The month of October brought more than just changing foliage to the Case campus. Thanks to the Weatherhead Net Impact chapter, it also brought an awareness of the growing Fair Trade movement emerging around the world. In support of the second annual Fair Trade month, Net Impact hosted a presentation on October 6th that brought together both an array of individuals associated with various Fair Trade associations as well as a sample of Fair Trade items from coffee to chocolate to artisan handicrafts.
To kick off the event, Lauren Friedman of TransFair , -- a nonprofit organization and the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States -- gave a brief history of Fair Trade, which began in 1988 in Holland. As defined by TransFair, Fair Trade is:
an innovative, market-based approach to sustainable development which helps family farmers in developing countries to gain direct access to international markets, as well as to develop the business capacity necessary to compete in the global marketplace. By learning how to market their own harvests, Fair Trade farmers are able to bootstrap their own businesses and receive a fair price for their products. This leads to higher family living standards, thriving communities and more sustainable farming practices.
Lauren noted that today Fair Trade has spread to 19 consumer and 60 producer countries, including products such as cacao, fruit, tea, sugar, rice and coffee and benefits more than 1.1 million farmers and families benefiting world wide.
To help bring the issues of Fair Trade to life, Lauren introduced Jovanny Coronel, a farmer from Ecuador. Mr. Coronel is the Treasurer of the Asociacion de Perquenos Productores Bananeros “El Guabo,” a 350-member association of small-scale banana producers in southern Ecuador. El Guabo was established in 1997 so that its members could benefit from Fair Trade. Mr. Coronel is also the president of the Association of Artisan Farmers of Pasajel, an affiliate of El Guabo which is a farmer-run organization made possible from the revenue of Fair Trade. As Lauren translated Mr. Coronel’s remarks from his native tongue into English for the audience, he shared his personal story of how Fair Trade has impacted his organization and local community. For example, he has seen the price he receives for a box of bananas increase from $1.20 to $4.00 – this and other benefits of Fair Trade have resulted in increased household incomes in his community, farmers able to access affordable credit and better healthcare and education available among the farmers and their families. In his own words, “Fair Trade has improved our members and farm workers’ standard of living. We now have the resources to help the community and conserve the environment.”
Following Mr. Coronel’s provocative story, Rich Aronson from Equal Exchange continued the presentation by giving a brief overview of his organization. Founded in 1986, Equal Exchange is the oldest and largest for-profit Fair Trade company in the US, offering organic, gourmet coffee, tea, sugar, cocoa, and chocolate bars produced by democratically run farmer co-ops in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Next, Lisa Dunn gave a brief overview of the Inter-Religious Task Force-- a Cleveland-based interfaith group that promotes peace and human rights in Central America and Colombia. Among the other work that this group does, Lisa highlighted their efforts to promote “SweatFree” clothes, or clothing not produced in sweat shops. Vist SweatFree to read more about their work or to see where to buy SweatFree clothes.
Linda Worthington from Ten Thousand Villages rounded out the presentation with an overview of her organization. Similar to Equal Exhange’s business model of partnering with local farmers to offer fair wages, Ten Thousand Villages partners with artisans who depend on the international market for sustainable employment and offers a Fair Trade price to them for their handicrafts.
Visit TransFair for more information about where to buy Fair Trade items.
 Definition from: http://www.transfairusa.org/content/about/overview.php
By Lindsey Godwin