Over 700 natural products retailers are expected to participate in Fair World Project’s 2nd Annual World Fair Trade Day celebration (May 4–18, 2013) sponsored by Alaffia, Alter Eco, Divine Chocolate, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Equal Exchange, Farmer Direct Co-operative and Maggie’s Organics. Participating retailers will feature our sponsors’ products on promotion the first two weeks of May, along with sampling events and screenings of Fair Relationships, a new video that highlights fair trade principles and focuses on small-scale producers, in celebration of this year’s World Fair Trade Day theme, “Fair Trade Relationships.”
This spring, consumers will have a chance to win an all-expenses paid, nine-day Fair Trade Adventure for Two to Peru with Intrepid Travel to visit one of Alter Eco’s fair trade cocoa bean cooperatives and one of Equal Exchange’s fair trade coffee cooperatives, along with cultural highlights like Machu Picchu.
Our fair trade sponsors are donating a percentage of their sales from participating members of the National Cooperative Grocers Association to Root Capital (www.rootcapital.org), a non-profit social investment fund that is pioneering finance for grassroots businesses in rural areas of developing countries.
The World Fair Trade Organization (www.WFTO.com) initiates World Fair Trade Day each May. This global event reaches all corners of the world and is celebrated by consumers, retailers, non-profit organizations, churches, students, producer groups and advocates for fair trade through thousands of hosted events.
Fair trade was created by and for small producers. Since they are the backbone of the global food supply, the guardians of biodiversity and key players in advancing democratic communities, we are highlighting the important work our sponsors are doing by working with them.
Look for these brands at your local grocery store throughout the year and during this joint promotion:
Alaffia is on a journey of social change through fair trade. In 2003, Olowo-n’djo Tchala founded Alaffia as a unique way to empower communities, alleviate poverty and advance gender equality in his home country of Togo, West Africa. Alaffia’s journey began with the creation of the Alaffia Shea Butter Cooperative in Sokodé, Togo. Alaffia believes self-empowerment can only be achieved by mobilizing African resources through a moral process that takes into consideration the environment, cultural knowledge and the involvement of African women. Traditionally-handcrafted shea butter fits these criteria, and since 2003 Alaffia cooperative members have been handcrafting certified fair trade shea butter and other indigenous oils that form the base of Alaffia’s premium body, hair and face care products. The sales of these products provide stable, fair wages for the Alaffia cooperative members and also fund Alaffia’s community empowerment projects throughout Togo.
For Alaffia, fair trade must impact not only the individuals that produce raw materials, but also the communities where they are sourced. Alaffia’s empowerment projects address the severe endemic poverty in Togo by focusing on the environment, education and gender equality. Through the fair trade of their indigenous resources, Togolese women are making real change in their communities.
It’s September in Peru, and the rainy season is about to befall the Amazon rainforest. Air and earth are already rife with moisture. In the town of Juanjui, on the Huayabamba River, 31-year-old Alex Becerra and his ten colleagues tend to saplings in the nursery. The young trees are designed for the Objective Carbon Zero reforestation program that was launched in 2008 by Alter Eco through its partner company Pur Projet, the Amazonia Viva Foundation and the Acopagro Co-op.
The cooperative’s 2,000 farming households have been providing Alter Eco with 450 tons of organic cocoa beans per year. With already one million native trees planted, and at least one million more in the planning, the farmers have come a long way. The United Nations supported them in a conversion program in 1994, after some fifteen years of coca cultivation for the drug cartels.
Two hours up the Huayabamba River southwest of Juanjui, cocoa farmers like Victor Leyva are excited about investing in the diversified revenue stream provided by ecologically-managed lumber: 10% of trees are planted to be sustainably cut and sold. The rest will remain and provide stabilized soils and beneficial shade for the cocoa trees. The restored ecosystem has bolstered tourism and has increased opportunities for local youth, anchoring culture and traditional knowledge for generations to come.
With the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo, the cooperative that owns Divine Chocolate and supplies our cocoa, we’ve placed special focus on the empowerment of women in smallholder production. Family cocoa farmers share the burden of work. But death, illness and desertion by husbands and fathers can leave women and their children highly vulnerable.
Kuapa Kokoo recognized this as a particular challenge and instituted in 1998 the Kuapa Kokoo Gender Program. The program trains women to take part in the cooperative’s leadership. Women learn batik and soap-making skills to generate additional income. Women receiving this training can then access loans through Kuapa Kokoo’s credit union.
