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The Plight of African Coffee Farmers; Ugandan Reporter Wins African Journalist of the Year Award

Aired July 28, 2007 - 12:30:00   ET


FEMI OKE, HOST: Hello, I'm Femi Oke. And you're watching INSIDE AFRICA, coming to you this week from the gorgeous grounds of the Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Now, it was here that Nelson Mandela stayed after he was released from prison, and it's one of Oprah's favorite places to stay in Johannesburg. And just last week, President Bill Clinton was back here, staying for a couple of nights. Home to the rich and famous, and for one week only, INSIDE AFRICA.

On this week's show, we ask why when coffee can cost as much as $6 a cup, African farmers only get a few cents of the profit. But also, we're checking out some of the continent's finest journalists as they gather for the CNN Multi-choice African Journalist of the Year Awards.

But we start the show in Senegal, where Latin American drug dealers are finding a very convenient stop-over as they're trying to get their drugs from Latin America into Europe. Jonathan Miller has that story.


JONATHAN MILLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They call it kisa (ph). We call it crack. And when a cocaine epidemic hits a dirt poor African country, we're all in trouble.

Throughout West Africa, cocaine shipments heading towards Europe are ceased on an almost daily basis now. The largest recent haul here, in Senegal. Britain's Serious Organized Crime Agency has identified what it calls "the increasing threat" posed by Colombian trafficking groups shipping through West Africa. Other Western intelligence sources admit to having been shocked and blindsided by the sheer scale of the trafficking.

The regional head of the United Nations Narcotics Agency says recent seizures are down to luck, not good intelligence.

ANTONIO MAZZITTELLI, U.N. OFFICE ON DRUGS AND CRIME: This year, we have had already several tons of cocaine seized in West Africa or coming from West Africa. Most of the big drug seizures that we have recorded recently have been the results of the mechanical failures. A boat abandoned on the shore, or an airplane were to make an emergency landing.

MILLER: These 50 bales of Colombian cocaine found on an abandoned boat off the Senegal coast this month. This represents a tiny fraction of a vast tonnage now being shipped northwards from West Africa's drugs nexus further down the coast. It's the worst trafficking problem we've ever encountered on the continent, one European agent told me.

In the space of just four days, they seized nearly 2.5 tons of pure cocaine here. That's more than 2,000 packets like this. What you see here, a street value of maybe 15 million pounds. And that's just half of it.

Senegalese police, funded by Europe's border guards Frontex found the boat while out looking for illegal migrants. It has developed engine trouble. Its occupants jumped overboard and swam ashore.

They caught them. Three Latinos, who've been living in Senegal for more than a year. And raids on two local houses, which netted another 50,000 cocaine. These are the foot soldiers; the two big fish got away. But the police got their passports, and Hollywood-style cocaine cartel paraphernalia -- guns, ammo, night vision sites, SIM cards for mobile networks across West Africa and South America.

Europe's designer drug of choice is now enslaving Africans, with parts of West Africa now awash with the overspill of an unknown tonnage of all this cocaine, on its way north to the night clubs of London, Madrid, Amsterdam and Paris.

This is not just an African problem.


OKE: And that was Jonathan Miller, reporting from Senegal. For more now on the fight against drug dealing in Africa, Jim Clancy spoke to Antonio Maria Costa. He's a senior United Nations official in charge of fighting drugs and crime.


ANTONIO MARIA COSTA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNODC: The -all of the continent is coming under attack, but especially West Africa, vulnerable as it is, from traffickers bringing into that part of the continent cocaine from the Andean countries, especially from Colombia, obviously for transshipping it to Europe. It's the main market now of cocaine.

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that's in West Africa. How about East Africa?

COSTA: East Africa is coming under equal attack from traffickers who are bringing heroin and opium, the product with the drugs which are produced in Afghanistan, and then through Iran and especially to Pakistan, into the Horn of Africa. And therefore, into Somalia, Kenya, Eritrea and so forth. So, the continent is under attack from both sides.

CLANCY: What effect does it have? These are transit routes. It's going on to Europe, it's going on to other destinations. But what's the effect on Africa itself?

COSTA: Dramatic. As is our experience, as the United Nations Office against Drugs and Crime, we have experienced that when new trafficking routes are developed, traffickers pay the locals with money, yes, but especially with drugs, which are then sold domestically.

We should all remember that Africa has been a pristine continent from the vantage point of drugs -- no cultivation, no demand, no consumption. But now, of course, the Africa risks facing very dramatic drug addiction threat because of traffickers' role there.

CLANCY: Why are the traffickers targeting Africa, whether it's coming from the Near East, or whether it's coming from Latin America? Why pick Africa?

COSTA: There are two basic reasons. First, globally, we have been very successful in fighting drug trafficking from Colombia and Latin America in general. In 2006, we have seized almost 50 percent, almost half of the entire production of cocaine. So, the traditional routes have been very heavily patrolled. The traffickers have been looking for new routes.

And second, of course, the vulnerability of Africa, because of the poverty, because of lack of infrastructure, (inaudible) infrastructure, lack of border control. Obviously, corruption - all of that is causing the two factors merging into new routes, and a very difficult one for us now to control.

