MALONGO colloquia

One of our fundamental commitments: explain how Fair Trade works. We therefore regularly organise conferences and colloquia. Information and brainstorming sessions are open to the public.

Rebellion or a much-needed change?

Marseille, November 2001.
The colloquium Fair trade and coffee: rebellion or a much-needed change brought together:

  • humanitarian associations
  • economic journalists
  • wholesale representatives
  • company heads from countries in the north
  • company heads from countries in the south

Comparison of viewpoints: discussions raised solutions to position fair trade as a real alternative to globalisation.
The texts from the colloquium have been published by Harmattan. On-sale in our on-line boutique.

The colloquium in Marseille:

All of the texts from the colloquium on Fair trade and coffee: rebellion or a much-needed change?  published by Harmattan, are available from the Malongo café on-line shop.

The colloquium in Marseille was not an nth debate between the opponents of globalisation and the supporters of ultra-liberalism. Nor was it a political debate where current powers expressed their good will with regard fair trade.

Objective: report on the significant changes to fair trade today, and on outstanding difficulties.

• Round table n°1: Production

Pierre Massia, described the situation in coffee producing countries. He reminded participants of the difficult conditions and catastrophic figures: a tree produces 2.5 kg of cherries each year, i.e. 400 grams of roasted coffee, or 3 francs of income for the farmer. This has led to coffee plantations being abandoned in some countries in the intertropical belt, and some rare varieties could disappear.

Anne-Marie Fraygefrond described her initiatives in Haiti in recent years. Rural depopulation, the desertion of NGOs, and disastrous political factors have dragged the country down into the depths of destitution. The main victims are children. 7000 street kids, often drugged, including girls working as prostitutes and boys in cartels. Life expectancy is short for all. She referred to the initiatives of France Haiti Partage and Malongo, with their contribution to the development of a care facility at Port au Prince.

Jean-Pierre Blanc, Managing director of Malongo cafés raised the issue of communication. The public is not used to ethical policies being applied by companies. When a roaster pleads for a humanitarian cause, customers are uncertain and question their actions: are their motives purely cynical? Are they engaging in illegal child labour? The advertising campaign launched by Malongo in September 2000 was mentioned. Some parties did not appreciate the ad, and found it misplaced. This proves just how difficult it is to communicate in relation to the new link between commerce and ethics.

Luis Fernando Urrego, In charge of the Central America sector for "Secours catholique", reported on the situation of coffee producing countries in this area. Natural catastrophes are recurrent and the emergency status is permanent: cyclone Mitch (1), earthquakes, volcano eruptions, violent flooding. The figures are overwhelming (2). The radical need to change economic system is clear. Fair trade must become an international standard. This social differential, enables the construction of hospitals, the rebuilding of destroyed accommodation and road networks...

1. November 1998. Malongo deducts two francs per kilo for its coffees sold in large stores. We passed on 266,000 francs to the local Caritas branch of the "Secours Catholique", for its agricultural renovation program.

2. Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua: 1.6 million individuals need humanitarian assistance. The external debt of Honduras has climbed from 3.8 thousand million dollars to 5.5 thousand million dollars. 25,000 families with debt in Nicaragua were obliged to leave their plantations.

• Conclusions for round table n°1

Father Francisco Vanderhoff, Founder of Fair trade, and member of the UCIRI community in Mexico: We are not beggars, we only wish to suggest a more effective market model, where farmers can be proud of their work. A model where human dignity is not swept aside and indigenous status not a ball and chain. The message was loud and clear: (3) Father Van der Hoff was able to make the region to the south of Chiapas a benchmark producing region by sheer tenacity. The UCIRI community currently includes more than 3,200 indigenous citizens in 54 villages. The region produces top quality organic coffee, under the Max Havelaar label, and is present in the leading distribution circuits. This coffee is recognised as a consumer product in its own right.

3. It all started in 1982 when 150 farmers met up in the village of Guevea de Humboldt to analyse the situation.

• Round table n°2: Consumption

What demands do consumers have in terms of fair trade? How is the wholesale sector positioned on this market? What roles should labels play?

Elisabeth Laville, Co-founder and Director of Utopies mentioned the pressure on listed companies. Law (4), and public opinion demand the integration of environmental and social issues. Consumers are now prepared to purchase fair trade products if they are easy to get hold of. The leading stores play an important role in guiding trends. This support helps to bring fair trade out of a marginal position (5), and attenuates the image of a militant trade, inaccessible to the general public.

4. Article 116 of the law on new economic regulations specifies that leading listed companies must now report on the social and environmental consequences of their activities in their annual activity report.

5. Two thousand million individuals currently purchase their products in Carrefour group stores.

Chantal Jaquet: No, this is not marketing, nor is it a fashion; this is a long-term in-depth and tough policy. Only six of the 120,000 products sold in Carrefour stores are fair trade products. These products include one organic coffee developed in 1997 with Malongo and the UCIRI community. (6). Turnover has climbed 35%, despite higher than average prices. Consumers are therefore prepared to purchase a fair trade product, even if the price is slightly higher. However, to obtain the top notch position, the quality of the product must also be top-notch! This policy must therefore necessarily be long and complex.

6. See FAQ enclosed

Victor Ferreira, Director of the Association Max Havelaar France, reminded participants of the history and operating principles of the Max Havelaar label. (7). Created in 1989, when Father Vanderhoff and humanitarian associations attempted to create an economic system supporting small growers in southern growers. The idea: involve as many economic actors as possible and avoid the pitfalls of the parallel market.

