Growing fair trade movement connects US buyers with entrepreneurs from developing countries

LatinaLista — Every shopper has heard the “fair and square” retail promise at one time or another where stores try to ‘sell’ themselves to buyers as the go-to place for fair value. Yet, there’s another ‘fair’ buying campaign that goes beyond the fair value promise.

The Fair Trade Towns USA campaign started in 2005 as an offshoot of the international Fairtrade Towns campaign begun in the United Kingdom in 2000. The campaign matches buyers with quality products made in developing countries. Products with the Fair Trade stamp ensure buyers that these products were made without the use of child labor or hazardous chemicals or genetically modified enhanced methods and are a fair price for both buyer and seller.

Mayan basket weaver's products are sold in the U.S. through Fair Trade initiatives.

Mayan basket weaver’s products are sold in the U.S. through Fair Trade initiatives.

But the biggest selling point of buying fair trade products is the potential to lift the people who made the products out of poverty. Whether it’s a Colombian coffee farmer or a Mayan weaver or a Brazilian honey keeper, their hard work should garner them what’s only fair in this consumer-driven global economy that allows them to pay for their children’s education, gives women a source of income and the confidence to succeed.

The Fair Trade Towns USA campaign has over 30 cities nationwide in their network. Designated a Fair Trade Town means buyers can find a range of fair trade products at their local retailers.

Described as a grass roots movement to build awareness and connect communities across borders, the campaign strives to make participation in the campaign relevant for both sellers and buyers. One way is through an unique meet-and-greet.

In April and May, two of the fair trade sellers from Guatemala will be touring some Fair Trade Towns on the east coast and meet the people who are buying their products. Miguel Mateo, a Fair Trade coffee farmer, and Gloria Chonay, a Fair Trade basket weaver, will see for themselves where their products are going, how they’re showcased and what people have to say about them.

Though the pair will be on the East Coast, they’ll be able to talk to fair trade buyers across the country since their appearances will be livestreamed as part of the campaign’s Kickin’ it Series.

To reach as many people as possible, two videochats with both Miguel and Gloria will take place throughout April into May. The first videochat, with Miguel, takes place this evening, Monday, April 15, at 6 EST. To participate, registration is required.

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