Why Care About Fair Trade?

Image courtesy Wikipedia

When it comes to Fair Trade it’s easy to get confused. We’ve heard about Fair Trade on the news, and probably seen it mentioned in the blogosphere tons of times. But, what does Fair Trade actually mean? Why should we try and buy Fair Trade bags and Fair Trade jewelry?

The answer: because Fair Trade changes people’s lives.

What Is Fair Trade?

At heart, Fair Trade is a social movement. It’s a movement to help producers and artisans in developing countries lift themselves out of poverty by paying them significantly more than local companies or sweat shops. In Fair Trade, the “middle man” is usually eliminated, which means the worker or artisan is paid a livable wage.

Often, people in developing nations live on $1 or $2 a day. Sometimes less. I can’t imagine the despair that must grip these people at times. After all, how can you lift yourself out of a terrible situation like this when you’re working all day? How can you afford to better yourself, and your children, when every cent has to go towards food or rent?

It’s incredibly challenging, which is why Fair Trade is so important.

Does Fair Trade Really Work?

The great news about Fair Trade is that it really does work to help reduce poverty and improve entire communities. And, several independent studies have proved this.

In 2007, Michigan State University professor Daniel Jaffee published a 4-year study called “Brewing Justice: Fair Trade Coffee, Sustainability, and Survival”. The study looked at the impact of fair trade on coffee producers in Oaxaca, Mexico.

What’d he find?

Well, his study proved that Fair Trade’s higher prices increased gross household income, reduced debt, and enhanced economic options. Fair Trade workers could afford better food, better education for their children, and better quality of life. And, this extra income created a ripple effect throughout the entire community. Because these families had more to spend locally, shop owners in the village earned more as well.

Another study, “Fair Trade on Marginalized Producers”, by Becchetti and Costantino in 2006, looked at the impact of Fair Trade on Kenyan farmers. These researchers found that Fair Trade workers had more time and money to diversify their products and crops. The community also experienced a significant drop in child mortality, and had more money to devote to quality food.

These are just two studies out of many that show Fair Trade really does have a positive impact on people. Thanks to the extra income from Fair Trade, doors open for these families that were closed and locked before.

Buying Fair Trade

Fair Trade really can change the world, one bag or pound of coffee at a time. Whenever I shop for anything, be it a new handbag, a bag of coffee, or a chocolate bar, I try and see if there are Fair Trade options available. I like knowing that my  money is going to help families around the world, and that’s a feeling I sure don’t get when I head to the mall or a big box store.

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