By Alan Miles
The basic idea of Fair Trade certification isn’t difficult to grasp — guaranteed minimum prices, decent work conditions, and fair wages prevent the exploitation of poor farmers and farm workers. I know that without Fair Trade, farmers often have no other alternative but to take whatever, often small amount is offered for their products while farm workers – some of the most exploited in the supply chain – are often subject to harsh working conditions, discrimination, and other abuses. Fair Trade certification means farmers and farm workers can earn living wages for the crops they grow which in turn helps them support their families. The certification also demands humane work conditions, encourages sustainable farming practices and supports direct trade to eliminate exploitive middlemen.
But for some time, I didn’t really understand the full impact of Frontier Co-op’s support of Fair Trade. Hearing stories from our purchasers who have visited communities that grow our Fair Trade Certified™ spices, herbs and teas, I learned five areas where Fair Trade premiums impact overall communities:
- Education. As I heard the stories of the tea-sourcing trip to rural India a few years ago, I learned that Fair Trade earnings had been used to build a school and fund teacher salaries and scholarships.
- Sustainable energy. Some villages started a reforestation program with Fair Trade earnings, while in another area, a wind farm had been constructed to provide power for the community.
- Health care. A modern hospital — powered by methane gas recovered from animal waste — was built with Fair Trade funds to provide healthcare to tea farm workers and their families in India.
- Local control. How Fair Trade funds are spent varies, as does the structure for making funding decisions. But whether it’s a cooperative of small farmers (as in the case with our Fair Trade Certified spices from Sri Lanka) or a large tea operation with a joint worker-management committee, these decisions are made by people who know the needs of the community best.
- Brighter futures. We know that the people in our supplier communities are working hard for a better future — especially for their children. They want their children’s lives to be better than their own, the same hope we have for our own children. Fair Trade is one way we can help, and that’s a great feeling.
October is Fair Trade Month! Share why you shop Fair Trade in the comments.
About the Author: Alan explores ideas and issues related to a sustainable lifestyle — from cooking and culture to social and environmental responsibility. He enjoys Shakespeare, but not as much as college basketball (Go Hawks!). Alan is a family man, liking nothing better than spending time with his wife of 35 years, his four kids and four grandkids.