This year we are very excited to announce that we are a recipient of the Columbia River Peace Corps Association Community Grant for a project titled Why Fair Trade Matters: Story Collecting about the Impacts of Fair Trade in Rural Communities. This project will create short videos from interviews of women and artisans working in reputable fair trade organizations in Northern India, where NWFTC member, Awaz, has been working for over seven years with community organizations and fair trade craft enterprises experiencing socio-economic development as a result of participating in the fair trade movement.
We believe that a major obstacle for people to participate in the fair trade movement is in understanding the economic and social impacts of fair trade in communities in the Global South and how their purchasing power helps combat global poverty / or strengthen transparency and accountability in international trade.
These stories will capture the lives of individuals and allow viewers to experience the human connection between the artisans that create fair trade products and the improved economic justice that comes from participating in the fair trade movement.
We hope these stories will be a great asset to this year’s outreach efforts to promote the Directory and encourage more people to support fair trade in our local community.
Read an excerpt from Sarah Mitts, Director of Awaz, about her past few months in India:
First of all, a big thanks to CRPCA for making this project possible. Fair Trade is alive and growing in India and I’m excited to be able to share what has inspired me over the years of being involved in social enterprise and the fair trade movement in India. The organizations we work with are all experiencing various levels of growth and socio-economic empowerment for its members in various forms. Thanks to greater focus on income generation as a solid community development model across the globe, that there are more micro-enterprise and fair trade models popping up in India.
And the national network of fair trade in India, The Fair Trade Forum-India, that coordinates the movement across the country and conducts on the ground audits of organizations (as part of the Asian Regional Network of the World Fair Trade Organization) has just launched a national brand to promote shops and its members. Believe it or not, consumption in India is on the rise as disposable incomes soar and many of the fair trade organizations are slowly targeting their efforts to the local market. In fact, for many years, our supplier’s sales have predominately come from their local market, which is a great thing to hear.
Just two weeks back, I joined a Corporate Gifts exhibition in New Delhi organized by FTF-I to promote fair trade products to corporates. 16 FTOs attended, including three suppliers Awaz works with. The 3-day exhibition was housed at FIEO (Federation for International Export Organizations), a new partnership they’re working on, as well.
In addition to this, there are some exciting other initiatives happening to encourage ethical business practices for corporates in India. Child Rights & You (CRY), a well known organization that works on child rights and labor issues also just completed their 2nd Annual Corporate Summit that profiled organizations like Patagonia who proudly promote their eco-friendly business practices. Interestingly, the Indian Government has also passed a law that mandates all corporates must give 2% of their profits to charity who have a certain number of earnings.
The forum’s latest big project has been building up the Organic Cotton Supply chain in India. Where suicide is a huge issue for farmers who get caught in cycles of fertilizer debt, they’ve been training farmers in Maharastara in organic farming methods and creating a consortium for craft organizations to source organic cotton for their products. Typically, the minimums for organic cotton are too high for small groups to finance. Now one of our larger suppliers has been able to create a Kitchen Table Linen collection and throws in organic cotton and I’ve heard many artisan organizations shifting this way for certain product lines.
Sadhna continues to be a powerful example of a successful women’s empowerment fair trade model. From just 15 women in a rural tribal village of desert Rajasthan, now their membership includes over 700 women who have become confident, contributing members to their local economies and families. In a community where women are not very much believed to be housewives and not go outside, Sadhna’s work has changed the perception of women in many of India’s rural communities and men and families are encouraging their wives to join their stitching program. I visited their new Production Center where I joined the closing celebrations of two 3-month training programs for new groups of rural women, thanks to grants from the Ford Foundation and TRIFED (a national government program for rural livelihood programs). I captured some great interviews from Group Leaders and Master Trainers who told me thanks to Sadhna, they now have an identity and are able to send their kids to college.
Robert Brown from Jubilee Oregon decided to join on this project on March 29th. He has a connection to this part of the world as a former Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal and was keen to reconnect with this area and see how fair trade was making a difference on the ground.
The Himalayan Mountains are alive with livelihood projects to promote the local bio-diversity and traditions of the people. We visited Himalayan Weavers who uses Ayurvedic plants to create beautiful, unique natural colors for their woolen and cotton scarves, shawls and throws. They continue to work with native Bhotia people providing a marketing outlet to sustain the local woolen craft and weaving traditions of the people.
We watched them do an indigo dying process with their dyer whom they’ve employed for 10 years from the local village. They now have over 25 people who they work with. We were amazed at how dedicated they were to environmental conservation in all that they do. They’ve built up their own low-cost, energy efficient dying process to re-use and conserve water and now also sell local locally made organic james, pulses and oils from local farmers.