The three-pronged approach of building women’s confidence, skills training and access to credit has hugely shaped Kuapa. Today 30% of members are women farmers, and the president of the cooperative is also a woman. Women report that being a contributor to household income ensures more goes to their children’s education and welfare, and it changes the power dynamics in the home as well.
For over 150 years and five generations, the Bronner family has produced unsurpassed soaps and natural body care products. Our late founder, Dr. Emanuel Bronner, espoused his visionary “All-One!” philosophy on every bottle of soap, urging us to realize our transcendent unity across religious and ethnic divides. We strive to honor his mission by doing right by the farmers and workers around the world who produce our certified fair trade and organic ingredients. We also cap executive compensation at five times that of our lowest-paid worker, and dedicate all profits not needed for the company’s operation and growth to charitable and activist causes.
Since 2005, we have invested heavily in fair trade supply chains in order to work directly with thousands of small producers on fair trade terms, in places ranging from Sri Lanka (coconut oil) and Palestine/Israel (olive oil) to Ghana (palm oil) and India (peppermint oil). We or our partners have also set up primary processing operations in these producing communities that employ hundreds more people on fair trade terms in order to produce value-added oil and other products. The widely respected Swiss certifier IMO annually audits and certifies our projects against rigorous fair trade criteria. You can find the latest information on our fair trade mission at: www.drbronner.com.
Twenty-five years ago, Equal Exchange was founded with a simple but powerful idea: what if food could be traded in a way that was honest and fair and that empowered small farmers, consumers and the workers themselves? Today, our 100% fair trade co-operative employs over 100 worker-owners, and trades with over forty-five small-farmer organizations in twenty countries to source fairly traded coffee, tea, chocolate, bananas, olive oil, nuts and snacks.
We are especially proud of our success developing the small-farmer supply chains behind our line of fair trade teas. Globally, as many as fifty million people are involved in the tea trade. After water, tea is the most popular drink in the world, most of which comes from plantations in India, Sri Lanka and East Africa, established during the British Empire. Poor conditions on many of these plantations remain virtually the same to this day. Equal Exchange teas come from farmer co-ops and worker-owned plantations, and our tea sales empower those small-scale farmers and their communities.
“The fruits of development must start from the village and move upwards, rather than the trickle-down approach,” says Dr. Sarath Raneer, Equal Exchange Partner, Biofoods, Sri Lanka.
Farmer Direct Co-operative is 100%-owned by fairDeal organic family farmers. Located across the Canadian prairies, our sixty-three family farms grow fairDeal organic grains such as spelt, rye and barley, legumes such as lentils, peas and pinto beans and oilseeds such as hemp, flax and mustard.
The problems of agriculture — heavy reliance on toxic chemicals, labor exploitation, degradation of land, soil erosion and inefficient and unfair distribution of food, to name a few — will not be solved by governments and multinational corporations, but by family farms and mission-based manufacturers, retailers, NGOs and consumers, showing the way and leading by example. By supporting our fairDeal organic family farm members, through their purchases of the Farmer Direct brand, consumers empower our members through the redistribution of profits back to the family farm gate. This support provides our family farm members with the resources to implement domestic fair trade practices and policies, develop and implement strategies to mitigate climate change, transition more land into organics, increase soil fertility and organic matter through research and experimentation and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. When family farms and conscious citizens begin to work together within a paradigm of mutual support and nutritious food, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.
Maggie’s Organics works with 2,000 family farmers in Nicaragua and another 250 in the Canete Valley of Peru. We have been sourcing organic cotton from both of these groups of cooperatives for over ten years, and we have seen their quality and yields improve year after year. In Nicaragua, we actually joined forces with growers, agronomists and an NGO (Jubilee House Community) to develop a specific variety of cotton that is perfect for their local climate. This has enabled a “new” cotton industry to arise from what were once only ashes, and it is exclusively organic.
Market prices for cotton, like many commodities, vary from year to year, at times wildly. Our prepayments and fair contract pricing have enabled these growers to stay profitable every year, and in turn have allowed us to offer stable, affordable prices on basic cotton socks and apparel to a wide array of North American consumers. To us, this is what true fair trade is all about.
The Fair Trade Resource Network will coordinate specific events in the U.S. on May 4–18, 2013. To find a World Fair Trade Day event near you, visit: www.FTRN.org.