Have you ever bought something with a Fair Trade label and pondered what the label meant? In its most basic form, Fair Trade certification indicates that a product complies with specified laws that aid in the promotion of equitable and long-term trade relationships, and primarily involves those who live and work in a variety of developing nations.
But to the farmers who participate in the Fair Trade system, it can mean much more than that. This leads however to a very good question that many people really do not understand the answer to: how does Fair Trade help farmers?
Fair Trade Explained
As we just mentioned, although the movement is now over 70 years old, lots of consumers do not quite understand what Fairtrade is.
A very basic explanation would be that Fair Trade is a global movement that advocates for fair prices, higher wages, sustainable agriculture, and better standard of living for farmers and workers in poor nations, particularly in South America, Africa, and other regions of the Global South. A fair trade certification agency assures that the manufacturer follows a range of social, economical, and environmental norms when a product is Fair Trade certified.
What Farmed Products Can Be Fair Trade Certified?
Fair trade certified coffee is perhaps the most well-known farmed commodity on the fairtrade marketplace, although cocoa, teas, honey, sugars, fruits, vegetables, seafood, and wine are other popular fair-trade commodities.
How Does Fair Trade Help Farmers?
Many, but not all, of the producers involved in the modern Fair Trade system on a global level are farmers. These people are based throughout the system geographically, and produce a range of goods, but share one thing in common: the survival of their livelihood is often under significant threat, and, by extension, so the survival of their families and communities.
It seeks to help them, but just how does it do that? Here is a look at some of the positive ways the question of how does Fair Trade help farmers can be answered.
Farming Income Sustainability
Fair Trade assists producers in establishing minimum pricing, which protects fair Trade producers from volatile market prices. If the market price for a commodity falls, as it frequently does in the case of coffee, the minimum price guarantees that farmers and workers are still able to afford their basic living expenses.
This benefits more than just the business owning farmer of record, though. One of the first cuts farmers make when their income sources are dangerously erratic is to the amount they pay their workers. These workers often accept this as a fact of life, but that does not mean it does not have a significant impact on their lives and those of their families.
The promise of a living wage also means that families do not follow the long-established, but very harmful practice, of offering up their children as farmworkers. Child labour is a significant problem worldwide and the Fair Trade system has helped end it in innumerable farming communities.
The vast majority of new Fair Trade farmers have been following the same agricultural practices that have been in place for centuries in their communities. Fair Trade participation can give them access to educational resources that can help make their processes faster, more efficient, and more profitable.
Life Skills Education
Another educational benefit for farmers in the Fair Trade system is access to a wide range of life skills education, especially when it comes to the better and more efficient management of money. By becoming part of a global market, farmers can use this new knowledge to help ensure that they get the best possible ROI on their effort.
It is not just them that can benefit from this type of education, either. The excess revenue generated from the Fair Trade Premium is placed into a bank account controlled by a group of fair trade farmers and employees in the area.
The community decides how to spend the money, which can be used as a salary bonus or invested in communal amenities such as cleaner water systems, healthcare, and schools. Financial education resources help them decide the best ways to do this in order to reap the most benefits for everyone.
Opportunities for Women
In many of the developing nations the Fairtrade system operates in, women have always made up a significant portion of the farmworker population, but a portion that is underpaid when compared to their male counterparts and often subject to all kinds of abuses.
Fair Trade not only allows these women access to better wages on a guaranteed and freedom from discrimination but also the chance to establish farming operations in their own names, helping build a better future for themselves and their families.
The negative effects of modern agriculture on the environment are reaching a tipping point. The one thing that most people do know about Fair Trade farmers is that they are held to higher environmental standards by their Fair Trade contracts, and while they might not know the specifics of how the farming methods and practices differ, they know that this is probably a good thing.
And it is. In an ideal world all farmers would be, but until that is the case, the global positive impact of these environmentally friendly farming practices is still significant. The practices help protect the immediate environment around Fair Trade farms but given that every effort to reduce the environmental damage some modern farming methods cause has a knock-on effect they help on a global level too.
The Fair Trade system is not perfect, and even seventy years on, there is still much room for improvement. However, now that you have a better understanding of how Fair Trade helps farmers, their workers, and their community at large, you can better understand why making that minor change at the grocery store, and actively looking for Fair Trade goods to buy can be more significant than you might have thought.