Do you struggle to pay your cell phone bill, put gas in your car, maybe even pay the rent on time? Do you work for minimum wage? It doesn’t seem totally fair, does it? You work the shitty hours, deal with shitty people and get a shitty wage. Yep, it couldn’t be much worse.
Or could it?
Actually, it could be, and for 1.6 billion people around the world, it is. To put this in perspective, when you buy your double-double in the morning, you likely don’t ponder the process behind that cup-a-joe much further than the coffee pot to the paper cup (another contentious issue unto itself). The truth is, if you pay $2 for your coffee, that money is paying the Tim’s employee, it’s paying for the paper cup and it’s paying for the entire production process of the coffee.
So how much of that money makes it back to the farmer? Not a whole heck of a lot, as it turns out. In fact, the average coffee farmer will get just 10 or 15 cents from your double-double. Thing is, for that farmer, it’s not just about keeping the unlimited texting plan. It’s about putting his kids through school and keeping food on the table. Not being able to afford that is a whole other level of shitty.
That’s where fair trade comes in. Not to be confused with free trade, the idea is to get better prices to the farmers actually making the coffee, chocolate or tea that we consume here.
Between more reliable prices, getting rid of the middle men and social premiums to help build community infrastructure, fair trade tries to get a better deal for farmers in developing countries. It’s not perfect but it’s a step in the right direction — and a step above what they would get without fair trade prices. It isn’t charity; it isn’t aid. It’s no more complicated than the minimum wage that we can afford here but it can be the difference between having a future or continuing the poverty cycle.
In the words of Jose Vasquez, a farmer from El Salvador and member of the Las Colinas cooperative, “Thanks to fair trade, we will not die of hunger. We will not lose our land. Our children can attend school. Thanks to you we have a seed of hope in our lives.”
So put your money where your mouth is and make a difference. Buy fair trade.