On Saturday, May 10, starting at noon, Made by Hand International Cooperative in South Bethany’s York Beach Mall will be celebrating World Fair Trade Day, along with people in 70 other countries, to highlight the importance and benefits of fair trade.
Kimberly Grimes, an anthropologist and owner of Made by Hand, said that the day is a great way to raise awareness of fair trade issues.
“Consumers have the power to change everything,” she said. “Shopping is like voting, and when you stop spending money, big companies pay attention to that.”
Fair trade aims to build equitable, long-term partnerships between consumers in North America and producers in developing regions. According to International Fair Trade Association, fair trade businesses commit to certain criteria: creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers; transparency and accountability; capacity building; payment of a fair price; gender equity; good working conditions; and care for the environment.
Grimes said this year’s World Fair Trade Day theme is “For the Planet. For the People,” to bring the social and the environmental aspects of fair trade together.
“In fair trade, we try to be sustainable but we need help. We try to get them to change from azo dyes to a non-carcinogen,” she said. “It’s not that the clothes you are wearing that will give you cancer, it’s the people making the clothes who are at risk.”
Other successful changes have been made through 10,000 Villages, the largest and oldest fair-trade company, based in Lancaster, Pa.
“They did a wonderful job in getting workers in a Vietnam village to stop using a lacquer with a carcinogen and to use a more natural substance,” she noted. “To get that deep red color, they had to use lead, but now they can get a ‘reddish’ color [using the natural substance],” explained Grimes.
“As important as paying a fair wage is the ability for fair-trade companies to give artisans advanced credit — something that ultimately will lift them from a cycle of debt and poverty,” she added.
“It is especially important to buy from companies that are 100 percent fairly traded,” she emphasized, noting companies such as from Equal Exchange, the oldest and largest fair trade for-profit in the United States. “Because not only do they pay a fair wage but they also give advanced credit. And then the farmers don’t have to borrow from money lenders, and they can get out of the cycle of debt and create a better life for their families,” said Grimes.
Grimes went on to say that in general about 20 to 30 percent of profits go back to the producers of goods in fair-trade relationships, as opposed to less than 1 percent for other commercial goods.
“That means that these people stay in poverty and it isn’t because they’re not working hard,” she said.
Instead of simply not paying the farmers in the case of any glitches in production, as can happen with bigger corporations, the 100 percent fair-trade companies help the farmers work through any problems — something Grimes and her husband, Marco Hernandez, have implemented into their cooperative.
“We try to work with them. If something isn’t selling, we’ll talk with them and ask, ‘What about this is important to you?’”
“For instance, with the Zapotec rugs on the wall, made by an indigenous group in Mexico, they would make the rugs with lots of colors — pinks and purples and reds and oranges — not always an easy match for people’s homes. We asked what about it was important to them and they said the designs. So, we asked them to use different, more neutral color schemes, and they kept the designs. So we are respecting what is important to them and tweaking what is not.”
Along with the rugs, jewelry and clothing made by artisans from Vietnam to Mexico to Pakistan, the store carries pecans from African-American farmers in Georgia, almonds from Native American farmers and cranberries from other domestic farmers as a new, domestic, fair-trade program is bring introduced.
In addition to the arts and crafts made by artisans from all over the world, food is another item that be purchased with fair-trade practices in mind. Coffee is one of the most visible commodities dealt with in the fair-trade business, along with tea, chocolate and sugar, among others.
“It’s the second-largest commodity in the world next to oil, and it is all grown and picked by hand,” explained Grimes. “There’s no mechanized way to pick it, and that affects millions of people.”
Next door to Made by Hand, at 3 p.m. on Saturday, McCabe’s Gourmet Market will be participating in the World’s Largest Fair Trade Coffee Break, in an effort to break the Guiness Book of World Records.
Meanwhile, at Made by Hand, there will be tastings of fair-trade foods such as chocolate, coffee, tea, nuts and fruits. There will also be live music from around the world. There will be videos shown of the artisans who make some of the products that are sold in the store, and local artist John Donato will be showing artwork.
“As an anthropologist, I’m interested in eliminating poverty and having people live decent lives,” said Grimes. “And if you end poverty, we have a more secure world. When people are absolutely hopeless and someone comes up and says, ‘Here’s a gun. I’ll feed you,’ they are not going to say, ‘No, thanks. I’ll just starve to death.’ We have to look at the bigger picture, and need to focus on ending poverty.”
“People need to realize that we are one global economy,” continued Grimes. “National borders don’t mean anything to the economy anymore. We have to start making that economy work for everybody. Fair trade is about giving people opportunities. That through their hard work, they can make it happen. You just have to allow people to have that chance.”
World Fair Trade Day, always held the second Saturday in May, holds special meaning this Mother’s Day weekend, as many of the people impacted by fair trade are women and mothers. For more information on World Fair Trade Day, or for general information on fair trade, visit fairtraderesourcenetwork.org or www.ifat.org online.