We, the people for Fair Trade, keep alive the ideal of changing the world from the bottom up, using our purchasing power to mend unfair differences between North and South.
Sounds good, but... who are we actually? Well, to begin talking about the people who support Fair Trade we should start with the first link of the chain:
Whether they are housewives who craft jewelry in their little spare time, be they hired labor on a large estate or small-scale farmers who tend their plot of land, it is the producers who actually are the source of all the goods and products we buy. They deserve our most consideration and regard, as it is they who toil to produce the coffee or chocolate that we easily enjoy every day. Some of them are indigenous people who, thanks to Fair Trade, can keep their traditional way of life. In fact, it was to help impoverished producers in the South, the first people for Fair Trade, that Fair Trade itself was created by...
They were the first people to start the Fair Trade movement back by the mid XX century. Regarding trade, we may consider two roles: importers and distributors.
Importers work with producers on the spot and bring them into the Fair Trade business, supporting them as needed with skills development, financing or whatever is required. Large Alternative Trade Organizations (ATOs) usually act as importers of products and also distribute them. Smaller ATOs tend to be only distributors, sometimes running a World Shop and buying their stuff from larger organizations.
Of course, ATOs may intertwin with another one and be importers of one product and distributor of another good which they may purchase from another ATO. Some of the people who work for ATOs are hired by them and some others are...
|two volunteers in Australia. Photo from Oxfam|
One may believe that volunteers are really the people for Fair Trade, as we can be the only ones who do not obtain any income from this trade. As of October 2006 there were an estimated 100.000 of us, only in Europe, and I guess that the number is growing.
To support Fair Trade we may work a shift at a World Shop, help tiding and updating the website, look for new items to sell, do some book-keeping, take part on any promotion event, raise awareness, etc.
When you spend several hours at any Fair Trade event, handling out leaflets, explaining what your merchandise is, offering free cookies to visitors... at the end of the day you get some feet ache but, above all, a warm feeling of doing what is right: promoting a change in how we use economic relations among ourselves, making them more humane.
Well, altough we occasionally may feel important, sometimes the key work is that of...
Yes. How do we know that any item is a Fair Trade one?... well, because someone tells us so. It is the certifiers who actually grant a label to a product or to an ATO so that when we see that seal we can know that there is no unfairness trail behind that product.
Unluckily for them, as Fair Trade grows there are some new situations which do not have an easy or unique right answer who pleases everybody, like the certification of plantations. Certifiers are at the heart of the tensions inside the Fair Trade movement, as most of the time it is they who says what is Fair Trade and what isn't. Their decisions can largely influence the future of this Alternative Commerce.
However, after all, who can keep alive a business? ...
Of course. No customers, no trade, be it Fair or not. Everytime you purchase any Fair Trade product, you are doing your share to increase fairness in global trade, taking out a little of power from WTO and large transnationals, who have shaped the current status. Believe it or not, you make a difference when you choose to buy a Fair Trade item. You, customers, are the people for Fair Trade, and, besides you, there are some...
like some official institutions that have formally declared their support for Fair Trade. The most spread are the Fairtrade towns, where the Town Council passes a resolution supporting Fair Trade there and commiting to it. Also, the European Union Parliament and the UK Parliament both had expressed a similar support. BTW, ever heard of a Fair Trade football club?
Whatever role you find yourself to be in, I very much appreciate your contribution.
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