Ed Carswell films a coffee farmer in Nicaragua. Photo by Heyling Chavarria

Ed Carswell films a coffee farmer in Nicaragua. Photo by Heyling Chavarria

Island filmmaker documents origins of fair trade coffee

Comox Valley’s Ed Carswell spent several weeks in Nicaragua

Ed Carswell is in the process of condensing 12 hours of video into a film about fair trade organic coffee made in Nicaragua.

The Comox Valley filmmaker spent several weeks this year in the Central American country, two of them filming near the mountain town of Matagalpa, the closest city to the source of World Community coffee.

Carswell hired a translator to assist with interviews. Their first stop was the tiny town of Pancasan, where the biggest building is the co-op.

“It’s in the middle of the jungle, all kinds of coffee plants, banana trees and howler monkeys waking up at 5 a.m.,” said Carswell, a part-time co-ordinator at the Courtenay-based World Community. “They also had cattle there. The challenge became which way to point the camera.”

From there, he ventured to the larger town of Dalia.

“About half of World Community coffee comes from the co-op in Pancasan and the other half from the co-op in Dalia. It seems to be that one of the reasons these co-ops are doing well is they can take more than one product there.”

By belonging to a co-op, Carswell said that farmers receive a better price, and take comfort in knowing they have a consistent buyer.

“Hopefully that model is going to keep farmers a lot more secure. The coffee business is pretty cut-throat, and farmers don’t make a cent. There’s so many commodities that are paying the bare minimum of survival for the people who are growing our food. That’s why the fair trade initiatives are important.”

Proceeds from coffee sales support the co-ops and health care in Nicaragua. Since 1999, World Community has been donating $10,000 to $12,000 a year to Atencion Primaria en Salud (APS), a non-profit designed to improve the availability and quality of primary health care in the country. About 250 community health workers provide service to 195 rural communities.

Carswell hopes to produce a short version of his film to promote the coffee. A longer version will look at the success of the co-ops. This fall, he intends to have completed a film for the screening committee to consider for the next World Community Film Festival — the organization’s flagship event, which screens documentary films that focus on environmental and social justice issues.

Other films by Carswell include 24 Hour Drum and Seeking Wisdom, both of which have screened in previous festivals.

FMI: carswellfilm.ca and www.worldcommunity.ca