In consciously choosing to purchase certified fair trade products, we become agents of positive change and join others in a lifelong commitment to build a better future for all of us, and generations to come.
"You can see every cup counts, every pound makes a difference, every purchase matters. In consciously choosing to purchase certified fair trade products, we become agents of positive change and join others in a lifelong commitment to build a better future for all of us, and generations to come."
This is what my colleague Susy Alvarez wrote about her visit to the community of Yasica Sur in Nicaragua. Yasica Sur is one of the many communities that make up CECOCAFEN, a coffee co-operative in Nicaragua that we have been purchasing our fair trade organic green coffee beans from for over nine years now.
As a fair trade coffee roasting company and a member of Co-operative Coffees, we have had the opportunity to visit several of our producer-partners throughout Central and South America. We can indeed see and hear first-hand the difference fair trade makes to farmers, their families, their communities, and their futures. The interconnectedness of the health of the planet and the people who depend on it is clear.
In recent years the term "fair trade" has become much more widely known in Canada thanks to the efforts of fair trade consumers, businesses, Transfair Canada (the certification body for fair trade), and non-profit organizations such as Oxfam. To this point, it has been associated primarily with coffee and more recently with cocoa. While this has served as an important focus for consumer understanding and education about fair trade, I think we are ready to broaden our focus and deepen our understanding of fair trade as a paradigm shift, in terms of how we relate to one another and the planet.
What's Meant by "Fair Trade"?
The focus of fair trade is on bringing attention to small producers-farmers, crafts people, and those who produce any variety of goods and services. Fair trade supports them in democratically organizing and creating access to world markets.
It is about paying a fair price and embarking on long-term business relationships in order to increase stability and understanding between producers and consumers. It supports business people who make an investment in sustainable business and environmental practices. Essentially, fair trade flies in the face of the current trend to globalization that says big is better, prefers the individual over the community, and ultimately concentrates wealth and power in the hands of a few transnational corporations.
Profit is the only rule within this system. Clean air, water, food, and shelter are understood only as commodities to be owned, priced, and sold. We see the effects of globalization right here at home with our own farmers and small producers.
It may sound tired, but it is true that as business people and as consumers we can make a difference in the choices we make. Large corporations do listen to consumer demands when they are loud enough-witness the sudden "commitment" to fair trade made by several large coffee corporations. Observe the continuing presence in our communities of independent, small, alternative, and fair trade businesses. They need your support.