|The Beginning of Fair Trade
|The original premise of the Fair Trade program began with several religious and
humanitarian organizations coming together with the common goal of helping
impoverished workers in some of the worlds poorest regions.
|The idea was to help improve
wages and living conditions
for disadvantaged workers,
help to rebuild the lives of displaced refu-
gees, and help improve conditions following
In 1968 at the United Nations Conference on
Trade and Development in Delhi, the mess-
age was sent "trade not aid", which set the
groundwork for the phenomenal growth of
Fair Trade that followed.
Five years later, in 1973 the first fairly traded
coffee was imported by Fair Trade Organisatie
in the Netherlands, from cooperatives of small
farmers in Guatemala.
|Today in the U.K. the bulk of merchandise sold consists of Fair Trade
food products. And in the U.S. food sales, which traditionally consti-
tuted less than 10% now represents over 30% of Fair Trade food pro-
The Fair Trade program was so successful that by the early 90's it had
become an economic model worldwide, administered by many different
organizations. Key among them were these four agencies considered to be the "founding
fathers of Fair Trade":
these four main organizations came together to form FINE, an acronym based on the first letter
of each name.
|Fair Trade in Action
| The money earned as premiums from Fair Trade doesn't go
directly to the workers, but is invested back into the participat-
ing farm. This allows the producer to improve the infrastructure
and provide the workers with fair wages as well as improve
living conditions, and offer programs that improve the lives of
both workers and their families.
One example of Fair Trade in action is the Bogawantalawa
Estate in Sri Lanka. With over 45,000 acres of tea gardens, and over 16,000 workers,
the operation is the size of a small city.
The premiums earned by this huge
tea estate from the Fair Trade pro-
gram enables it to continually improve
not only the tea gardens, but the lives
of their workers and families.
The Bogawantalawa Estate proudly
offers a number of programs to their
workers, everything from savings and
loan programs, to libraries, and com-
puter learning centers. They also pro-
vide mandatory schooling for all child-
ren, and no child labor is ever allow-
ed. They even offer scholarship pro-
grams for deserving students who
excel at their studies.
Another example of Fair Trade at work is the Ambootia Tea Estate in Darjeeling, India,
where in 1968 one of the largest landslides in South Asia caused part of the plantation
to go crashing into the valley below.
The first Fair Trade premiums were received in 1995 to help in
disaster relief and cleanup, as well as prevent further destruc-
tion to the garden itself. Money also went to help stabilize
the local economy, providing aid to displaced workers during
the rebuilding of the estate.
The cost of fairly traded tea amounts to just pennies at the
cash register, and it's doubtful you would even notice. But to
the small farmers and producers, the tea workers and their
families, it sends a powerful and important message. Simply -
we support and appreciate your hard work and efforts to
bring quality tea to our tables. Enjoy.
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