Fair trade products are becoming increasingly visible in shops across the globe. Common Fair Trade products such as coffees and bananas can be spotted in food shops globally.
Typical Fair Trade products are food items such as bananas, coffee, honey, tea, oranges, cocoa, cotton. Also some spices and wines are included under the Fair Trade food label. Fair Trade also covers handicraft products under the label. Items such as hand woven baskets, detailed linens and handcrafted jewelry can be found on sustainability-focused web shops.
Fair Trade farms are increasingly offering the possibility for travellers to tour the farm, meet the farmers and watch the handicrafts being made. As a large part of spreading the word about the need for sustainable business practices is information sharing with the public, giving an education through ecotours on these fair trade farms is an important part of the Fair Trade success.
What is Fair Trade?
The Fair Trade product label may seem familiar. People see it often in the food shops, cafés and specialised handicraft shops. But do we really know what the Fair Trade label actually means?
The World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) defines fair trade as “a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South.”
How Fair Trade works?
Fair Trade products charge a fair trade price, which is then distributed along the production line to pay producers with a stable living wage and to also ensure that the work environment is safe and clean.
Why Fair Trade was started
The Fair Trade foundation was started in 1992. However, the Fair Trade movement began in the United States in the 1940’s when a group of consumers got together and began purchasing needlework handicraft from Puerto Rico. This eventually spread to trading with poor communities in South America. The movement began in order to shine a light on “trade injustices and imbalances of power in the conventional trade structures.” (WTFO) One important fact to remember is that the Fair Trade foundation is a separate entity from the World Fair Trade Organization.
In 1958, the first fair trade shop opened in the United States, which sold these products sourced from poor communities in South America. This Fair Trade movement occurred almost simultaneously in Europe during the 1960’s with UK sales of handicrafts from Chinese refugees and Dutch sales of cane sugar.
Why is Fair Trade important?
It has been shown that small-scale producers are among the most marginalised by the system of trade. Fair Trade works to reduce this marginalisation by empowering small producers and supporting fair and sustainable business practices. One example of this is the cocoa farm workers in Africa. There has been repeated circumstances of child labour, unfair working hours, wages with women workers cited as making an estimate 23 cents per day. Cramped living conditions, lack of adequate medical care and high performance pressure all contribute to the exploitation of the affected cocoa farm workers. Fair Trade is important not only because of the quality of the good, but because of the quality of the treatment of workers which includes: being paid a living wage, clean and safe working conditions, empowerment of farmers, workers and fishermen, to protect the environment and in general to show support to responsible companies. Making the purchasing decision to purchase Fair Trade products, shows the consumer support for responsible businesses as well, and helps to draw attention from those businesses which are not utilising sustainable business practices – that the consumer is purchasing products from companies which take care of the workers along the entire line of production. The Fair Trade website cites that there are currently over 1,7 million farmers and workers which are now involved in the Fair Trade sustainable production practices.
According to WFTO, “Fair Trade Organisations have a clear commitment to Fair Trade as the principal core of their mission. They, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.”.
Fair Trade tours
One can also consider ecotours as a fair trade service. As travel and tourism are services and ecotourism is a form of tourism in which the financial benefits as well as other benefits of the ecotour activities are directed back into local communities. Since Fair Trade makes a priority of empowering small communities, it is only a natural pairing for Fair Trade and ecotourism to partner together for maximum benefit to the local areas and small producers. With that in mind, it is good to know that Fair Trade farms are opening for tours, or even participation via village stays in farm areas, Fair Trade tours are a great and fun way to learn about the production or farming practices, speak to the workers and enjoy a day doing a special and sustainable activity which helps the local communities.
Fair Trade tours are possible in the locations of the Fair Trade farms in most cases. Fair Trade producers operate in 73 countries and territories around the globe. If the traveller is in the areas of Central/South America, India, some locales in Asia or Africa the possibilities of Fair Trade tours are more likely, as fair trade has a focus in these areas.
One example of a Fair Trade ecotour is the 11 day South Africa Fair Trade explorer tour which starts off in Cape Town and travels to fair trade farms and vineyards, wildlife sanctuary’s, takes sustainable biking tours and all accommodations are ecolodges or eco hotels. At the Fair Trade vineyard, travellers are able to learn about the Fair Trade wines and how they are made.
In summary, Fair Trade ensures that farmers, producers, fishermen are treated in a fair and humane manner. Purchasing items with the Fair Trade label, may cost a small amount more, but it is worth it for the peace of mind that your purchase is a guilt-free one. Supporting sustainable businesses via purchases, tourism or spreading the word are all good ways to contribute to the betterment of business practices as a whole. This purchasing decision is a small choice that each of us makes and counts a lot to make a demand from businesses for fair treatment of workers and with enough consumer demand, it can eventually to lead Fair trade to be a principal form of trade.
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