What can we say about the French situation? Since the creation of Max Havelaar France in 1993, the difference in figures with Holland and Switzerland remains significant, despite new drive. Public authorities (8) are paying attention to the label, and are providing financial support, and sales of Max Havelaar products are climbing in large stores. Now other distributors simply need to be convinced, financial resources found for advertising and, in France, we need to exceed our 3.5% of European consumption for label products.

7. Cf. Speech by Father Francisco Vanderhoff

8. Max Havelaar received assistance from the European Community, the Ministry of foreign affairs and the Secretary of State for economic solidarity.

• Conclusions for round table n°2

Jean-Pierre Blanc took note that Malongo had provided this guidance in the spring of 2001 with its second national advertising poster campaign (4x3). He explained this communication strategy

• round table n°3: Priorities

Tristan Lecomte, President of PwC Conseil, reiterated the difference between ethics, which relate to working conditions and production, and fairness which relates to sustainable development. Reminder of the extra costs incurred: 1% for ethics, 2% for fairness. Reminder of labels and charters: initiatives are currently multiplying, and we must therefore organise this market on the basis of a unique standard, which does not exclude the poorest growers.

Sylvie Bercy Guyony, economic journalist (le Monde, Capital) raised the role of the media in the development of fair trade. Informing the public and anticipating questions. She reiterated that the idea of fair trade started appearing in articles towards the end of the 1990s, with the appearance of Artisans de Monde stores. The terms fair trade, ethics and sustainable development are currently used in the media on a daily basis, reflecting the media-related change in marketing. This may be a good opportunity to consider the question of extra costs and margins publicly...

• Conclusions to the colloquium in Marseille

Jean-Pierre Bénard, psychoanalyst, concluded and raised some more questions. The notion of other has finally been denied in the ultraliberal system. How does fair trade reverse values? Does this revalorisation of the other not contradict the pleasure of seeking unlimited profits? Yes, fair trade is indeed a philosophy, a lifestyle, a commitment.

Targeting responsible liberalism?

Paris, May 2005, Amphitheatre of the "Jardin des Plantes".
This second colloquium on fair trade Targeting responsible liberalism was sponsored by the Ministry of SME. Its aim:

  • Report on the situation in coffee producing countries and on international trading
  • Demonstrate the coherent and organised response of fair trade to globalisation
  • Discuss the economic, political and financial priorities of solidarity-based products
  • Anticipate questions from consumers

Philosophers, authors, biologists, economists, and political leaders all contributed. In-depth debate emerged on the implications of fair trade in the world economy and on the environment.
The texts from the colloquium have been published by Harmattan. On sale in our online boutique.

The colloquium in Paris:

All of the texts from the colloquium on fair trade: Targeting responsible liberalism published by Harmattan, are available from the Malongo café online shop.

The colloquium in Paris was sponsored by the Ministry of SME, in partnership with the National Natural History Museum. The colloquium was held in the presence of François LOOS, Minister of Foreign Trade, and Christian JACOB, Minister of PME.

Le Jardin des Plantes, a strong symbol in the history of coffee.

The aim: talk to specialists on the environmental, human, social and philosophical issues involved in fair trade. Compare the viewpoints of economists, political leaders, philosophers, the men and women in the field, sociologists and scientists. Report on the significant changes to fair trade today, and on outstanding difficulties.

Preparation: this colloquium is prepared in the spirit of fair trade. Exchange based on dialogue, transparency and respect. The priority is to improve knowledge of practices, and above all, to develop these practices. 

Political actors have proved willing to listen to fair trade arguments, as this approach is economically viable and necessary in ethical and social terms. The support of Jacques Chirac to companies having signed the Global compact, is just one example. Reminder: the UN Global compact is the commitment of companies to good governance.

The exhibition of photographs of Mexican growers around the small greenhouse in the Jardin des Plantes. Erick Bonnier, photographer, gave his impressions:

It is always an adventure to set off on a documentary. This particular project was full of discoveries for me. To begin with, in this region of the world, the land of sombreros and mariachis, the home of Zapata and Marcos, you always set out with loads of clichés in mind!

Sombreros are everywhere under this relentless sun of the sierras. Wild coffee plantations grow under leafy umbrellas. I was expecting to see fields as far as the eye could see, but that is just another cliché. And finally, that man, Father Vanderhoff, the founder of fair trade.

The terms "business" and "fairness" are such paradoxes in this liberal world where we are taught words such as trust, cartel, marketing, … was I capable to imagine a community able to resist the globalisation of the economy, able to combine these two words which give meaning to an entire system of harvesting, trading, taste and lifestyle?

The Father is no Marcos, or a Mexican José Bové, but his "minor revolution" succeeded with weapons known as humility, perseverance and sharing. This is the message I aimed to send out via the images of this magic exhibition on the screens in the Jardin des plantes.

An ethical project working hand in hand with technological progress…

Sophia-Antipolis, May 2006

Fair trade is still subject to one major concern for consumers: product traceability, guaranteed quality and transparency.

Consequently, Malongo presented the large-scale technological project it has developed with the Sophia-Antipolis University in Nice and the State University in Haiti: RFID technology.

Thanks to RFID:

  • consumers will soon be able to obtain key information on the coffee they are holding, from the source tree to the cup. All mobile telephones, equipped with an RFID tag reader, will be able to decode the mini-bar code on the packaging in NFC standard (Near Field Communication).
  • small Haitian growers will receive training on coffee growing and techniques in Creole. This training will be provided remotely, on the plantations, thanks to satellite installations, and shortly via high-speed networks (WIMAX, CDMA EVDO or DVB-H).

> Access the report.