Fair Trade TourismSouth Africa is home to sprawling plains with amazing wildlife, stunning mountain ranges and crystal blue coastlines. It is no wonder that it remains a supreme vacation destination for many people around the world. Despite its physical beauty, the country continues to struggle with high crime and violence rates due to large poverty gaps. The Fair Trade Tourism industry in South Africa is helping boost the country’s overall economy. Visitors help boost the country’s GDP when they choose to invest in travel experiences and accommodations that respect Fair Trade Tourism practices.

Fair Trade Tourism

Fair Trade Tourism is a non-profit organization that promotes responsible tourism in Africa through sustainability. They currently certify fair trade products and companies in South Africa, Mozambique and Madagascar in the Southern Africa region. Additionally, these countries have recognized agreements with other partner programs across the rest of the continent.

This non-profit works to help travelers in Africa seek out meaningful and authentic experiences and products that maintain high standards. Standards must include “fair wages and working conditions, fair purchasing and operations, equitable distribution of benefits and respect for human rights, culture and the environment.” In order to meet these standards, the organization has put in place six pillars for guidance with their own unique subcategories.

Pillars of Fair Trade

  1. Fair share: For tourism to be “fair share,” all participants in an activity, both the locals and the natives, should get a fair and direct cut of the income based on their unique level of contribution to it.
  2. Fair say: All parties involved in tourism should be able to voice their concerns and make decisions based on their values. These values should never be invalidated.
  3. Respect: Both those that host and those that participate should make sure they are respecting “human rights, culture and environment.” They can do this by choosing companies that enforce safe working conditions, protect young workers, promote gender equality, understand socio-cultural norms, reduce water and energy consumption as well as recycle, conserve natural habitats and their biodiversity and bring awareness to HIV/AIDS research.
  4. Reliability: Reliability is met via basic safety and security measures protecting all parties involved.
  5. Transparency: Tourism companies should make clear who owns a business, who shares the profits and where the money raised goes as well as be willing to answer any questions openly and honestly that tourists might have about the company’s missions, practices and values.
  6. Sustainability: Companies should seek sustainability via open-mindedness to increased knowledge, continuous improvements to resources via networking and relationship building, responsible use of resources for economic and environmental safety and support to marginalized groups.

The Importance of Fair Trade Tourism

Seeking out experiences that value these standards helps South Africa on the micro and macro level. On the micro level, it helps individual people working in the tourism industry to gain access to better benefits and working practices, improving their quality of life.

On the macro level, investing in these practices will have an overall better impact on the environment and the culture while simultaneously boosting South Africa’s global economy. The more money earned from the tourism industry, the more it will continue to improve in both environmentally and people friendly ways. This creates a virtuous cycle moving forward.

For South Africans, tourism remains one of the top industries for the economy. The Western Cape, where the bustling city of Cape Town is located, is South Africa’s most developed tourism region. It has grown faster than other areas and has created more jobs than any other industry in the province.

The National Development Plan names tourism as one of the top creators of employment and economic growth. Tourism, directly and indirectly, supported about 1.5 million jobs in South Africa in 2017. If the industry continues to grow at the pace it has been, it has the potential to create a real economic and social transformation for South Africans.

How People Can Help

There are several Fair Trade Tourism partners that tourists can seek out if planning a trip to South Africa or the Southern African region. Potential tourists should make sure they are checking any booked accommodations or experiences to ensure they are practicing Fair Trade. It is an easy solution to the problem of exploitation in the tourism industry. It makes for a better experience for both the locals benefitting from tourism as well as for the visitors themselves.

Meredith Breda
Photo: Flickr

Ethical TradingFair Trade is a buzzword these days, but what impact does it really have? As fair trade business models are around longer and grow in popularity, there is time to assess what positive impacts they actually have. The U.K.’s Ethical Trading Initiative is an alliance of organizations that work together to promote and support ethical codes of labor throughout the supply chain. Impacting the lives of more than 10 million workers every year, The Ethical Trading Initiative promotes giving a voice to local workers, transparent business practices and government intervention to protect workers’ rights. After 21 years of dedication to impoverished workers, people are able to measure the positive impacts of The Ethical Trading Initiative.

