I read an interesting perspective in an article today. It highlighted the fact that a higher price for fair trade products such as coffee, tea or fair trade shoes isn’t going to eliminate poverty. It takes a much deeper understanding into each culture to change mindsets and adapt to the environmental factors.
Claiming that higher prices eliminate poverty is based on a very simplified and incomplete notion of poverty. It represents a failure on our part to fundamentally understand what it means to be poor. To eliminate poverty we need to understand the fundamental reasons for poverty and the many faces of poverty. A market based approach to poverty alleviation may see increased trade as contributing essential financial resources to marginalized producers, but it is important to realize that fairer pricing is only one of many means needed. If we truly want to help coffee farmers improve their livelihoods, we need to better understand their life situations, their hopes, and their aspirations. If we take this point of departure in our understanding of poverty, we will see a much more complex picture and also a more multifaceted understanding of what it takes to address poverty among coffee farmers and their families.
The author concludes that as consumers, we need to understand the limitations of Fair Trade (while acknowledging the benefits of fair trade). He writes that Fair Trade is part of the solution, but it isn’t the solution.
Do you think Fair Trade deserves a better wrap? Or do you believe the benefits of Fair Trade do more harm than good?