Most people are familiar with the term Fair Trade, but not too familiar with the direct and enormous impact Fair Trade has on the lives of the farmers who produce the countless goods we use on a daily basis. By purchasing Fair Trade certified products like sugar, honey, coffee, tea, and fruit, consumers help improve the lives of farmers and their families in developing countries.
What exactly is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade is a market-based approach that allows farmers in developing countries to sell their harvest for a fair price. Importers purchase from Fair Trade cooperatives as directly as possible, eliminating unnecessary middlemen and empowering farmers to develop the business skills necessary to introduce their product to more consumers and compete in the global marketplace.
How does Fair Trade benefit farmers?
Because cooperative famers sell their harvest at a fair price they are able to earn a living wage which enables them to support themselves and their families. In addition to receiving a fair price for their harvest, Fair Trade farmer cooperatives receive a Fair Trade premium. These funds must be democratically used by the co-op to benefit the community as a whole. As a member of a Fair Trade cooperative, farmers are given the opportunity to own land, send their children to school, and build thriving communities. The funds are invested in social and business development projects like building school facilities, health care services, quality improvement trainings, and organic certification. For example, Fair Trade sugar and honey premiums have helped bring water, electricity, and education to small villages in Malawi, Mexico, and Paraguay. Workers on Fair Trade farms also enjoy safe working conditions and freedom of association. Child labor, which is common on farms in many developing countries, is also strictly prohibited on Fair Trade certified farms.
Farmer cooperatives who make the decision to become Fair Trade certified must agree to grow crops and produce goods in keeping with specific social and environmental standards. Because farmers receive a fair price for their products, they are able to practice environmentally sustainable farming methods (no harmful agrochemicals or genetically modified seeds) that protect their health, the health of their families, and preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations.
While most people don’t think twice about using Fair Trade sugar or honey to sweeten their Fair Trade coffee or tea, for the farmers who produce these items having a stable economic resource because of Fair Trade, is a direct life line for themselves and their families. For consumers who buy Fair Trade products, they can be sure their purchases are helping improve lives across the world.
When shopping for Fair Trade items look for these two logos:
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