Monday 07-03-2016 - 09:30
This is a guest blog by Tom Andrews, Managing Director of Epona Ltd, NUS’ ethical clothing company.
Fairtrade is about a belief that trade brings huge benefits to society when done in the right way. It is about long term relationships, where buyers don’t ditch suppliers because of short term price differences.
Fairtrade is about farmers being given the confidence and the certainty that they will get a guaranteed price and a price that is fair before they plant their seed. Prices have often plunged in recent years just as farmers have come to harvest. This can mean that the money that the farmers have invested in their crop can be lower than the money that they earn from the sale of their cotton. This can throw farmers into debt and has resulted in spates of farmer suicides in recent years. Fairtrade gives the farmer the peace of mind that his sales will more than cover his costs.
Fairtrade is about community. When I have visited farms one of the things that has surprised me was the impact of the democratic process on the villages. Farmers vote on how they will spend their premium and this spending often benefits the entire village not just the farmers. By working together the farmers often achieve things that are unexpected. When I visited a group of farmers in Orissa, they began showing me their bank cards. At first I couldn’t understand why they would show me such a boring thing until it was explained to me that it was not until they had formed their farmers’ cooperative that the banks had been willing to give them an account. By working together they had moved away from the world of loan sharks and into the mainstream financial system.
Fairtrade is about education. The farms that we work with sponsor children through school and give the children books and school bags. The premium is opening up a whole new world of possibilities to some of the poorest people in India.
Fairtrade is much more than a campaign, it is a very practical thing to be involved in. A huge percentage of the products that we buy every day have been sourced from countries far less well off than our own. Every time that you buy a Fairtrade product whether that be a banana, a bag of coffee or a hoody, you are making a small statement that this relationship between rich and poor can move to a better place. This relationship can be based on mutual trust, understanding and respect which will make a huge difference in producers’ lives.