…and reflection, discussion and/or vehement debate. That is, depending on how passionate you are about Trade Justice issues in the news (on a Monday morning).

Speaking of (morning), Good morning!

Exciting and engaging things are in the works and barreling down the proverbial pipeline with Fair Trade Boston. As I write, we are working hard at updating the FTB website to better reflect and advertise the current ‘Fair Trade Town’ campaign and especially post all of the exciting opportunities and events that will be going on around Bean-FairTrade-town on World Fair Trade Day, May 8! So stay tuned, very soon, for all of that.

In the meantime, as promised, this headline caught my eye as I looked for reasons to procrastinate on the aforementioned website overhaul this morning:

Why Brazil’s Cotton Farmers Get Subsidies from the U.S.a potent look at U.S. farm and food policy and its direct impact on worldwide trade justice.  (To complement and flesh out the topic a bit, NPR.org contributes this article from a few years ago on U.S./European subsidies and their impact on African cotton farmers.)

—————————-

Incidentally…

Interested in where to find fair trade cotton? Look no further than Boston’s locally-owned, operated (and great friend to all things Fair Trade Boston) AUTONOMIE PROJECT – Fair Trade Fashion and Footwear!

You’re welcome.

-Seth-

World Fair Trade Day Organizer | Fair Trade Boston

seth@fairtradeboston.org

Join Fair Trade Boston at the Jamaica Plain Forum on Friday, March 19 at 7pm for a forum on fair trade:
Challenging an Industry: a Co-operative’s Struggle Against the Dominican Cacao Industry.

A farmer from a cocoa cooperative farm in the Dominican Republic is sharing his story, and will be joined by staff from Equal Exchange, a leader in the fair trade movement and our partner in Fair Trade Boston. Chocolate from the cooperative in the DR will be served!

Take another step toward making Boston a Fair Trade City: sign our Community Pledge as a supporting institution. Churches, schools, businesses, organizations read it here

Contact organizer Liz Green to add the name of your organization: liz@fairtradeboston dot org.

Please tell us if your church, place of work, or favorite coffee shop or grocery store uses Fair Trade Products!

… and it’s not too late to make it a bit more special! Purchase Fair Trade Certified roses for your loved one, online or locally. She’ll appreciate the extra thought. Order online today! Please share.

That’s right, folks. It is nearly upon us: Valentines Day. Sorry to break it to you. But, relax, you still have over two weeks left to find that little something special for the special person in your life, and Fair Trade Boston wants to help make that a little bit easier – and a little more ethical.

Today, we highlight Freedom Stones. This great organization operates as a non-profit, providing job training and employment to victims of human trafficking in Thailand, Cambodia and Ghana. Employment allows these young men and women to stay in their communities and live a full life without fear of needed to enter prostitution or bonded slavery.

This year, consider giving a gift that not only expresses your affection for someone special in your own life, but also a concern for those who live on the other side of the globe.

Several weeks ago Jeff Purser wrote about a discussion to be hosted at the Greater Boston Vineyard. This post follows up on that announcement.

It has just become a part of our culture. A discussion about Fair Trade at the Greater Boston Vineyard involves food. I like to eat, so I’m particularly partial to this development. At our meeting in October we made ice-cream sundaes. Pretty easy right? As my contribution, I stirred up sugar, cocoa, and vanilla — all Fair Trade Certified™, of course — for the chocolate sauce. The result was delicious, if I do say so myself. However, with my meager cooking skills, I was a bit apprehensive about our next culinary challenge. For this month’s meeting, we decided to bake cookies, cake, and other delectables to complement the Equal Exchange hot cocoa and tea that our featured speaker had offered to bring.

vineyard

Three local leaders were featured as speakers at the meeting. Anna Utech, Interfaith Program director at Equal Exchange, gave a history of the Fair Trade movement from the 1940s to today. Ryan, executive director of Boston Faith & Justice Network, advocated for why the church should be involved in social justice. Liz Green, lead organizer for Fair Trade Boston, outlined the next steps in the campaign and how we might all individually get involved.

I was greatly impressed with the remarks that Anna gave. The level of engagement between her and the audience was electric. Many good questions led to greater understanding. She started with a discussion of how the interrelationship between actors in the north and the south helped to birth the Fair Trade movement.

Anna explained that in the global south, where colonialism was rampant in the past centuries, there has been a historic oppression of workers and local businesses. Powerful corporations based in countries in North America and South America have historically profited from this relationship, providing cheap goods to consumers in the global north. Note that as decades and centuries passed, this cycle of oppression contributed to the global north becoming richer (and more powerful) as the global south became poorer. This aggressive drive for increased wealth has also led to the environmental degradation and slavery that persists to this day. The graphic below simple depicts the North/South development divide as determined by the United Nations.

world map

Anna pointed to how religious organizations have been directly part of the struggle to free the global south from unfair trade practices since the 1940s. The movement started in the south as local workers united to demand fair wages with northern advocates, often Catholic clergy, marching in solidarity. Soon, groups such as the Mennonite Central Committee and the Church of the Brethren created alternatives to charity by importing handicrafts from their foreign missions to sell in the United States and other rich countries. These two movements created the long-lasting retailers now known as Ten Thousand Villages and SERRV International. “Trade not Aid” became the rallying cry of the movement. In the 1970s attention began to shift from handicrafts to agricultural goods such as coffee. According to Anna Utech, church basements in Holland were one of the earliest places where fairly traded coffee was made available. One quarter of Equal Exchange’s current coffee sales are to faith organizations.

Why coffee? Anna Utech explains that coffee was seen as an agent of change because it is a critical source of income for people in many developing countries, continues to be heavily traded, and is largely grown by small-scale farmers.

Equal Exchange itself was started in 1986 by three guys who had come up with the idea while working in the warehouse of a natural foods company. In 1991, the company adopted the new European Fair Trade Certified™ standards, and, then in 1999 it adopted the standards set out by upstart TransFair USA. Equal Exchange continues to push the limits of what is possible for trade by sharing risk with its farmers, offering up to 60 percent of the purchase price before harvest.

After Anna’s talk, Ryan and Liz talked briefly about their respective responses to the issue and, then we opened up the meeting to further questions from the audience. Anna addressed some of the challenges to Fair Trade including the economy (for the first time Equal Exchange has been forced to reduce their contracts), co-ops vs. plantations (cooperatives support democracy and community-based development), big brands (impact of Starbucks, Dole, Nestle). A member of TransFair USA’s board – who showed up unexpectedly – was able to fill in the gaps.

Luckily no one was forced to eat the Swiss chocolate roll that I baked Saturday afternoon. Plenty of other goodies were available. Later in the day, as I reflected back on the meeting, I cut myself a slice to sample the cake. Epic failure. The remainder slid off the tray into the trash.

Jeff Purser has a real passion to find sustainable solutions to eliminate extreme poverty. He serves as a community organizer for Fair Trade Boston and lives near Central Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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