CLANCY: What must the international community step up and do in this situation?

COSTA: Well, first and foremost, we're talking about some of the poorest countries in the world. The key country there, as most affected by drug trafficking is the Guinea-Bissau. We need better border control, so we have to provide them equipment. Last time, they tried to -a hot (ph) pursuit, but the police ran out of gas and only seized only a few kilos, while we knew that there were tons in the trucks they just abandoned.

We need to build government structures. There are no prisons in Guinea- Bissau. There are therefore -- there is no way that the administration of justice can function. And above all, we need to remove corrupt government officials and army, a few people. There are generals in the army of Guinea-Bissau in particular involved in the trafficking. Senior officials in some neighboring countries have been arrested, or in any event, we know they should be prosecuted for being involved. All of this is quite serious.


OKE: That was the United Nations' Antonio Maria Costa talking to Jim Clancy.

Now, coming up on INSIDE AFRICA, we ask why high coffee prices in the West leave most African farmers with just small change for profits. Stay with us.



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Production is about to get under way on the XO -- a low-cost, no-frills laptop. Earlier this month, Intel joined forces with the One Laptop Per Child organization. The first models of the XO should be available for children in developing countries by October, at a price tag of about $170.


OKE: Hello again. You're watching INSIDE AFRICA, from the Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg. Now, next time you sit down and have a cup of coffee.

Thank you very much! Thanks, Bridget (ph).


OKE: Have a think about this: The world coffee market is dominated by just a handful of major players. It maximizes corporate power, but at the same time leaving the farmer who actually grows the crop very little to show for their efforts. But as Christian Purefoy reports from Kenya, things are starting to change.


CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Quality control for Kenya's gourmet coffee - juicy blackberry, citric grapefruit. Whatever the description, Kenya's tangy-tasting coffee ranks with the best in the world. But it's not just the taste that matters in the gourmet market.

DIRK SICKMUELLER, TAYLOR WINCH (COFFEE), LTD.: It really goes down in the end to the final buyers of small, medium size roasting companies, who have also developed a relationship with farmers in a particular area, and value not only the beans, but also where the beans come from.

PUREFOY: According to the National Coffee Board, the coffee trade supports about 5 million people in Kenya. As Starbucks and other companies expand to specialty coffee market, demand for gourmet coffee has grown. This should translate into bigger bank accounts for coffee farmers, but they complain they have not seen the benefits.

Meine is worried that his current income will not be enough to send his children to school.

MEINE, COFFEE FARMER: We got good coffee, but depressed (ph) the prices, or no good prices. It doesn't really pay to be on coffee, to do (inaudible). It's not a career, I could say I'm a coffee farmer, I'm a small scale coffee farmer, and to live on that.

PUREFOY: So who is profiting? Experts say it's the string of middlemen involved in moving the beans from farms to consumers in the West.

SOLOMON WAWERU, COFFEE BOARD OF KENYA: The coffee contributes globally to a business of more than $70 billion U.S. dollars. And a producing nation, our nation, take $5.5 billion U.S. dollars.

So we're working to transferring those benefits not only to the producing nations, but also, in particular, to the growers.

PUREFOY: How are they doing that? In the past few years, the Kenyan government has began opening up its coffee market, so buyers can deal more directly with small growers. That should help cut out the middlemen, and ensure farmers receive their full share, which experts say should be 80 percent of the auction value of their coffee.

In the meantime, Meine hopes one day, he won't just be counting beans.

Christian Purefoy, CNN, Kenya.


OKE: The documentary "Black Gold" follows the coffee trail from producer to market. It shows poorly paid workers in the field, while the big players earn huge profits. Andrew Kerry has more.


ANDREW KERRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you're grabbing a quick cappuccino in rush hour, or unwinding with a leisurely latte, you may be one of millions, unaware of exactly where your coffee comes from. But whether it's freeze- dried Kraft, or a freshly brewed Starbucks, the actual growers of our regular caffeine kick see only a fraction of the $80 billion a year industry that is coffee.

NICK FRANCIS, CO-DIRECTOR, "BLACK GOLD": So, when you buy a cup of coffee for $3, a farmer is getting less than three cents. And it's that dramatic gap that's pushing farmers into bankruptcy.

KERRY: Nick Francis and his twin brother Marc have produced "Black Gold," a documentary film about the coffee trade. "Black Gold" follows Tadesse Meskela, manager of the Oromo (ph) Coffee Farmers Union as he tries to protect the livelihood of 74,000 struggling workers, in the birthplace of coffee - Ethiopia.

Consumers International, a global group representing consumer concerns, say major coffee companies must become much more responsible corporate citizens by endorsing the so-called fair trade movement, which guarantees farmers higher prices and encourages eco-friendly farming methods.

LUKE UPCHURCH, CONSUMERS INTERNATIONAL: The big coffee companies, like Nestle, like Sara Lee, like Kraft - we're not seeing them really embracing things like fair trade certification. There is a sense that they are trying to use these from the marketing points of view, but we're not seeing genuine long-term mainstreaming of these - of these kind of initiatives.

