I have been aware of Fairtrade for years and have always known that it is about the fair treatment of producers in developing countries. Beyond that, though, I knew little about it. The familiar Fairtrade mark always encouraged me to buy products carrying it, but I wasn’t very aware of what it really meant until I recently chanced upon an opportunity to volunteer with Fair Trade Wales and decided to follow it up. Doing so has really opened my eyes to everything that Fairtrade means. I was invited to a training afternoon at the Cardiff office, where we – myself and a handful of other volunteers – were shown what the aims of Fairtrade are, how it works and what amazing effects it is having for people across the world.
My original estimation that Fairtrade promotes fair treatment was true, but there’s so much more to it than that. Not only does it guarantee producers a fair price for their product, but it also encourages them to form co-operatives with other nearby producers, thereby allowing them to have a greater say in how they trade. This is, in my opinion, one of the most important and strongest aims of Fairtrade. The point is to take power out of the hands of the huge businesses that buy the products and give it to the producers who work hard to make them. Fairness really is the ultimate goal.
Another hugely important part of the system is the ‘Fairtrade premium for development’. This is a sum of money that is paid to the producers so that, as a co-operative, they can democratically decide to invest it in a social or environmental development project of their choice. This has had unbelievable impact for communities in many different countries. You can find some of the success stories on the Fairtrade Foundation website.
In the short time since I became involved with the Fairtrade, I have found myself amazed by the work that has taken place and the way in which it has leapt from strength to strength. We have just entered Fairtrade Fortnight, two weeks of promoting what will be a yearlong campaign. There are a number of events going on in Cardiff, at which some of the producers themselves will be present. I am looking forward to learning more and meeting some of the people whose lives have been impacted by Fairtrade.
The next year will undoubtedly prove to be another great one for Fairtrade, with even more products being sold, greater awareness of the difference it makes and more stories of the people it’s helped. I am very excited to be involved with the steps they are taking to create a fairer trading system.