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Fairtrade Awareness Month: What is Fair Trade and Why Is It Important?

Fairtrade Awareness Month: What is Fair Trade and Why Is It Important?

Morgan Stacy
Associate Writer
stacym@berea.edu
photo: courtesy of The Pinnacle

During the month of October the Berea College community is bringing awareness to fair trade, an issue that has had a special place in the heart of the staff members of People Who Care. People Who Care is an organization in the Center for Excellence in Learning Through Service. Over the past five years, People Who Care has made it a goal to help Berea College gain Fair Trade Status, a goal that was finally reached last May. With such an achievement being completed, it is an opportunity to begin educating the community about the importance of fair trade. Before discussing what Fair Trade Status means, we will first explore what fair trade is.

I spoke with Tevin Shouse, People Who Care Student Program Manager, to discuss what fair trade means and its importance. The term fair trade is a term used to describe products that have been produced by ethical means for a living wage. These ethical means include, but are not limited to, absence of child labor and fair treatment of the producers of the products. It also means that the producers are paid a wage that will allow them to obtain and sustain the basic needs to survive (i.e. food, shelter, and clean water). This is possible because the marketing of fair trade products have no “middle man.” In non-fair trade products, there is normally a company who buys the goods from the producer, and the company then sells the products to another company. Often times during this process, the producer does not gain as much profit, because the “middle man” often marks up the cost of products for greater profits. In the marketing of fair trade products the producer sells their products directly to the companies that need them. Thus the producer is getting paid a fair price for their products. While fair trade does a lot for the producer, it also helps the community as a whole. The marketing of fairly traded products assists a community by creating a coalition. A coalition is a fund that is generated by the living wages of a community. These funds can then be used to help the community in gaining the necessary components for healthy living practices. The community can then prosper because of the goods coming from their own local producers.

It is this type of information that People Who Care, in cooperation with the Fair Trade Committee, hope to distribute throughout the Berea community. The first step to educating our community was gaining Fair Trade Status. This means that Berea College now offers fair trade goods in all of the retail and food outlets on campus. It also means that the college holds a dedication to continuing and increasing fair trade education in a classroom and community setting. Finally, the campus will have an organized committee, the Fair Trade Committee mentioned previously, that will advocate for fair trade. The committee is composed of local retailers, college professors, college students, and college administration. Shouse, a member of the committee, commented about the goals of the committee, “The goal of the committee is to retain our fair trade status and continue proactive action to increase our reputation as an accredited fair trade status university.”

With this goal in mind, the committee has established a Fair Trade Awareness Week in support of Fair Trade Month, which takes place throughout October. Fair Trade Awareness Week will take place October 27th through October 31st. Events include a photo campaign that will be hosted in dining services one evening, a Cafe Social Justice hosted in the Hutchins Room one lunch period, a documentary showing about fair trade, and the giving away of free fair trade chocolate in food service for Halloween. “We hope to reach out to students to let them know what fair trade means and what our fair trade status really is,” Shouse replied when asked about what the objective was for the week long awareness campaign. Keep an eye throughout the last week of October for these events and take time to learn more about the issue.

If you would like more information about Fair Trade Awareness Week, the events, or how to get involved, please contact People Who Care Student Program Manager Tevin Shouse, Tevin_Shouse@berea.edu.

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