Monday, November 28, 2011

Intern Profile: "Trade, not Aid", My fair trade journey

After watching last week's Third Thursday's film "Black Gold", I was struck with how much the film spoke to my personal journey with fair trade. The film followed a coffee cooperative in Ethiopia and through their trials and tribulations spelled out why fair trade is so important to these farmers. These are the same reasons I support the movement, and I try to follow it everyday. Fair Trade promotes the idea that it is better if people in underdeveloped nations, such as Ethiopia, can get a job that offers a living wage (not just cents a day), benefits, and a social premium the workers can spend on education facilities, health clinics, proper clothes, etc. As stated in the movie, "We need trade, not aid". Like people in the US, the people in poorer nations would like to do an honest day's work for their money; no one likes to feel like they are receiving patronizing charity. Fair Trade institutions allow the farmers in Ethiopia and many others like them build their own infrastructures and build a community they can be proud of.

After the initial screening of the movie, Mr. Tadesse's coffee cooperative was able to get increase the price per pound of their coffee from $1.45 to $2.30

My discovery of fair trade began in high school, around 2004. I was wandering around downtown Salem as I was wont to do, and saw a store that caught my eye. I walked into a Ten Thousand Villages retail store and was hooked. I had heard the term "fair trade" before, but now it became a reality; I was glad there was a form of consumerism that supported the worker and wasn't solely focused on profits. I shopped their whenever I had the money, and when I moved to Colorado for school, was lucky enough to find another shop down the street from my dorm. A couple of years later I moved back to Oregon, and started a degree at Western. As part of my degree, I was required to write a thesis, and wound up wanting to write about Fair Trade. I focused my research into local shops and how they work--and related that to the global movement--and started volunteering at my local Ten Thousand Villages shop in Salem. During my research they became an independent business and changed their name to One Fair World.

Located in beautiful historic downtown Salem, OR

After my research was complete, I was unable to devote much time to volunteering with them, but I tried to promoted fair trade as much as I could. Recently, as I was roaming around job sites, I happened upon a local fair trade retailer who was looking for an intern. After talking with Sarah, it felt serendipitous; I was so happy to be back working around fair trade ambassadors and lucky to work with an independent enterprise.

I've only been an intern with AWAZ for three months, but I have met such amazing, passionate Linkpeople that continue to be an inspiration to me. Sarah Mitts, the wonderful AWAZ founder and entrepreneurial go-getter, shows me that you don't have to be a millionaire to make a difference in other people's lives. She lives and breathes fair trade, and inspires others to do the same. Without her hard work and dedication neither AWAZ nor the Northwest Fair Trade Coalition would be around.
Amy, AWAZ's other intern, inspires me with her courage to leave her job in order to join us, travel the world, and continue her education.
Rafael of Portland's Equal Exchange continues to amaze me with his breadth of knowledge about fair trade other social justice issues, as evidenced by his GREAT talk about fair vs. direct trade after the film the other day!

I hope someday I can be as cool as these people :)
These past three months have been a great reminder to myself about why I am involved in promoting fair trade and why I will continue to support it for the rest of my life.

And just in case the above isn't enough to get you to pledge your support to buy fair trade, let me break it down for you:

Why I support Fair Trade:
  • It is a economically viable alternative to free trade agreements
  • It encourages individual farmers to form democratic coops, which give them the strength, power, and confidence to negotiate better prices for themselves
  • Within the coops, farmers/artisans are encouraged to find their own voice and contribute to the entire process.
  • A large portion of the fair trade movement is devoted to education, and not just for the children of the workers. As seen in "Black Gold", the coffee farmers didn't know how much a kilo of their coffee would be sold for in the US. Without that knowledge, farmers/artisans cannot even begin to compete in the global marketplace. Fair trade institutions address that need directly.
  • Fair trade organizations FTOs) pay a social premium on top of the minimum standard wage. FTOs like Equal Exchange, for example, set a base wage that will be paid to farmers/artisans no matter what the market price is that is always above the minimum wage standard in that country. If the market price goes down, the farmer is still paid that higher price; if the market goes up, the wage paid the farmer goes up with it.
  • Emphasis is put on sustainability, not profits. Sustainability in this case means cultural sustainability, economical sustainability, and environmental sustainability.
  • FTOs empower traditionally disempowered groups, such as women, the disabled, and indigenous populations. It also disallows child labor and any kind of exploitative treatment.
  • FTOs create long-term relationships with their coops/farmers/artisans so that those groups can be confident in a stable, consistent income.

