Last week, I posted a few fair trade-related objections I’ve received, asking for your input.
I was trying to start a conversation, in part because I’d like to see more dialogue here and on The Social Eater Facebook page. The other part has very much to do with a bit of a road block I’ve hit recently. Arguments I’ve come across led me to seeking out more arguments, which led me to feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, and I just needed to take a step back.
I’m still contemplating a step back.
I’m willing to admit I’m wrong if and when I am, so I’ve been doing a lot of research, thinking, and asking.
So far, I am sure that fair trade isn’t a perfect system.
I am working for imperfect people to further an imperfect system. My goals and intentions may not always been understood or agreed-with (for which I am grateful; I need to be challenged!). I may not see the results I want, and my actions may need to morph as I continue to learn to avoid hurting more than helping.
The alternative to the writing and the researching and the talking and the passing out of samples I am doing is to go back to what I used to know: that is, buying whatever I want,when I can. I can’t do that anymore. Even if I could ignore all the people involved, the quality of the products supported by the coops I buy from is so much higher that the “old” chocolate and coffee now tastes like wax and chemicals.
But those people.
I don’t even know them, and they have my heart.
I’ll admit there is only so much that can be done and known from this far away…but that “so much” is still a lot. I do quite a bit of research so that I can recommend the companies and coops that are visiting their farmers, building mutually beneficial relationships, and helping put systems in place that benefit the farmers and the farmers’ families and communities.
Not all fair trade is created the same.
No system, program, or person in this world is perfect.
It is frustrating.
Last week, I posted the following objections:
- Fair trade is not that simple. Boycotting a product threatens jobs of those who work for the company you are avoiding.
- Fair trade is not that simple. What happens to the (albeit exploited) workers when their income dries up due to boycotting?
- Not all child labor is slavery.
They are questions that aren’t easily answered, so please consider the following as ”thoughts” instead of ”answers”:
- For the most part, how you and I spend our money is our choice. Sometimes that choice is based on lowest price, but it is still a choice.
There is no way you and I can financially support every one and everything just because previously we did once or 100 times. To me, buying something just to support American jobs does not make sense because following that line of logic would mean buying something from every company in America. We choose the ones we don’t want to purchase products from; why not include cheaply made chocolate and coffee in the “not buying” list?
2. Not all non-fair trade coffee and chocolate farmers are exploited and abused by traffickers. Although those who are trafficked (particularly children) are my major concern, “independent” non fair trade farmers are still exploited through incomes too low to support their families. I will not pretend to know all the answers to this one, but I do wonder what would happen if we would stop supporting the businesses that allow traffickers to make so much money that those who work for them are expendable.
3. I am aware that not all child workers are slaves. Some families in some places in some cultures need their children to work. However, fair trade done well (and done right, in my opinion) offers opportunities for families to do better so they don’t need their children to work. Children are then able to go to school, better equipping them for choices they would not have the opportunity to make otherwise.