5 Positive Impacts of The Ethical Trading Initiative

  1. More Safety Regulations: One of the largest impacts has been on improving working conditions. This includes better training on emergency drills, improved fire safety and safer chemical use. Additionally, work environments have better hygienic standards as well as improved water and sanitation facilities. Changes in health and safety empower workers to feel safer at work and have better health, which improves their quality of life.
  2. Reasonable Working Hours: Overall, suppliers have reduced workers’ hours to be more reasonable although workers’ reactions to the reduced hours have been mixed. Those with families enjoy the extra free time while some single workers prefer to work (and thus earn) as much as possible. Additionally, workers are paid higher rates for overtime and earn double rates for working on Sundays. Ultimately, wages still need to be raised to combat the need to work as many hours as possible to support basic needs.
  3. A Reduction in Child Labor: Ethical codes and buyer pressure both aid in decreasing the employment of children. Specifically for children ages 16-17, an increase in checking age by official documents has contributed to lower rates in child employment. Poverty is the root cause of child labor. As ethical working conditions continue to improve, lifting more people out of poverty, child labor will continue to decrease.
  4. Worker & Manager Relations: Open, transparent dialogue between companies, managers and employees is key to establishing ethical working conditions. As a result of ethical labor codes, relations between management and workers continue to improve. On some sites, this has been the result of the establishment of workers’ committees that have improved communication practices. Establishing changes to increase communication and allow workers’ voices to be heard is foundational to deciding ethical labor codes.
  5. Physical and Social Well Being: As a result of all the previous improvements combined, workers’ physical and social well beings are increasing dramatically. Studies show that physical and social benefits are being felt by all workers and have effects not just in the workplace but also at home and on their long-term health. These improved and enforced ethical codes have a drastic impact on workers. Workers are less vulnerable to social problems resulting from income instability or health problems. This improves a worker’s ability to ultimately escape poverty.

In the face of increased demand for more products and faster production rates, the Ethical Trading Initiative helps raise awareness of ethical labor codes among managers. Ultimately, this awareness of codes pressures managers to adhere to more ethical practices. When companies take the time to think about the individuals behind every product produced as humans with rights, the ripple effects of change can begin. While there is still a lot of progress that needs to happen to empower impoverished workers globally, the positive impacts of the Ethical Trading Initiative continue to influence a consumer world that prioritizes human rights over profit.

Amy Dickens
Photo: Flickr

Many Hands Fair Trade ShopMany Hands Fair Trade Shop, located in Liberty, Missouri, sells fair trade items from a global community of artisans and workers. The shop — open between the months of March and December — benefits fair trade sellers in over 30 countries.

What is Fair Trade?

Fair trade is a concept that began around the 1980s in an effort to provide sustainable compensation and livelihoods to the producers and workers who make globally-traded products.

Essentially, consumers pay slightly more for internationally-traded products to ensure that a fair wage is paid to the producers of the products. Additionally, fair trade organizations set standards on the products produced, including environmental and human rights standards for producers and a fair trade minimum price for consumers.

What is Fair Trade’s Impact?

In 2016, there were over 1,400 fair trade certified producer organizations in over 70 countries who work to ensure fair compensation to over 1.6 million workers and producers. In fact, 23 percent of fair trade workers are women, a position that empowers them to help build their communities and work in a meaningful way.   

By selling solely fair trade products, Many Hands Fair Trade Shop uses their small storefront to contribute in a large way to producers all over the world. Established in 2015, the store works to ensure they are providing “a channel for these [fair trade sponsored] artisans to sell their products, [and] offering them an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and embrace a better life.”

What is the Many Hands Fair Trade Shop?