Fair Trade for Life!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Join us for the next film screening "Black Gold" on November 17

WHERE: Equal Exchange, 1033 SE Main, Portland, Oregon

WHEN: Thursday, November 17, 2011

TIME: 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

The Northwest Fair Trade Coalition is featuring “Black Gold” for this month's educational film about Fair Trade and economic justice.

About the Film
Coffee is the second most valuable commodity traded on the global market. It is exported by developing countries to wealthy developed countries, where the majority of the coffee is consumed. Many farmers who grow coffee are paid very low prices and workers in the commodity chain often earn less than a dollar per day in this multi-billion dollar industry.

In spite of increasing prices for retail coffee, prices paid to producers have declined drastically. A small handful of conglomerates who dominate the coffee the market, the world’s wealthiest stock exchanges, and the elite members of the WTO play a significant role in determining prices for the commodity vital to the economy and livelihoods of millions in the developing world.

The producers of “Black Gold” could no longer standby and wait for someone else to tell the story of the dire situation faced by the thousands of families who rely on coffee production. They met a man named Tadesse Meskele whose mission is to find sustainable solutions for coffee farmers in Ethiopia by breaking down the barriers to fair trade and finding buyers around the world who are willing to pay fair prices. Tadesse also wants consumers to understand where their coffee came from and how their consumption choices impact producers.

Tadesse grew up in rural Ethiopia outside of the capital Addis Ababa. His determination to rise out of poverty motivated him to excel in school and gain entrance to a university. Now, he is the general manager of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-operative Union and represents over 100 farm co-ops. His goal is to not only help coffee farmers receive fair prices for production but also to be influential in making the global market work for everyone.


After the film, guests will be invited to participate in a discussion
in which Rafael, from Equal Exchange, will share more about the coffee trade, how it affects farmers and the ethical challenges the industry faces. This is a great opportunity for people of all ages to get educated about where their joe comes from.

He’ll be discussing parallels how non fair trade coffee and fair trade coffee effect farmers around the world and present the facts about:

Fair Trade and Direct Trade Principles - A Primer for the Discussion

Fair Trade Principles (from Green America’s “Guide to Fair Trade”)

Fair Prices - A fair price is set for commodities such as coffee and cocoa to ensure that farmers and producers can: Cover the cost of production; Meet their living needs; Develop and improve their communities.

Empowerment and Self-Sufficiency - Farmers and producers are empowered and self-sufficient by: Creating accountability and transparency; Ensuring farmers have a voice; Giving farmers control of revenue management and community investment funds.

Investment in Community and Cultural Tradition
- Fair Trade prices include a “social premium” for community development and preservation of tradition and culture so that: Projects such as schools, health clinics, and women’s programs are funded; Artisan producers get access to markets for the traditional handicrafts or apparel.

Women’s Participation
- Fair wages paid equally to both men and women encourage women’s leadership in cooperatives and results in: Options to work outside the home; Greater economic independence and less dependence on aid; Additional prosperity for the community.

Friendly Environmental Practices - Encourage farmers and producers to adhere to international standards for environmental protection by: Providing financial incentives and resources for organic farming, water conservation, and education; Using price premiums to install low water consumption irrigation systems, crop rotation programs, and proper waste handling.

Direct Trade (from Counter Culture Coffee’s Direct Trade Certification)

Personal and direct communication - Establish long term relationships with small farmers so that: Buyers and producers collaborate and directly communicate to develop prices; Buyers can assess ecological practices and working conditions; Buyers learn about the people and culture in farming communities.

Fair Prices
- Buyers pay a fair price, set by discussions with growers to ensure: Premium quality; Production expenses are covered.

- Accountability and transparency is established throughout the supply chain so that: Expectations and responsibilities are clearly understood; Financial information is not obscured.

Financial Incentives - Payment above the [fair] floor price encourages and rewards quality in order to: Promote high quality premium coffee; Maintain a high standard for consumers who are willing to pay premium prices for higher quality coffee.


Additional Information: