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Fair Trade- from the jungles of Latin America to the stores of North America Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Samantha, Canada May 6, 2009
Global Citizenship , Globalization , Human Rights , Fair Trade   Opinions


Fair Trade- from the jungles of Latin America to the stores of North America I walked through the jungle that day in June, looking at Freddy’s farm and all it contained. When he proudly showed me his coffee plants, I was unaware that he was one of the few organic certified farmers in this remote area of Ecuador. He then took me to see the cacao plants. That day, in the middle of the forest in the Esmeraldas province of Ecuador, Freddy, a local farmer, taught me how to make chocolate.

I began by harvesting the fruit from the cacao tree, and removing the seeds from the plant. Later, I set the seeds out in the sun to ferment. I removed the outer “shell” of each seed. Then I roasted the cacao over a stove for many hours. Finally, it was time to grind the cacao. Later, I heated the cacao on the stove and added milk and sugar to it. Finally, I had it. My own, hand-made, organic, chocolate. And it was delicious.

Freddy is the only farmer in the Bunche area who not only farms to sustain himself and his family, but also provides jobs to others in the communities. He is also the only farmer in the area who has had his product certified as organic. He is a pillar of the community and is involved in local government, and community development projects done through a local nongovernmental organization. When I met him he was working on a plan to sell his product in the US as Fair Trade chocolate.

While most people in the community of Bunche are struggling to get by, Freddy has been able to support his family, expand his farm, and provide more jobs every year to his friends and neighbours. He says that paying for the expensive organic certification has been worthwhile, since he can then sell his coffee at a higher cost.

Fair Trade ensures fair wages, decent working conditions, improved health and safety standards, job security, respect for the workers, environmental improvements, and the workers having more control over their lives.

People may think that issues of fair trade may not be relevant in their daily lives in whatever city or town they may be from, but at the YMCA, we disagree. The Fredericton YMCA supports fair trade around the world through their International and Social Development Department, and through the Cultures boutique. Cultures is an international gift store that supports fair trade principles. The majority of their products come from community-based cooperatives in Third World countries. Your purchases at Cultures Boutique directly assist craftspeople in the Third World who set their prices at what they feel is a fair exchange for their labour. The proceeds from Cultures go to the projects the YMCA supports around the world.

Many people do not feel that they can make a difference while continuing to go about their daily lives. They think that in order to make a difference in another country, they have to pack up their belongings and backpack around the world, volunteering in poverty-stricken villages along the way. Those efforts can make an impact, but so can making ethical purchases, wherever you may be in the world. Buying fair trade products supports workers and the companies who agree to pay and treat them fairly instead of supporting the organizations that exploit them.

So please think about that the next time you have a cup of coffee, a chocolate bar, or buy an article of clothing. Take the time to think about what your purchase supports before you hand over your money.

Picture, Cocoa Pods, by Medicaster.



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Writer Profile

I am a Canadian who is passionate about helping others. I do international development work in Canada and Latin America, and am always trying to find ways to make a difference in the world.

Its a tough one
Adebayo Waidi Gbenro | Jul 21st, 2009
I really enjoyed reading your piece but the greater challenge was the different feelings and point of views that were struglling within me while reading the piece,i was really touched by the concluding sentences they actually make allot of sense.

The Power in Your Palm
Jen Ward | Jul 29th, 2009
A very well written piece. I love all your imagery and your obvious passion for your topic. The way we spend our money does have power. It is a type of voting. When we buy products, we are voting with our dollars, saying this or that product is worthwhile, this or that company is one I support. If we "vote" without thinking, we could be supporting unsustainable farming practices, unfair labor practices, and worse. That's one of the reasons I chose to live where I do, in America's first Fair Trade town!

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