Cindy Noel, one of the managers of the Many Hands Fair Trade Shop, spoke with The Borgen Project about the efforts of the store’s managers to ensure as much income as possible goes to the fair trade producers.

“We put everything back into buying fair trade items so we can support more fair trade artisans and farmers. We have had to purchase a few shop displays but we ask for donations of most things and really have bought very few things. We are frugal. No one takes a salary,” said Noel.

The store is so serious about putting all the profit back into fair trade they have made an agreement with the Second Baptist Church of Liberty in Missouri — the owners of their property and sponsors of the store’s mission — to pay no rent on the storefront.  

The store purchases its products from a variety of companies, mainly SERRV, Papillion and Equal Exchange — all of which are members of the Fair Trade Federation or the World Fair Trade Organization.

All three of the store’s suppliers buy and sell products from fair trade producers in many different countries. SERRV purchases from producers in 24 different countries; Papillion benefits artisans in Haiti; and Equal Exchange has partnered with over 40 farmer producers over the world.

How Does Fair Trade Benefit its Producers?

Noel continued to describe the ways in which the store, and more generally fair trade, benefits its producers:

“The artisans and farmers are guaranteed an ethical wage and provided a safe place to work before we order our merchandise. Most times their children are cared for and educated in schools where their parents work. Sometimes workers who have broken free of the sex trade, or who have diseases and are shunned, work at home and provide for their families by joining a home based co-op,” Noel said.

Going Above and Beyond

Through the international network of fair trade, Many Hands Fair Trade Shop is making it possible for hundreds of fair trade producers to pursue meaningful work while earning fair and sustainable wages.

By taking no profit or salary from the shop, the managers at Many Hands are going above and beyond to see to it that every possible cent is put back into purchasing fair trade products. Through these admirable efforts, the organization will continue to support producers and workers in over 30 countries all over the world.

– Savannah Hawley

Photo: Savannah Hawley

Patagonia and Fair Trade USAFair Trade Certified: recognized by most from a coffee package or chocolate bar. Farmers, however, are not the only workers that benefit from Fair Trade Certification. The disconnect between the source and purchase of a good is one that Fair Trade USA is working to connect.

What Do Patagonia and Fair Trade USA Do?

Patagonia is leading the apparel industry in support of Fair Trade Certified goods. Patagonia and Fair Trade USA have partnered to help over 42,000 workers improve their quality of life since 2014. A solid 75 percent of Fair Trade USA’s disbursements to workers come from business partners like Patagonia, while the other 25 percent comes from contributions from corporations and foundations.

The Patagonia and Fair Trade USA program involves Patagonia paying for use of the Fair Trade Certified label. The money goes directly to the workers making the apparel. Once the disbursement is received, the employees decide how to use it by vote. Over the years, workers who make Patagonia clothing have used their disbursements for household appliances as well as childcare and healthcare.

Examples of Fair Trade Benefits

At the Hirdaramani factory in Agalawatta, Sri Lanka, Fair Trade disbursements provided a free daycare facility for the worker’s children. This ensures that even workers with families continue to thrive.

In addition, the community chose to build a health and hygiene program that provides things like sanitary pads. The health program doubles as a safe space to talk about reproductive health, which is considered taboo in Sri Lankan culture.

In Mexico, 1,500 workers at Vertical Knits factory used their Fair Trade disbursement to buy bicycles and stoves, improving either their work commute or home life. VT Garment Co., Ltd.’s disbursement paid school tuition for 265 children in Thailand and provided a fun community day to celebrate the factories successes.

These partnerships alone improved the lives and communities of over 4,500 workers. According to Patagonia, other benefits of Fair Trade Certification include “maternity and paid leave, no child or forced labor, and additional money back to workers.”

