This is the second post in our October series that highlights how Heifer is supporting Fair Trade month.
As you know, October is Fair Trade Month—an effort that Heifer International supports wholeheartedly, since fair trade also supports small-scale farmers around the globe.
When people hear “fair trade,” they most likely connect the phrase with higher prices earned by producers. While that is accurate, it’s only part of the story. According to the website for Fair Trade USA, the principles of fair trade include:
- Fair prices and credit
- Fair labor conditions
- Direct trade
- Democratic and transparent organizations
- Community development
- Environmental sustainability
Using these principles, farmers not only receive better prices, but they build skills individually while strengthening their organizations and improving labor and environmental conditions. Heifer International’s projects also reach beyond economics, and although we do not currently include fair trade certification as a part of our projects, the principles behind fair trade largely apply to Heifer’s sustainable development approach.
In fact, at Heifer, we have our own set of principles, the 12 Cornerstones, that guide our work. Two of the cornerstones—Improving the Environment and Accountability—align with the fair trade principles of environmental sustainability and democratic and transparent organizations.
Another, Training and Education, is an important part of our community development efforts. Before animals are even placed, Heifer begins training community members—not only educating participants in agriculture and livestock management practices, but also in topics like leadership and organization management, gender equity, environmental sustainability and natural resource management, or even conflict resolution. These trainings, in addition to the gifts of livestock and seeds, give people the tools to improve their communities and sustain a higher quality of life.
Heifer also promotes fair prices and credit and fair labor conditions in our projects. In many instances, we link our farmers to larger markets, where they can sell more and receive higher prices. Training also helps secure higher prices, as was the case for Sylvia Zita Cuellar, who harvests wild cacao in the Bolivian Amazon and is the president of a local indigenous agroforestry association.
Thanks to Heifer trainings, Cuellar and organization members know what their cacao is worth. Instead of selling 40 pounds of cacao for around $3, the group now earns about $32 per 40 pounds.
“We weren’t getting a fair value,” Cuellar said. “(Now), rather than the owner of the store telling us a price, we can tell them the value of the product.”
Be on the lookout for more posts on the goods our farmers produce in our projects that support fair trade principles, specifically a fun illustration detailing how our Bolivian farmers harvest and produce their chocolate.