KERRY: Major coffee companies have accused the documentary of being one- sided. Starbucks issued a statement saying, "Although "Black Gold" raises important issues, we believe it missed an opportunity to show efforts such as ours, as well as other approaches companies and organizations are using, to try to address these global, industry-wide issues."

FRANCIS: There are four major multinationals who dominate the global coffee industry. Pushes prices down, they have no real stake.

KERRY: At one point, "Black Gold" shows workers at the bean sorting plants who are paid around 50 cents a day. A sobering thought when the prize of a latte can reach up to $6, and up to 2 billion cups are sold every day.

Andrew Kerry, CNN, London.


OKE: For more insight into the global coffee trade, Jim Clancy spoke to Tex Dworkin. She's the manager of the Global Exchange online fair trade store.


TEX DWORKIN, GLOBAL EXCHANGE: The major difference between fair trade coffee and general coffee that's on the market is not the taste. The flavor is just the same, the quality is the same. The difference is that the producers behind that product are being fairly compensated. You see huge differences in a fair trade cooperative that's selling our coffee at fair trade prices. They're enabled to build schools, and wells, and health clinics, whereas a village right next door that's selling the same exact product, the same quality, that's not receiving fair prices on that product, has children that are working in the fields with no shoes on, instead of being educated. And they have farmers that are breathing in chemical pesticides that are destroying their own health, as well as the health of the environment. So, the consumers have an interest ...

CLANCY: Just to make it clear here ...

DWORKIN: Pardon me?

CLANCY: Just to make it clear here - what you're saying is, you cut out the middlemen, the profits then go to the actual growers, the people who work, that harvest it locally. But is there a risk that some company will use this just as a marketing ploy?

DWORKIN: If you see a fair trade logo on a product, there are stringent criteria that go into ensuring that that product is meeting the criteria. There is - it's a guarantee to consumers. So if you see a fair trade product, I can tell you that the farmer that produced that coffee was paid $1.26 per pound at minimum. It never dips below that, regardless of the fluctuation of coffee prices in the market, which right now is around $1.07 (ph). So, if you are concerned as a customer, you want to buy coffee, but you want to make sure that you're drinking coffee not at the expense of others or the environment, a great way to do that is fair trade. Fair trade is about fair treatment.

CLANCY: All right. You know. I worry about the price, because if you look at my grocery store shelf there, the coffee doesn't even cost half as much as it does -- you know, I want to help people out, but is a lot of this just a donation? What's going on?

DWORKIN: It's not charity. If you want to buy fair trade coffee, you're going to make sure that the amount of money that you're spending is actually going back to the farmers.

And believe it or not, it's a misconception that fair trade costs more. In fact, fair trade coffee prices are comparable to other gourmet and retail coffee prices that are currently in the market.


OKE: That was Tex Dworkin, talking to Jim Clancy.

Another reason why INSIDE AFRICA is in South Africa -- they're the cream of the crop of African journalists in the continent. Stay with us for the CNN Multi-choice African Journalist of the Year Awards. It was quite a party.


OKE: Welcome back to the Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg. That's where we're bringing you INSIDE AFRICA from this week.

Now, it's 12 years old and now one of the most prestigious journalism competitions in the whole of Africa. The CNN Multi-choice African Journalist of the Year Awards attracted a record number of entries. Last weekend, the finalists gathered in Cape Town. Isha Sesay reports.


ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A celebration of the best in African journalism -- the Annual CNN Multi-choice African Journalist Awards were held in South Africa this year. More than 500 guests attended the glitzy ceremony at the Cape Town International Convention Center. The host for the night - CNN International's Jonathan Mann and Nothemba Mdumo from ETV.

NOTHEMBA MDUMO, ETV ANCHOR: Welcome to our continent. And especially our beautiful Cape Town city.

SESAY: The 26 finalists came from throughout Africa.

NOLE BETELE, CEO, MULTI CHOICE, SOUTH AFRICA: And these awards, they don't only highlight excellence in journalism, but also they provide a platform for the media in Africa to network.

SESAY: The first of the night's awards went to Albert Gachiri and Steven Mwei for their report on silk farming in Kenya. The award categories included print, radio, photography and television. According to the judges, the winners succeeded in telling the continent's stories in an uniquely fresh and engaging way.

The night's top honor for African journalist of the year went to Richard Kavuma of Uganda. Kavuma works for the "Weekly Observer" newspaper, and bagged the prize for his series of articles on Uganda's approach to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. It was his second award of the night after claiming the M.K.O Abiola Print Journalist Award earlier.

RICHARD KAVUMA, AFRICAN JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR 2007: And I want to dedicate this to all journalists in Africa, who see their profession as a voice of the voiceless.

SESAY: Isha Sesay, CNN, Johannesburg.


OKE: Congratulations to Richard, and all of the winners.

And that wraps up our show from the Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa. Thank you very much for watching. I hope to see you INSIDE AFRCA again next week. Until then, take care.