Fair Enoughby Brendon Bosworth / 16.06.2009
The production chain has not always been kind to farm labourers, especially those in the developing world. Child slaves picking tea with bleeding fingers in Bangladesh; back-breaking hours for pittance in the coffee fields of Colombia. The ‘dop’ system in SA spurned a legion of desperate winos, birthing mongoloid children with swollen heads and hardwired dependency. Across the planet, many farm workers continue to get underpaid, over-worked, and abused, particularly in regions where human rights are non-existent.
The global fair trade movement aims to protect marginalized workers and producers, offering them equitable prices and fair wages, securing their rights, and empowering them as stakeholders in their own organizations. Effectively, making sure they don’t get screwed over and exploited, whilst allowing consumers to feel good about not supporting the blood trade.
If you’ve done much food shopping abroad you may have spotted the green and blue FLO (Fairtrade Labelling Organization International) label on various products. This is the largest of the fair trade labels and is comprised of 19 Fairtrade labelling initiatives. There are 872 Fairtrade certified producer organizations in 58 countries, representing around 1.5 million farmers and workers. In 2007, Fairtrade sales clocked in at approximately €2.3 billion worldwide.
In order to be Fairtrade certified, producers and traders have to adhere to FLO standards, which include, for example, “no child labour, not paying below minimum wage, no abuse on the farm, and adhering to health and safety laws”, explains Boudewijn Goossens, executive director of Fairtrade Label South Africa, an associate member of FLO International.
“The South African Fairtrade criteria also include BEE standards to ensure that producers are really contributing to empowerment of workers on their farms”, he continues. “There’s a social premium, which is paid above the normal price of the product. The buyer, a manufacturer or trader, pays this premium into a special account, owned by the workers. The money must be used for social investment, such as schooling”.
At Mahala, we’re all for social investment, so naturally we want to know where we can buy Fairtrade goods. As it stands, most of Mzansi’s Fairtrade stuff is exported, but there are five local companies licensed to sell FLO labelled goods in our shops. Sonop, Fairhills and uniWines supply vino. For ethically sound cappuccinos, head to Bean There Coffee, in Milpark, Jozi. Heiveld Co-Operative does Freetade Rooibos, which has the added bonus of being organic. Expect more products to be added to this list in the near future.
www.fairtrade.org.za for more info.