Wednesday, 21 March 2012


World Fair Trade Day Logo

Fair Trade is a global social movement that focuses on fairness in the market place, and in particular on fair pay and fair rights for producers. Throughout my research of Fair Trade, I have found that Fair Trade can take on many forms, and can be applied to many different situations, but all these situations have a similar theme of advocating for the rights of producers. Very often Fair Trade is culturally important to the people it aims to help, as it works to help them keep their customs and beliefs while making a profit that can sustain them and their families. I feel that it is important to support Fair Trade products because it is a simple way to show support for people around the world who may not have the same rights and opportunities that we do. 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Fair Trade and Protest

When asked to name the top reasons why people protest, I'm not sure many people would include Fair Trade on the list. The Washington Post put together a list of the biggest protests and crackdowns since 2000, and it included protests against several government regimes, abortion laws, election results, the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, and tuition fees, among others, but none included Fair Trade issues. (Washington Post: 2011)

There infact have been several protests involving issues of Fair Trade, and they can take many different forms. In August of 2011, Hershey's Chocolate held a "Say S'mores" photo contest to celebrate National S'mores Day. As explained by Fair Trade Vancouver, "As part of the Raise the Bar campaign, several Fair Trade chocolate activists participated in the event by posting photos calling attention to Hershey's labour practices. According to the Raise the Bar campaign, Hershey's refuses to identify its cocoa suppliers and it sources much of its cocoa from West Africa, a region "plagued by force labor, human trafficking and abusive child labor." (Fair Trade Vancouver: 2011) 

An article written by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) describes a protest in July of 2011: "more than 150 U.S. citizens from faith-based, environmental and human rights organizations gathered in front of the White House to protest the pending Colombia Free Trade Agreement."(PCUSA:2011)  The protestors "spoke alongside environmental activists and trade unionists from the United States and Colombia about the devastating consequences the free trade agreement would have on labourers, farmers, Afro-Colombians and other Colombian citizens" (PCUSA:2011) and stated that they were there to "advocates for justice... we believe in fair trade, not just free trade." (PCUSA:2011)

Opponents of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement outside the White House

In June of 2003, BBC News in the UK wrote an article describing the events of a mass demonstration by UK campaigners "calling on the government to put pressure on the World Trade Organization to rewrite it's laws in favour of poor countries." (BBC News UK: 2003) The movement was created to raise awareness about third world producers, as some believe "the World Trade Organization works against the poor of this world" (BBC News UK: 2003)

In class discussions we learn't that protests may use visual imagery, signs, slogans, costumes or music in order to get their messages across. There are also what Malinowski calls "social charters", in which myths are use to justify the present in terms of the past.

Although these are only a few examples, we can see that Fair Trade can be a cause for several different types of protest. In Alex Nicholls and Charlotte Opals book on Fair Trade, Bruce Crowther (who is the Co-ordinator of Fair trade Town) speaks about consumer empowerment. He states "I see Fair Trade as doing two things: one it is helping people immediately and changing their lives: then, there is the bigger picture where it is a protest tool, a way of registering your vote. But now we are not boycotting something, we are supporting something positive." (2004: 4). I agree with Crowther, in that Fair Trade can be used in a variety of ways as a protest tool, for us as consumers to show that we believe in equal opportunities for all people, especially the producers of the goods we choose to buy, which is demonstrated in all of the above examples of protest. Fair Trade protests have the same goal as any other type of protest: to give a voice to people who are under represented and unfairly treated.

Alex Nicholls and Charlotte Opals book on Fair Trade



Fair Trade Vancouver
   2011 photos-hersheys-

Nicholls, Alex & Opals, Charlotte
   2005 Fair Trade: Market-Driven Ethical Consumption. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Presbyterian Church USA

Washington Post

Friday, 16 March 2012

Fair Trade and Indigenous People

Today I read a blog by a group called Cultural Survival. This group works with and defends indigenous peoples around the world. The blog was written by Mark Camp and Jenn Goodman, two staff from Cultural Survival who, in 2008, had received grants from the Toward Sustainability Foundation to conduct field interviews with indigenous people in Guatemala involved in Fair Trade. They focused their research on coffee and crafts, explaining that "these industries seemed to be natural choices, as coffee is second only to oil as an internationally traded commodity, and crafts are indelibly linked to indigenous peoples, both in terms of their cultures and livelihoods." (Cultural Survival: 2010) After interviewing indigenous people, both involved with and not involved with Fair Trade organizations, about their craft production, they found that crafts such as weaving, painting, jewellery and stone carving (among many others) are their main source of incomes, sometimes supplemented by small-scale agriculture. These crafts are also important because they are "one of the identifying features of indigenous cultures." (Cultural Survival: 2011)

