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Why Fair Trade?
Coffees and tea the fair trade way

Fair Trade Coffee & Tea

Fair trade is more than a stamp of approval. It is more than a catchy phrase. The concept of fair trade requires -- demands! -- that we think! Fair trade is about making conscious choices to care about and act on more than a low price or modern convenience. Fair trade begs us to ask questions: Who made or grew this product? Who or what was affected by the production process?

According to the Fair Trade Federation, seven principles form the basis of fair trade: Fair Wages, Cooperative Workplaces, Consumer Education, Environmental Sustainability, Financial and Technical Support, Respect for Cultural Identity, and Public Accountability.

When you sit back with your favorite cup of java, do you ever consider the process that went into bringing it to you? The crop to cup process for coffee is a fascinating one that has many implications. Take a moment to investigate some of those issues.

Did you ever think that your choice of coffee could have drastic effects on the environment, or on the economic and social justice systems of this world? Did you ever realize that our daily consumption habits could help raise a family out of poverty, add years of life to a farmer, help educate children and build infrastructure in disadvantaged communities? Well it can! Please read on.

Fairly traded coffee benefits many. From farmers in producer countries to consumers to the environment; a system of trade based on respect for workers' rights and the environment can help reverse the environmental degradation and growing inequities that have resulted from the growth in world trade as we now know it. Fair traders are required to consider the social, economic, and environmental impact of their actions.

By taking the simple step of buying only fairly traded coffee, you send a signal to others that this is the best form of trade. More importantly, your purchase directly benefits the poor farmers and their families while making a positive environmental change.

Fair Trade is a simple choice. It is a small step that has so many benefits and sends a signal to others to get involved and make a difference. This is one decision that you can know has direct results on many people. Won't you choose to have a clean conscience when you take your next sip of coffee?

What is Fair Trade?

Fair trade connects producers and consumers in more equitable,meaningful, and sustainable ways. Fair Trade is based on seven principles as quoted by the Fair Trade Federation (FTF), the largest association of fair trade organizations.

  • Fair Wages: Paying fair wages does not necessarily mean that products cost the consumer more. Since Fair Trade Organizations bypass exploitative middlemen and work directly with producers, they are able to cut costs and return a greater percentage of the retail price to the producers.
  • Cooperative Workplaces: Fair Trade Organizations work primarily with small businesses, worker owned and democratically run cooperatives and associations that bring significant benefits to workers and their communities.
  • Consumer Education: Fair Trade Organizations educate consumers about the importance of purchasing fairly traded products which support living wages and healthy working conditions.
  • Environmental Sustainability: Fair Trade Organizations encourage producers to engage in environmentally friendly practices which manage and use local resources sustainability.
  • Financial and Technical Support: Small-scale farmers and artisans in the developing world lack access to affordable financing, impeding their profitability. FTF members that buy products directly from producers often provide financial assistance either through direct loans, prepayment or by linking producers with sources of financing.
  • Respect for Cultural Identity: Fair Trade Organizations encourage the production and development of products based on producers' cultural traditions adapted for Western markets.
  • Public Accountability: FTF members' finances, management policies, and business practices are open to the public and monitoring by the Fair Trade Federation.

Benefits of Fair Trade

Fair trade increases annual incomes of small farmers and helps them put in place tools for self-sufficiency. Fair Trade helps build infrastructure in the farmer's community and assists the farmers in staying out of high interest debt.

Fair trade lets consumers have a clear conscience about their purchases. Fair trade lets consumers assist and empower others with their buying power. Fair trade allows consumers to be part of a social justice movement through a simple action. Fair trade allows consumers to initiate a chain of responses that will positively impact the lives of poor coffee farmers and their families.

The Environment - Small farmers use organic methods, which are more environmentally friendly and sustainable Small farmers disperse their plants throughout a region, a more environmentally friendly method. Small farmers plant shade grown coffee which is key to protecting certain species of birds. The existence of small farmers helps prevent the clear-cutting of larger estates.

Perhaps the most tangible benefits of fair trade are seen in the changes in the lives of the coffee farmers and their families. Fair trade helps to give the farmers economic independence and empowers them through the formation of cooperatives.

Before cooperatives in coffee farming, the small farmers were forced to sell their harvests to local middlemen ("coyotes") who frequently give as little as $0.30 for a pound of coffee that sells in the United States for over $8.00. The small farmers were caught in a cycle as they lacked access to credit, marketing and know how, so year after year they are forced to sell to the coyotes. The farmers found themselves year after year struggling to meet basic needs of food, housing, health care and education. Frequently, these needs would go unmet.

With fair trade coffee the cycle is broken as the small farmers organize into cooperatives and sell their coffee for a "fair price" which they are guaranteed. As a result of these cooperatives farmers find themselves empowered and able to build economic independence. The cooperatives improve access to technical and credit assistance, giving the farmers the know how they need to be more independent. In addition, the cooperatives help build infrastructure, increase production and improve the standard of living for the farmers. The added revenue streams also help build schools, provide more access to health care and better transportation.

Fair Trade revenues help build schools, health care centers, new communications systems, credit programs, technical training programs, and better transportation. All of these improvements raise the standard of living of the whole community, not just those directly involved with fair trade. These improvements also increase production and help assure financial stability and self-sufficiency.

Clearly Fair Trade is having a positive impact on communities throughout the world. Each time you choose to drink Fair Trade coffee or buy Fair Trade Products you are contributing to that progress and helping individuals and communities throughout the world.

Fair Trade Success Stories

Union de Comunidades Indigenas de la Region del Istmo (UCIRI), Oaxaco, Mexico: Revenues from this co-op helped create the region's only public bus line; a hardware and farm supply center; healthcare services; cooperative corn mills; an agricultural extension and training program; accounting training; and the only secondary school in the region. The cooperative members' annual incomes have nearly doubled through selling within the Fair Trade Network. Cafe Campesino purchased 80,000 pounds of fair trade green beans from UCIRI.

Promotora de Desarollo Cooperativo de Las Segovias (PRODECOOP), Esteli, Nicaragua: Fair Trade revenue has assisted in the construction of schools and health care centers; training in administration; legal matters and organizational issues. From sales to the fair trade market, PRODECOOP generated substantial premiums that were used to pay bank debt, invest in farm improvements, improve nutrition and avoid the loss of land due to crushing debt service.

The next time you drink your coffee think about the communities that helped to produce it. Think about how your choice of fair trade coffee helps build up those communities and the individuals within the communities. Remember that you can change the world, one great cup of coffee at a time!

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