website.