I'd like to say that this past Canadian Fair Trade Network conference in Halifax has broke my fair trade lull but instead of energizing me it just made me more tired of the same old thing. Let me explain.
For the past 8 months or so I've been lacking in my fair trade research, fair trade networking, blogging about fair trade etc. Perhaps it's the fact that I’m at a mental over load with fair trade or that three of my steering committee for Fair Trade Kitchener dropped out suddenly or maybe that the support for fair trade is so limited here in Kitchener or just simply realizing that selling and promoting fair trade consumerism just isn’t enough to change the lives of all these small scale producers.
I've been feeling that the fair trade movement is in a rut, looking for direction, figuring out what fair trade really is and how do we satisfy everyone’s view and still call it fair trade.
We have many fair trade supporters wanting to include “Domestic Fair Trade” into the current fair trade movement, certifiers labelling something fair trade when only a small percentage of the product is fair trade and Fair Trade USA coming into Canada labelling greenhouse peppers as Fair Trade. What is going on?
Did you know that 70% of our food is grown by small scale farmers living in poor rural regions in developing countries? How about how farmers that sell fair trade goods only sell 30% of their goods as fair trade? And what about how the cost of cotton in the 1960's was $3/kg and currently is $1.6/kg?
Even though I struggled to get through some of the sessions, I did end up seeing a glimmer of hope.
A hope that was found in discussions about changing government policies and trade agreements. Getting back to how fair trade first began and good ole down to earth grass roots activism. It's going to be a long road to make the changes we wish to see but through all the fatigue, frustration and even my own cynicism, I 'm going to hang in there. I don't want to be another quitter, I don't want to be a supporter turned cynical consumer.
Well I’m off to Louisville Kentucky at the end of the month for the Fair Trade Federation conference, a different crowd with different ideas.