Effects of Unfair Working Conditions

Although partnerships like Patagonia and Fair Trade USA provide endless benefits to workers’ physical and mental health, thousands of workers in the apparel industry continue to work in sweatshops where working conditions are unsafe and wages are not livable. According to War on Want, a worker’s rights charity organization, many are “working 14 to 16 hour days seven days a week.”

Fires and collapsing buildings killed hundreds of workers in 2012 as factories were unregulated. Soon after these incidents in Bangladesh, factories began implementing fire safety and building codes to ensure workers safety. Though improvements are being made, there are still millions of workers being underpaid and overworked in the garment industry.

How Fair Trade USA is Helping Workers

Currently, Fair Trade USA works with over 1,250 companies internationally, helping workers out of poverty by providing safe working conditions and livable wages. As explained in the 2017 Fair Trade Certified Quality Manual, “When shoppers choose Fair Trade Certified goods, they are able to vote with their dollar – supporting responsible companies, empowering farmers and workers and protecting the environment.”

By purchasing goods that are Fair Trade Certified, consumers are ensuring the betterment of the workers’ lives by providing access to things like healthcare, education and modern appliances.  These things would not be accessible if not for programs like Fair Trade USA.

As abstract as it may seem, there are people behind every purchase. Continued support for organizations such as Patagonia and other Fair Trade Certified companies will change the lives of individuals and communities in monumental ways.

– Hope Kelly
Photo: Flickr

Trades of Hope Addresses Haiti’s Orphan Crisis Sustainably
Haiti currently ranks as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. With a population of 10 million, almost 60 percent of Haitians live under the national poverty line, which acts as a huge contributor to Haiti’s orphan crisis.

Conditions on Haiti

The country’s location on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean has also served as a large contributor to the nation’s extreme poverty. Hurricanes regularly blaze through this portion of the Atlantic Ocean, and the subsequent hurricanes that hit Haiti in August and September 2008, Gustav and Ike, killed nearly 800 Haitians and destroyed crops, making Haiti dependent on international relief efforts.

Only a year and a half later, another natural disaster struck the country. The January 2010 earthquake destroyed more infrastructure, ravaging the capital city, Port-au-Prince, and its surroundings, further harming Haiti’s functionality and increasing foreign aid dependence.

Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti in October 2016. This time the south was particularly ravaged, as the natural disaster damaged homes, infrastructure, more crops and livestock.

Orphans and Natural Disaster

The devastating consequences of natural disasters on the country’s resources and economy led to Haiti’s orphan crisis — currently, about 500,000 children are considered orphans. Interestingly, the Haitian government estimates that about 80 percent of these children have at least one living parent.

This confusing discrepancy seems directly linked to the series of natural disasters. For instance, the 2010 earthquake left more than two million Haitians — a fifth of the country’s population — homeless and caused many Haitian parents to believe their children would be better off in orphanages that would at least provide shelter.

Orphanages appear to have the resources to feed, educate and care for children whose parents struggle to combat the effects of natural disasters. This is an idealized view exacerbated by many orphanages who send employees into the community to encourage parents to send their children into the “shelters” for care.

Orphanages perform this reconnaissance as many shelters are not regulated and do not actually adopt children and instead exploit them as laborers. About 300,000 children work as servants in private residences in Haiti, and according to UNICEF, many children are also sold into the sex trade.

The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, has become a major market for Haitian child trafficking, with an estimated 2,000 children sold there each year. This abusiveness and corruption by some orphanages have created Haiti’s orphan crisis.

Combatting Corruption

Trades of Hope, an ethical jewelry company, seeks to treat Haiti’s orphan crisis at its root of poverty, instead of treating the symptoms. Co-founder Gretchen Huijskens already had a nonprofit in Haiti, with an orphanage, school and medical clinic, but while providing safe places for the orphans generated by natural disasters was important to her, Huijskens saw a need to help children by keeping them with family members. Such a goal requires parents being able to afford their children.

