Thursday, 10 September 2015

Fair Trade

Fast Fashion isn't free- someone somewhere is paying

A discussion was organised in Christ University in collaboration with the Department of Sociology and Fair Trade India on 6th August, 2015. Ms Devina Singh who is placed with Fair Trade India in Bangalore addressed the first and second year M.A students about Fair Trade Organisation and its role in the lives of farmers. She focused on farmer suicides and how we as individuals can bring about a change in their lives.

Fair Trade is an alternative approach to conventional trade, based on a partnership between producers and traders, businesses and consumers. Fair Trade offers producers- improved terms of trade and a better deal. It is a powerful way of reducing poverty and ensuring environmental sustainability through their everyday buying decisions. When a product carries a Fair Trade mark it means that the producers and traders have met 'Fair Trade Standards'. The standards are designed to address power imbalances in trade, unstable markets and injustices of conventional trade. Fair Trade standards focus on improving labour and living conditions for farming communities and promoting a way of farming which protects people and the environment.

Having a long history in India, Fair Trade aims to build on the success of the export market in  key products like coffee, tea, spices, cotton and directly reach the consumer market in India. The three pillars of fair trade India are protecting biodiversity, gender equality and social justice. One of the pillars of fair trade being gender equality- women farmers, are directly paid rather than through their husbands or other male family members. This gives them more decision making powers and now they often provide loans to their husbands. Women hold important positions in the fair trade board too.

Cotton farmers who are highly illiterate and have limited land holdings are dependent on middle men or ginners who often buy their cotton at prices below the cost of production. Rising costs of production, fluctuating market prices, decreasing yields and climate change along with food price inflation and food insecurity are great challenges which the farmers face. In India, many farmers are seriously indebted because of the high interest loans required to purchase fertilizers and other farm inputs and in desperation resort to ending their lives.  Fair Trade encourages sustainable cotton production and acts as a standard tool to provide economic benefits through Fair Trade Minimum Price and additional Fair Trade Premium for seed cotton farmers. Thus cotton cooperatives have been more organised and both men and women farmers receive the same rewards.

She enlightened us with regard to how additional income through the fair trade premium is supporting better farming, strong cooperatives, and local infrastructure and helping communities plan for the future. Fair Trade also supports workers to realize their rights and negotiate the terms and conditions of their work through Collective Bargaining and Trade Unions. Fair Trade is formed and run by farmers and not by corporate which helps to eliminate middlemen in trade who are the major sources of exploitation.

Fair Trade is not the answer to the problem of farmer suicides, but it can be a part of the solution. The awareness of fair trade and what it means is still very low. We need to raise awareness so that things can start changing for the better. We as individuals can popularize the movement and resort to purchasing garments made of Fair Trade cotton. A small change even at a minimal level by questioning 'Who made my clothes' can bring about a difference for a global cause.
                                                                                                                        Nibedita Dutta (1537614)
                                                                                                                        Namrata Ghosh (1537613)

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