For the past two weeks I have had the opportunity to share the Fair Trade message with children from three schools in Wellington: Clifton Terrace School, St Francis de Sales School and Thorndon School.
I was very excited by the fact that six-year-old kids received the Fair Trade message with great passion. Older children (11 to 13 year-olds) were also very involved and shared their insights about making ethical choices. They shared their experiences of growers from their own countries and their knowledge of local businesses committed to becoming Fairtrade certified.
Although Fair trade originally began with coffee in 1988, you can now buy sugar, chocolate, bananas and olive oil, and elsewhere you can even buy Fairtrade grapes, mangoes, and jams! Now more than 4,500 products are licensed to carry the Fairtrade mark. Products originate from 58 countries all over the world including countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa.
In New Zealand, children are taking the lead. They have taken the first steps to motivate our society to become Fair Trade consumers. These children in New Zealand believe in Fair Trade and have made a clear decision to make ethical choices. They have successfully submitted their request to local and international chocolate companies to encourage them to become Fair Trade certified. My question is, ‘why are children so much more open to the Fair Trade message?’
As we become busy with our daily life and economic responsibilities, we tend to forget that what we consider a low-price for us as consumers, won’t be a fair price for most of the producers around the world. As a mum of a six-year-old boy and having been born in a country where most producers get paid (most of the time) less than a living wage which is what they need to lead a sustainable life; I must reinforce the importance of Fair Trade.
In my country, I have observed that it is possible for a family with an average income to feed themselves in a healthy way, educate their children, pay the rent, and go out for fun. However, this quality of life does not apply to most producers’ families, who are pushed to lower their prices by local and international markets. These families are included amongst the very poor in my country. Their children are not able to eat healthy food and they live in a substandard home environment.
Fair Trade prices are fairer because they always cover the cost of production and allow for sustainable livelihoods. Also, often a Fair Trade premium is added on. Local communities decide how to spend this premium which is often used to improve living and working conditions or for community projects. In 2008, NZ$68million was distributed for use in community development projects.
For this reason, Fair Trade Fortnight in New Zealand was a time for adults and children to reflect on the idea that buying Fair Trade products helps producers, businesses and familes. Over 1.2 million farmers and workers are now in the fair trade system. If you include families and dependants, Fairtrade International estimates six million people directly benefit from Fair Trade.
Fair Trade is about ensuring that communities are able to decide a fair price for their products. This allows them to feed their families, educate their children and work in safe conditions. At the end of the day, Fair Trade is about making more families happy.