Wednesday, October 8, 2008

So what is this "Fair Trade" thing I keep seeing?

I don't know about you, but I keep seeing the phrase "Fair Trade" on products at the grocery store and other places, and I saw logos like the ones below and at the end of the article:

Anyway, I wondered what it's all about. Here's what I found at Wiki:
Fair trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach to empowering developing country producers and promoting sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a fair price as well as social and environmental standards in areas related to the production of a wide variety of goods. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit and flowers.

Fair trade's strategic intent is to deliberately work with marginalized producers and workers in order to help them move from a position of vulnerability to one of security and economic self-sufficiency. It also aims at empowering them to become stakeholders in their own organizations and actively play a wider role in the global arena to achieve greater equity in international trade. Fair trade proponents include a wide array of international religious, development aid, social and environmental organizations such as Oxfam, Amnesty International, Catholic Relief Services, and Caritas International.
There's much more to the article, and it seems fairly balanced, addressing not just positives of the program, of which there are many, but also some of the cons: "Some economists and think tanks see "fair trade" as a type of subsidy that impedes growth. Segments of the left criticize fair trade for not adequately challenging the current trading system." There are are groups that feel the program distorts prices. Please do read the whole article, and decide for yourself if it's a worthy organization to support. For further reading, there is a list of links at the end of the article.

As much as I'm a proponent of charitable giving, I especially like programs that are designed not just to give relief, but also to help folks help themselves. There is a rather famous Chinese proverb that goes like this: "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime." It seems like a reasonable way to go.

Oh, and in closing, I thought I'd mention there are some funny variations of the fish proverb here: My favorite is, "Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to use the Net and he won't bother you for weeks."


Jackie said...

Great to see you pursuing your interest in Fair Trade. My blog, Fair Trade Beginners,
is one way I try to make the world a better place. You might want to check it out (or the book it is based on) for more of the type of coverage and analysis you found in Wikipedia. There are lots of ways to get directly involved in the movement (it is more than just about buying the right stuff)! Happy fair trade month,

P.S. thanks for the mention of

marcus said...

Its great to see people are commenting on fair trade issues and on helping people in other countries get better deal then they currently have. I only buy fairtrade items (where i can) nowadays, such as flowers (imogen stone, john lewis), down to chocolate and fruit!