Cultural Survivals field study in Guatemala prompted me to do more research on the relationship between Fair Trade and indigenous peoples of the world. Daniel Jaffee explains the importance of coffee to indigenous people in Mexico. The coffee plantations were established on land that was taken from the indigenous peoples in the states of Chiapas and Veracruz in the 1800's. Indigenous people and peasants were used as labour by the plantain owners, and until the early twentieth century, Mexico did not have "a strong national coffee oligarchy." (2007:39) Eventually a "post revolutionary agrarian reforms began to redistribute coffee land and local people stole coffee seedlings from nearby plantations." (2007:39) In Jaffee's book, an Oaxacan researcher by the name of Josefina Aranda Bezaury notes that "By 1920, coffee production had developed a new identity, becoming not just a crop imposed by outsiders but a vital part of the rural economy and a vital source of local identity." (2007:39) We can see that coffee has become important in the daily lives of the indigenous people of Mexico, so much so that they depend on it to keep their local identity and economy alive.  By applying Fair Trade standards to the production and selling of coffee in this region, we can be sure that the indigenous people are being treated fairly and receive appropriate pay for a product that they work hard to produce.

Coffe Farmer in Oaxaca, Mexico


Compasionate Beans

Cultural Survival
   2010 Fair Trade & Indigenous People              

Jaffee, Daniel
   2007 Brewing Justice: Fair Trade Coffee, Sustainability and Survival. Berkeley and Los Angeles:
   University of California Press

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

What is Fair Trade and Why is it Important?

According to Meera Warrier, the concept of Fair Trade started in the 1970's, when Fair Trade campaigners began to argue that "the market confines poor countries to export goods whose prices are historically vulnerable to fluctuations. Furthermore, the internationalization of production has led to the exploitation of workers in the developing world, leading to a lowering of labour standard and wages." (2011:3)

Fairtrade Canada defines "Fair Trade" as "the broader concept of fairness and decency in the marketplace, where as "Fairtrade" refers to the specific Fair Trade certification system run by Fairtrade International (FLO) and it's members, including Fairtrade Canada." (2011)

Fair Trade Canada's logo

Fairtrade International says that "When a product carries the FAIRTRADE Mark it means the producers and traders have met Fairtrade Standards. The Standards are designed to address the imbalance of power in trading relationships, unstable markets and the injustices of conventional trade. " (Fairtrade International: 2011)

There have been several standards put in place in order to keep Fair Trade fair, and to ensure that the farmers and producers are getting the shares they deserve, and most of these standards focus on pricing. John Bowes explains that "The FAIRTRADE Mark represents a visual guarantee that a product has met international Fairtrade standards. These include a guaranteed minimum price set at a level which ensures that the producer is able to cover all costs necessary for sustainable production." (2010:5) Fairtrade Canada notes that "These standards focus on the terms of trade- specifically they spell out the minimum prices that can be paid to producers, the expectation for longer-term contracts, and the requirements to provide up to 60% of the value of a contract in advance should the producers request." (Fairtrade Canada: 2011) Companies are also monitored to make sure they are marketing the correct products as Fair Trade and to ensure that they are using the Fairtrade symbol appropriately.

Fair Trade is most important to consumers because, as Fairtrade International states, "Small farmer groups must have a democratic structure and transparent administration in order to be certified. Workers must be allowed to have representatives on a committee that decides on the use of Fairtrade Premium." (Fairtrade International:2011) Fair Trade is also important because it covers the minimum costs of sustainable production and it helps the producers to improve their quality of life by giving them a stable income that they can invest in education, healthcare and improvements to facilities in their communities. But not only is it beneficial to the producers, but to consumers as well. Fair Trade is important to many consumers they "can buy products inline with their values and principle"(Fairtrade International: 2011) 

Bowes, John
   2010 Fair Trade Revolution. London: Pluto Press

Fairtrade Canada
   2011 What is Fair Trade?

Fairtrade International
   2011 Introducing Fairtrade

Warrier, Meera
   2011 The Politics of Fair Trade: a Survey. Florence, Kentucky: Routledge


Hello, and welcome to my blog about Fair Trade! This blog is an assignment for Anthropology 207, Social and Cultural Anthropology. With this blog, I hope to learn more about Fair trade and I hope to answer some questions I have about Fair Trade, such as what Fair Trade means to people of different backgrounds, ethnicities or classes and what it means for the producers of Fair Trade products versus consumers of Fair Trade products. I also hope to find out what effects or influences Fair Trade has over the relationships between different groups of people as well as between the people and their governments or large corporations, and how power plays into these relationships. Lastly, I would also like to explore the ways in which Fair Trade has been protested for or against and whether or not it has been the cause of any great conflict.

I hope you enjoy my blog and that you learn something valuable from it!