11 Ways FTF Enterprises Are Creating Opportunities for Producers

Posted: Fri. Jan 17, 2020

“Fair Trade is a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Members create social and economic opportunities through trading partnerships with marginalized producers. Members place the interests of producers and their communities as the primary concern of their enterprise.” – Fair Trade Federation Principle 1

Learn how eleven of our members are uniquely realizing this principle below!

“The thing about beekeepers is they are simply farmers; just out there, living off the land. They do not have a market because they live in the place of nowhere. That’s it. They don’t even realize the value of what they have. So now with honey and beeswax, we have been able to introduce them to a market and whatever we get, we want to bring back to help the community.” says Barry Illunga, one of Zambeezi Lip Balm’s Zambian founders. African farmers often receive low prices for their work, even if their final product fetches a high price in stores. One of Zambeezi’s goals is to reduce this gap so that the workers who make their ingredients and products receive a fair and living wage for their work, a wage that reflects the actual value of their inputs and not simply the power structures of the global economy. Fair trade is about more than just fair wages. Zambeezi uses their profits to benefit African communities, partnering with local churches to serve the needs identified by the communities, such as building schools, clinics, and drilling wells.

UPAVIM Crafts works in La Esperanza, Guatemala, where drug related violence is prevalent. The street outside of UPAVIM’s complex is one of the most dangerous in the city with frequent shootings and military patrols. This complex, which houses UPAVIM Crafts and also a school, bakery, medical clinic, soy production facility, and library, provides a safe place for the community to work, learn, and gather. UPAVIM Crafts is one of the major sources of funding for the school and other programs. It is run and operated by women in La Esperanza, Guatemala, creating many opportunities for leadership, capacity building, and economic development.

Two days walk from any road lies the village of Sertung, Nepal. In 2015, Ganesh Himal Trading’s (GHT) founders walked through this remote village surveying the damage of the 2015 earthquakes, where they met a young couple, Pema and Yogendra. Their village was heavily damaged and was receiving little assistance. Pema and Yogendra asked the GHT founders for help securing income for women so they could rebuild. In 2016, adapting their skill for coiling grass mats, GHT and the community developed products using recycled sari materials. Since 2016, GHT has purchased over $31,000 worth of their goods. This money has gone directly into their community to help them rebuild. Along with income generation, GHT’s sister foundation, Conscious Connections Foundation (CCF), has funded local women leaders to conduct trainings in Menstrual Hygiene Management (285 women & girls trained to date) and provided reusable cotton menstrual pad kits (168 to date) so that women and girls in Sertung no longer need to be confined by their monthly periods. GHT and CCF look forward to continuing to partner with this amazing community for years to come as they work toward greater resiliency.

As a volunteer for a microfinance program in the Zapotec villages of Mexico, MZ founder Shelley Tennyson got to know many artisans. She realized that these artisans either had almost no market for their work or had to sell at a price that didn’t value their hours of labor. She decided her mission was to provide a market for the amazing artisan weavings of the Zapotec people. Nine years later, MZ has established a successful brand in the U.S. that has allowed them to create economic and social opportunities for the Zapotec artisans. Through developing a new market for their goods, MZ has been able to buy thousands of bags, channeling a huge influx of funds into the community. Shelley spends several weeks a year in their village and sees the progress the families have made, such as improving their homes, sending their kids to more advanced schooling, and getting access to better health care. The benefits also go beyond the individual families due to the additional money they spend in the village for goods and services. Shelley believes this is what becoming a member of FTF is all about and is very proud of what the MZ team has accomplished.

Through school, nonprofit, and company fundraisers, FairTrade Caravans support farmers and artisans around the world by offering high quality, fair trade goods. They teach children, volunteers, and employees about the elements of fair trade, including the person and story behind each product. Making them aware of how products are grown or created, especially from a young age, helps these communities relate to producers and their lives. In doing this, FairTrade Caravans also inspires people to think about and look for fair trade products in their everyday lives. 

In Nepal, for every 100 men in the working-age population, there are 125 women. However, for every 100 employed men, there are only 59 employed women. This means that only 22.5% of working-age women are employed. One of the main reasons that their employment continues to be so low is that Nepali women have not been able to find an appropriate environment to work due to their social responsibilities at home. Ark Imports takes pride in creating social and economic opportunities through partnerships with marginalized producers, particularly women. Since most of their collection consists of hand knit woolen accessories, producers can make products from the comfort of their own home. This provides them with the freedom to knit, spend time with their children, and fulfill their responsibilities, while earning fair wages. Ark Imports’ main supplier is a woman entrepreneur who has over 50% women employees. Women’s empowerment, such as this, is critical to economic growth, the best way to improve overall quality of life and end poverty.

Sharing the Dream in Guatemala works with over 20 cooperatives and small businesses that use traditional Mayan techniques to create unique, handmade products. The organization encourages their partners to be more than just producers, but artisans who design their own products and sell to a variety of clients to promote sustainability. In this effort, Sharing the Dream provides workshops with topics focused on business skills, design, and marketing. The artisans are expected to participate in these workshops and meetings with the artisan development team so that they can learn, provide feedback, take ownership of the program, and determine their own lives.

For over 10 years, Cielo Hammocks has promoted the ancient art of Mayan hammock weaving across the world. They are extremely proud of their Mayan ancestry and the beauty of its history and craftsmanship. They are a socially driven organization that seeks to alleviate poverty and promote gender equality through the creation and distribution of hammocks. Women in their network weave hammocks in their spare time from home. This allows them to supplement their family income while continuing to care for their children. Cielo Hammocks is the only Fair Trade Federation verified and B Corp certified hammock in the marketplace, which reflects their commitment to the communities they serve.

Women in the farming communities of Tanzania have set-up sewing centers, with the assistance of the bioRe® Foundation, to sew and repair the bags used by organic cotton harvesters. This is the same organic cotton found in Maggie’s Organics socks! Maggie’s is collaborating with the women, using their talent and expertise, to create functional new knapsacks made from traditional Tanzanian prints and by providing a market for new products. $12 from the purchase of each bag goes back to these communities, providing more income sources for small family farmers. By supporting small-family farming communities and finding ways to develop additional incomes, Maggie’s embodies fair trade principles in everything they do.

Awamaki’s design collaboration, which takes place during production, is based in open dialogue and respect for the artisans’ unique vision. Their head designer says that major factors in helping cultivate a successful and healthy relationship with the women artisans are allowing for time, inclusivity, and curiosity. It is fundamental for them to keep the artisans involved in the development of the products, while also incorporating new and more emerging techniques to their process, as this helps them get further in the global market. At Awamaki, the designer-artisan relationship has been built throughout the years and has shown all involved the powerful outcomes that emerge from practicing fair trade.

In order to give men who were unable to attend school the opportunity of a steady income, Mexican potter Ken Edwards founded a workshop in San Antonio Palopó, Guatemala called Mayan KE in 1992. Lucia’s Imports purchases directly from Mayan KE as well as Ceramicas Palopó, also in San Antonio. Since their foundation, the two workshops have employed 20 artisans, 13 men and 7 women. Both Mayan KE and Ceramicas Palopó have consistent orders to fill for Lucia’s Imports which provides steady incomes for their employees. As Lucia’s Imports grows, more job opportunities continue to be created for locals in San Antonio. These incomes allows artisans’ children to receive an education, expanding their opportunities in the future. Lucia’s Imports’ fair trade mission ensures that they are working to make a difference in the lives of their artisan partners.

To learn more about how fair trade enterprises create opportunities for producers, explore the 250+ FTF member enterprises.

Cover photo by Maggie’s Organics

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