Fair Trade-Peace Trade

The work that is known as Fair Trade began after World War II with the idea of helping artisans in developing countries sell their products in other countries where they might receive better prices for their products. Some attribute the beginnings of Fair Trade to the work of Mennonite missionaries, NGOs and others seeking to assist the communities with which they worked to have a better standard of living. No matter the group or the location, the focus has been the same: how to better the standard of living for the people with whom they worked, especially by helping them get better prices for their products. (For additional information regarding the origins of Fair Trade: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_fair_trade)

In the decades that have passed, and building on the central idea of helping artisans and farmers, different systems, have developed to help individuals and cooperatives bring their products to market. While these systems may vary, it is widely accepted that the following Fair Trade Principles are followed:

A. Artisans and/or farmers are members in democratically organized cooperatives.
B. Gender equality exists within the cooperative; women are accepted as members of the cooperative leadership
C. There is a supportive, on-going relationship with the cooperative
D. There is up-front payment for the products; the partner/seller in the US (and other countries ) assumes the risk for products that do not sell
E. On-going assistance with access to markets is provided
F. Collaborative product development is on-going
G. Environmentally sustainable product materials and methods are used wherever and whenever possible.
H. Provision of a social benefit is extended to the cooperative

Who Is Involved: The Fair Trade-Peace Trade program, as well other fair trade system programs in general, has three essential components: the artisans, the sellers, and those who recognize the work that is being done and purchase the items for their own use or for gifts. The components exist as a synergy, each interdependent with the others.

People often think that the entire price that is paid for an item becomes the wages or income to the artisan. What must be taken into consideration is the artisans’ cost of the supplies for the work: thread, needles, cloth, zippers, etc., and the costs of equipment and any needed electricity and/or water, etc.

On the part of the seller in the US or elsewhere, the cost of transportation of the crafts from the artisan to the markets must be added to the price paid by the purchaser. In addition, if the arrangement includes on-going large orders, provision of storage and staffing must be included in the price. Otherwise this work could not be done on any larger scale than that of a single traveler making a purchase in one country, carrying it home to sell and then sending the money back to the artisan. The ultimate purpose of the price charged to the purchaser is to allow both the artisan and the seller to recoup expenses, to achieve a sustainable living wage, and to contribute to the development of the project. Most Fair Trade sellers are non-profit organizations that put their after-expense profits back into the development of the project. Their goal is to increase the market for the cooperatives and thereby raise the standard of living of members of the cooperative.

It is possible that a cooperative is organized according to Fair Trade principles but does not have access to enough sellers of their products who are willing to honor the Fair Trade price commitment. In those cases, the artisans will sell their crafts to other sellers simply as a means of earning a living. CREA has, in addition, created as part of our Fair Trade-Peace Trade project, a process of working with cooperatives to develop a self-sustainable and reproducible model that will allow these cooperatives, and ultimately others, to adapt more effectively to changing markets. The project includes product development and a production process that includes the design, development, marketing and production of new products to help ensure a more consistent flow of work. CREA has undertaken this project to support efforts to provide employment for men as well as women, an alternative to joining the military, gangs, or drug dealers for the males... or running the risk of being trafficked if they are female or young males.

Why CREA’s program is called the Fair Trade-Peace Trade Program: Our understanding of peace is broad based. The absence of war is not yet peace if we do not address the systemic violence that hunger and poverty inflict. Peace also requires we work with others to address the systemic issues of violence in all its forms.

CREA has been involved in fair trade work for more than a decade. We adopted the name Fair Trade-Peace Trade in order to highlight the damage that on-going poverty does to the person, the family and the community, no matter where in the world. Within poverty there is lack of decent nutrition, the lack of decent housing, the lack of potable (healthy for drinking) water as well as sufficient water for sanitation, etc. Depending on the specific society and community, poverty can also lead to lack of access to education, to decent jobs, to health care, etc. All of these are forms of violence to human persons, and the systems that cause them need to be addressed..

In other facets of CREA’s work, specifically in our work on sustainable living wages, on sustainable communities, on corporate responsibility and supply chains, we address such other components of peace-making. It is our belief that our Fair Trade-Peace Trade program is a way of assisting both farmers and artisans along with their families and communities to obtain a more sustainable lifestyle, thus helping to create sustainable communities that are a foundation of peace.

At the present time, we are working directly with cooperatives in El Salvador and Guatemala and cooperatively with other groups in Haiti, Congo, Uganda, and Palestine.

CREA and the Social Benefit: Education is the social benefit we strive to provide to the various cooperatives with which we work. Each year, we provide school supplies for several hundred students in grammar school, middle school and high school, supplies without which they cannot attend school. In addition, we continue to provide the funding for various persons to continue their education. In most instances, those receiving the funding for high school and/or university return to other communities to serve further service as educators on many levels.

Why CREA does not have pictures of its products on our website: We are often asked why we do not have photos of the products we sell on our website. The answer is simple. It has been demonstrated to us while in Chichicastenango that new items brought to the market to sell on one day are quickly copied by the next market day by the many cooperatives and individual artisans looking for new products. We have been asked repeatedly by the cooperatives with which we work to not picture the items on our website because of this on-going problem.

