| Fair Trade. Two simple words, one life-altering concept.
When I volunteered in rural Ecuador a few years ago, I met someone who showed me the simplicity and the importance of fair trade.
His name was Fredy, and he was the talk of the village. He was a farmer who not only managed to provide for his family in the tiny, poor village of about 150 people, but he also provided jobs for several other people in the village. The other original thing about Fredy was that he was the only fair trade/organic farmer I had met in the region. In a place where terms like “fair trade” and “organic” were barely known, this farmer swore by them.
This village was full of people struggling to survive, looking for work, and trying to farm enough food to feed their families, but Fredy’s farm was providing enough food for himself, his family, and for sale, and he was creating jobs. It was very impressive to see someone managing to support himself in such a tough economy in an isolated, poor area, and also helping the community.
Many people even in Canada still do not understand what the term “fair trade” means. [In fact, they often incorrectly use the term interchangeably with “free trade”, which, of course, is a completely different notion, not based on fair trade principles at all.] Fair trade certified products have been grown in a sustainable way, without exploiting the people who grow them and craft them, and without exploiting the land. It is about paying people fair wages for their work, so that they can support themselves and take care of their families, and about leaving a healthy world for future generations. Fair trade products are generally made in the global South, in developing countries where poverty is a pressing issue, and people are often exploited and paid unbelievably low wages for their hard work. Many people work almost all day long every day, and still don’t have nearly enough money to support themselves. Fair trade is an effort to change this.
Fair trade can include a wide range of products for sale such as: coffee, chocolate, sugar, tea, bananas, cotton [clothing], wine, fruit, flowers, gold, handicrafts and accessories.
Fredy is not the only inspiring farmer promoting fair trade in the global South. In Honduras, some members of the Fredericton YMCA had the opportunity to meet some of the producers of a blend of Just Us! fair trade coffee, which is sold at YMCAs across Atlantic Canada as a fundraiser to support the programming of the Honduras YMCA (in Fredericton, New Brunswick, it is also sold at the YMCA’s fair trade shop,Cultures Boutique ). These volunteers had the chance to actually see where this Honduran Solidarity Blend is produced, meet some of the farmers who worked there, and learn first hand about the whole process of making fair trade coffee. The attention to detail and quality was absolutely amazing, they said, and the importance of sending only the very best coffee to Canada was of the utmost importance.
While the Y volunteers were at the coffee plantation where the Just Us! coffee was produced, they met a farmer who said that he used to swear by conventional farming practices, and used to think that organic, fair trade farming was far inferior to the way he did his work. He farmed in the conventional way for years, until he realized that conventional farming was not only destroying the land, but it was killing his coworkers. His friends and family who worked with him began to fall ill, and some eventually died. He eventually decided that his work was putting him in danger, and that it was time to make a change. He switched to fair trade, organic farming, and was shocked to find out that now only was it healthier, but it also grew superior coffee! At the cooperative where he now works they grow their coffee plants in the shade of large trees (often orange trees) which is an efficient way of growing the plants without needing to add chemicals to make them grow. This man is now a devout fair trade/organic farmer who says he would never go back to conventional processing using pesticides. A perfect spokesperson for fair trade farming, he has demonstrated that even the most devoted conventional farmers can see the benefits of fair trade, if they are just given a chance.
Fair trade coffee is just one of the many products that can be purchased at Cultures Boutique, the YMCA of Fredericton’s ethical trade fundraising program. You can also find fair trade clothing, home decor, jewellery, notebooks and much, much more! The best part about shopping at Cultures (apart from the unique and beautiful products) is that you can shop there knowing that what you buy has been made in a sustainable way, and your money is helping to support people in developing countries instead of exploiting them. As a non-profit store run by the YMCA, it also provides funds for important projects in underprivileged communities.
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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.
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