By Stephanie / October 10th, 2017
We believe that everyone wants to do what’s right – for their families, fellow global citizens, and the planet. That’s why we’re committed to making the right choices the most obvious ones. Based on the simple idea that the products we buy and sell are connected to the livelihoods of others, Fair Trade is a way to make a conscious choice for a better world. A choice for Fair Trade Certified™ goods is a choice to support responsible companies, empower farmers, workers, and fishermen, and protect the environment. In other words, it’s a world-changing way of doing business.
Did you know October is Fair Trade month? This is a time for us to remind you of the importance of buying fair trade certified products. But do you know what fair trade really means, what it stands for? We’re here to give you a little extra info on how fair trade impacts the lives of farmers, producers, workers and fisherman around the world.
As you may know, fair trade ensures that a fair price is paid to farmers for their labor and crop. This is a set price that does not fluctuate with the volatile market, providing farmers with the security of a predictable income to invest in their lives and work.
But fair trade goes beyond just a fair price. For every fair trade product sold, the business selling it (i.e. Alter Eco) pays an additional amount of money called a Fair Trade Premium. This money goes directly to the cooperative to fund community development projects. From there, the community decides together how to spend the funds to improve their lives and meet their unique social, economic, and environmental needs.
In 2016, Alter Eco paid $148,875 in Fair Trade Premiums to our cooperative partners. And since we don’t have the opportunity to tell you about these projects on our packaging, we thought we’d take this moment give you an idea of the types of projects funded annually.
Fair Trade Premiums often fund training programs and workshops for producers and cooperative members. Trainings and workshops range from improvements in quality control, agroforestry and biodiverse crop formations, organic compost and agriculture best-practices, pest-control, educating parents on the importance of schooling for their children, and entrepreneurial guidance and support.
Improved Kitchen Stoves:
It’s common for our cacao producers in Peru to have poorly ventilated kitchen stoves in their homes. These stoves are fueled by firewood, which requires a substantial amount of tree-cutting to maintain. It also results in the homes filling with harmful smoke, with prolonged exposure leading to ophthalmological and respiratory diseases. So each year, the Acopagro cooperative dedicates a portion of their Fair Trade Premium to installing improved kitchen stoves in the homes of their producers. The new stoves allow for a better combustion of the firewood, a reduction in deforestation and a ventilation system for the smoke.
Medical campaigns are carried out to analyze levels of Cholesterol, Triglycerides, Glucose and blood pressure of the cooperative members and their families. Women’s health is also a priority with annual gynecological exams to help prevent cervical cancer. These medical campaigns are important since many of our remote farming communities don’t have easy and annual access to medical services.
Student award ceremonies are held to recognize educational excellence. Students are rewarded for achievements in reading comprehension and mathematics, resulting in a greater motivation for students, teachers and parents to improve, learn and advance.
Interest-free loans are offered to cooperative members to purchase livestock, organic fertilizers, compost, seeds and compost. This helps the producers invest in their fields and for some, to transition from chemically supported to organic fields.
For some cooperatives, reforestation is a large priority, especially with our partners in Peru and Ecuador. Each year, coop members vote to allocate a portion of their Fair Trade Premium to plant trees, often in an agroforestry, biodiverse model. When cacao trees are inter-planted with timber trees and other fruits and vegetables, this biodiverse environment improves soil health, increase the yield of the cacao, reduces water runoff, creates a thriving habitat for flora and fauna and diversifies the revenue stream for farmers.
Every food purchase you make is a tiny vote for the food system you want. If we all vote for something better, we’ll get it!