If you are interested in seeing our products, we have a separate listing and photos of samples that can be sent to you for your review either by email or by regular mail. We can also do a skype call and show you samples of our products if that is easier. Specific products can be made with specific colors for groups. We can also add logos to items. If you are interested please contact us at FT-PT@crea.org

How to Schedule a Sale: CREA schedules Fair Trade-Peace Trade sales throughout the year. Some months are more popular, especially those before holidays associated with gift giving. Sales can vary in length of time and whether or not they are associated with another event. Sales do best when there is adequate publicity prior to the sale. CREA has flyers and email announcements that we can provide prior to a sale for distribution. To schedule a sale or to discuss the possibility of a sale, please contact CREA at 860.527.0455 or send an email to FT-PT@crea.org. We will get back to you as soon as possible

Meet Some of Our Fair Trade-Peace Trade Friends:

Continuing to Dream…and Making Dreams come true, Maria’s Story: The story of Maria is a reminder that we must always have our eyes and ears, as well as our hearts open. In 2007 horrific rains caused major mudslides in many parts of Guatemala. In the months after, as the country was slowly rebuilding roads, we traveled to Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala with one of our Fair Trade-Peace Trade partners, Tom Hocker. At that time, CREA was conducting our sustainable living wage study in Guatemala focusing on maquila workers, agricultural workers and artisans. We went to Santiago Atitlan to do interviews and data collection because it is a known area for artisans from several Maya groups. Aida Montalvo, CREA’s Program Director for Latin America, was doing interviews on the plaza in front of the cathedral church. There she met Maria, a young teenager who was trying to sell beaded key chains created by her and her sister while they stayed in the local school and cared for their younger brother. Their parents had returned to their village to rebuild their home that had been destroyed by the mudslides and rain storms. Each day t he youngsters took turns trying to sell the key chains to tourists and then took the money, bought food for the day and then small packets of beads to make the next key chains.

Maria and her sister told us how they were only able to buy the different color beads in tiny packets, the most expensive way to buy them. But that gave them enough to survive from day to day. They shared how Maria wanted to study, attend high school and then become a teacher or lawyer and serve her Mayan community. The problem was that school after grammar school is not free and there was barely enough money to buy beads so they could eat from day to day. We started with Maria taking us to the place in the market where they bought the packets of beads. We made a list of each color they needed and then purchased a kilo (2.2 pounds) of each color for them. Buying in bulk was much, much cheaper than buying by the one ounce packets they had been able to afford. We also bought thread, needles and the other supplies they needed for the key chains.

Returning to the school room in which they were living with others, we then discussed school and what it costs. Seeing how serious they were about Maria attending school, we came to the following agreement: made an agreement with Maria: if she went to school and studied as hard as she could, we would pay her high school tuition and buy all the key chains and Christmas ornaments that she and her family could make. Thus was started our relationship with Maria, and other young students from whom we made the commitment to buy all the key chains they are able to make, as long as they remain in school and out of the plaza.

Since then, Maria has finished high school, attended a teacher training program, and taught in her village and another in a neighboring village. On the basis of her teaching ability, she was recently asked by education officials to study to teach students with learning disabilities. Talking with us in Santiago Atitlan, she radiated her excitement about teaching these students. In the coming months, Maria will be starting the certification program for teaching students with disabilities, all made possible by the generosity of you, our donors.

Focus on the Ruth y Nohemi Cooperative: The Ruth y Nohemi cooperative, a project of the National Methodist Church in Guatemala, was founded in 1984 by Rev. Diego Ramos in response to the needs of women left widowed by the violence of the Guatemalan Civil War, during which Chichicastenango had been attacked. After providing for immediate needs of food, seeds for crops, and small animals, Rev. Ramos and the women took the next step of providing means for income for the long term. They began the production of craft items, woven by the women. As the presence of men in the community increased, the Ruth y Nohemi cooperative expanded its scope to include young men, so as to provide them with an alternative to joining the military or gangs. The cooperative acquired industrial sewing machines to be used by the men, and developed new lines of crafts to be produced with the aid of the machines. The Ruth y Nohemi cooperative also provides training for craft production and provides help with reading and writing.

The Ruth y Nohemi cooperative, under the leadership of Rev. Diego Chicoj, continues to expand their product lines. They work with various partners, including CREA to create products for use not only during gift giving times but also practical gifts for use at meetings, travel, desk organization, etc.

CREA provides the school supplies for each of the grammar school children so that they may attend school. School is free in Guatemala but the students must come with all of their school supplies in order to complete the requirements for the “Day of Matriculation each semester.

For the story of the creation of the Ruth y Nohemi cooperative, click here. (Mike, we have a full document written by Rev. Chicoj that documents how the cooperative was formed and why it came into being at that time.

Focus on The Semilla de Dios (Seeds of God) cooperative produces wood crafts, painted in the style of Fernando Llorc. Their products include Christmas ornaments, decorated boxes and other wood products. Located in San Salvador, El Salvador, the cooperative produces beautiful items and works to sell them at the various markets in El Salvador and surrounding countries. The cooperative has been challenged in past years, first by the death of one of their members who was killed by a gang on the way home from work and then, a few months later, had their workshop robbed of all their tools and equipment. This was followed by the destruction of much of the workshop by the horrific rains that have plagued the country for several years. With funding from CREA, the Cooperative has been able to re-build the workshop as a more stable and weatherproof building and then to equip the building with the tools and equipment needed for the work. CREA has a long term commitment with Semilla de Dios members to purchase wood crafts from them and also to help them develop new product designs.

In the first few years of working with Semilla de Dios, CREA was able to provide the funds to send Rosalba, the leader of the cooperative to school at the UCA (University of Central America) to study business. Her plan of study was based on meeting the business needs of the cooperative and also being able to help other cooperatives by providing them with resources based on her study of business planning.