At the same time, co-founder Holly Wehde realized the effectiveness of the home-party method for sales, and Trades of Hope was founded in June 2010. These two influential individuals believe sustainable business provides a long-term solution to poverty. Therefore, Trades of Hope provides a platform for local artisans to sell their products.

Trades of Hope finds these artisans through nonprofits and co-ops in Haiti, that they verify through English speaking Americans in Haiti and with a Fair Trade Principles Agreement. Through these means, Trades of Hope helps artisans earn $15 a day, when the minimum wage in Haiti is about $5 a day. By their estimates, this money can provide adequate resources for two and a half children, enabling families to keep their children instead of fueling Haiti’s orphan crisis.

Fostering Global Involvement

The founders invite American women to partner in creating this sustainable business, through selling products as Compassionate Entrepreneurs and buying their goods through home parties and their website. Trades of Hope also eases the way for American women to make a difference in Haiti.

While assisting in alleviating the orphan crisis by adopting a child costs around $25,000, buying jewelry and other products from Haiti provides a cheaper alternative. One of the more expensive products is still only $80, and consumers receive a chocolate goat leather and cream canvas crossbody bag, called the Chandler Bag.

Sustainable Solutions

Even less expensive and more sustainable options exist such as the Revive Necklace, a long silver pendant with pink tassels priced at $33. The steel for the pendant comes from recycled steel oil drums, a source that allows more money to go directly to the artisans instead of materials.

This model of selling beautiful products to American consumers who want to support local artisans and their children has proved extremely lucrative and effective. Trades of Hope claims that 1,183 Haitians have been positively impacted.

The company has expanded to 17 countries since 2010 and has 9,440 full-time employees. This substantial group fosters the environment and provides the solutions to combat Haitian poverty at the root, and thereby reduce corruption and struggle as in Haiti’s orphan crisis.

– Charlotte Preston
Photo: Flickr

Farmers in Developing Countries
While the discussion about fair trade with foreign countries can become complicated fairly quickly, and how citizens can support local and global farmers just as much so, there are a few steps people can take that can make a difference. Here
 are three options that help support farmers in developing countries.

Buying Fair Trade Products

Fairtrade International is a nonprofit organization that certifies different product supply chains that focus on fair trade with international farmers. While the organization is not a grocery store in itself, it lists brands and products that have the Fair Trade certificate.

The organization has specific standards that it looks for in everyone it works with, from traders to small producers to contractors. Some universal standards include acceptable health and safety conditions, workers being able to join a union to discuss working conditions and that the wage is equal to or higher than minimum wage. 

This is a great starting point for someone who wants to become more conscious of which corporations and brands they should support. The list also provides direct links to the brands’ various websites where customers can order online. Supporting these brands and looking into the impact different corporations have is an easy way to help support farmers in developing countries.

Investing in Technology Advancements

Technological advancements can help farmers in developing countries finish their work faster and allow them to complete more work in less time. However, many new inventions need financial help to get off the ground.

One group working to support farmers in developing countries is KickStart International. The company specializes in irrigation pumps that are affordable and can filter and spray water efficiently. The company accepts donations in order to support its goal of making and sharing its inventions.

Another invention, known as the Hippo Roller, is able to collect more water and transport it much more easily than the traditional method of carrying one bucket for miles. By rolling a larger but lighter bucket, the Hippo Roller has helped more than half a million people access water faster and easier.

Like KickStart International, Hippo Roller accepts donations to help promote its invention. Financially supporting inventions that help farmers working long and grueling hours is one way to help support farmers in developing countries.

Support Farmers in Developing Countries by Volunteering

Multiple organizations exist specifically to help local and global farmers. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is an organization that allows volunteers to live on a farm (nearby or internationally) and be a worker for a season.

After originating as Working Weekends on Organic Farms in England in 1971, the organization grew to include 42 national groups across the world. By working closely with host families, WWOOF allows people to travel to another country for a season and lend a helping hand with farm work. This program offers a great opportunity to see firsthand where the majority of food comes from and how much work goes into producing it.

While some examples may not be available to everyone because of price or convenience, it is good to be aware of where the money being spent on food is going. Looking further into the treatment of farmers from different companies can be a simple step that goes a long way. Choosing one brand over another, lending a hand in technology advancements to ease the workload and physically going to a country to help out are all great ways to support farmers in developing countries.

– Marissa Wandzel
Photo: Flickr

Healing Hands Foundation
Oxfam estimates that it would take $60 billion annually to end extreme global poverty, less than one-fourth of the income of the top 100 richest people in the world. Although there are billionaires that donate to certain organizations, some of the most powerful efforts come from companies, like doTERRA’s Healing Hands Foundation, which works diligently with the actual individuals suffering from extreme poverty.

doTERRA Makes Social Responsibility Part of Its Corporate Mission

doTERRA, an essential oils company with $1.2 billion in annual revenue in 2016, was founded in 2008 with the vision of producing a new standard of therapeutic-grade essential oils that would positively influence individuals and communities around the world. In addition to making products such as lotions and supplements, as well as the pure essential oils themselves, the company truly desired to serve people and communities with the resources they had. In June 2012, doTERRA created the Healing Hands Foundation, a nonprofit organization that serves communities in need.

The organization partners with other groups and doTERRA Wellness Advocates to offer hope to millions around the world. One of the corporate partners, Operation Underground Railroad, works with the doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation to bring healing and hope to the world by rescuing children from sex trafficking by using some of the world’s experts in extraction operations and anti-child trafficking efforts. Through the foundation’s efforts, not only are the lives of many freed from disease and poverty, communities are empowered with the tools they need to become self-reliant.

Healing Hands Foundation Focuses on Innovative Co-Impact Sourcing Model

A major part of the Healing Hands Foundation’s efforts are based around its concept of co-impact sourcing, a model in which farmers are paid a fair wage for their work and in turn, the company receives a higher quality product, creating a strategy of economically sustainable development. The Healing Hands Foundation has co-impact sourcing initiatives in 10 different countries: Guatemala, Nepal, Somalia, Kenya, Madagascar, Haiti, India, New Zealand, Jamaica and Bulgaria; this list is predicted to grow further. The initiatives have sustained social impact and benefit farmers, harvesters, and distillers, their families and communities.

The doTERRA Co-Impact Sourcing Initiative in Somalia pays frankincense harvesters equal and fair wages. Frankincense harvesters have been around for thousands of years in Somalia; however, they often have treacherous journeys to collect the resin. Frankincense is grown from wild Boswellia trees, and it takes more than five months to complete the delicate process, forcing harvesters to leave their families and often live in caves. Even after all of this dedication, the harvesters are often unable to sell the frankincense at a fair price.

Because of doTERRA’s co-impact sourcing, all harvesters receive fair wages and on-time payments by bypassing the middlemen and instead working directly with the harvesters themselves. Because it is often the responsibility of women to clean and sort the frankincense resins, the foundation makes it a top priority to ensure that the women are able to do their work as close to the harvesters as possible. The foundation has made an impact on Somalia as a whole, due to the construction of two new schools for hundreds of students from harvester clans.

The doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation is actively eliminating global poverty by not only collaborating with other organizations, but by providing thousands of poverty-stricken individuals and communities worldwide with well-paying jobs. The foundation works to promote healing, hope, community and self-reliance in many developing countries.

– Angelina Gillispie
Photo: Flickr

how to stop poverty
Poverty in the world is a topic constantly present in the news, media and everyday life. With nearly half of the world’s population living on less than $1.25 a day, it can be discouraging to say the least when asking how to stop poverty.

Researchers estimate that it would take $60 billion annually to completely end poverty, which would only be a fourth of the income from the top richest billionaires in the world. But what can be done when there is not as much money to give? Fortunately, there are multiple ways every person can help end poverty.


The most common but just as helpful step is donating. Multiple websites accept donations to help end poverty. Websites such as Self Help Africa, Habitat for Humanity, and Save the Children use donations to help build new homes, provide clean water and food and help when disaster strikes.

Many of these organizations allow people to volunteer and work hands-on in the program, but if this isn’t an option, donating is a great way to help out. Try searching around for different organizations! There are a lot of programs that work on poverty, and they should state exactly where their donations go.

Talk to Your Representatives

Congress is made up of multiple representatives and senators from all over the country who are there to represent their constituents’ worries, wants and where they believe action should be taken. Calling your representative is a very simple action with huge impacts — plus it only takes about thirty seconds to complete!

You can find the representatives for your area right on the Borgen website. If talking on the phone is a bit stressful, emailing Congress works just as well! Email and/or call every week to continuously encourage Congress to support fighting poverty in foreign countries.

The representatives need to make note on what issues are called in about, and the more calls an issue gets, the more attention and action it will receive at the legislative level. 

Clean Out that Pantry and Closet!

No one likes clutter, but it can be difficult to motivate oneself to go through all of those old clothes in the closet. However, by donating, one can remember that it is all going to a good cause! Haven’t worn that sundress in a few years? Do those jeans just not fit right anymore? Give them to someone who could use them!

Sometimes it can be difficult to get rid of things that have sentimental value, but by donating you can be reassured that your old favorite outfit will have another life with someone who could really use it.

The exact same thing can be done with food as well! Check through the cupboards for non-perishable foods that you won’t use and give them to a food bank. This website can help locate the closest food shelf, their hours and how to contact them!

Buy Fair Trade products

There is an unfortunate and dangerous power imbalance between international trade and large corporations. Fair Trade Products, however, works on improving worker conditions, higher wage for the farmers and workers, and works against child and forced labor. The website also includes a list of products, brands and retailers certified under their name.

When asking how to stop poverty, simply switching up the brand of morning coffee or going to a different grocery store is one simple way to help farmers and workers get the living wage they deserve.

Demand Action

Poverty has been a huge crisis in the world for a very long time, and people often find themselves asking how they can stop it. While the question of how to stop poverty is a loaded one with multiple elements, there are little things that anyone can do everyday to help. Donating, volunteering, helping at a food shelf, switching coffee brands — all of these are ways that everyone can help.

As discussed, talking to local representatives and bringing their attention to important issues like poverty is a huge step to helping end it; but sometimes the task can be overwhelming. However, working together, getting involved and communicating with local government can all be catalyzed by just one person. Don’t be discouraged — demand action.

 – Marissa Wandzel

Photo: Pixabay

Blood diamonds, or “conflict diamonds,” have been a hot topic since the 1990s. After civil war broke out in central and western Africa, diamond profits were used to fund wars, weapons, slavery and anti-government rebellions. Children and families were forced into slavery to mine diamonds, and the gemstone funded extreme violence and war among communities, destroying stability and peace. To this day, blood diamonds are perpetuating poverty in areas around Africa especially.

The Kimberley Process

The Kimberley Process was initiation in an effort to eradicate this cycle of slavery and violence surrounding the stone. This process was designed to turn blood diamonds into conflict free gems, and entailed certification of place of origin, how it was mined, where it was cut, who was involved in all processes and the intended destination of export.

The idea was to create a sort of passport for the diamond, so that buyers and consumers would be able to verify the ethical sourcing of the product; making sellers accountable for the diamonds they handled was a way to increase ethical practices.

While the Kimberley Process was a good theory, there were a few problems with it: since many people were involved in the process, sellers were still able to use bribery and violence to fake certification, and the process only regulated how the proceeds were used.

As long as it was not funding a war, weapons or means of overthrowing a government, the diamonds were given the stamp of approval. This leaves a huge problem that still runs rampant today — the inhumane conditions of which miners endure.

Worker Treatment and Fair Trade

Many workers are actually slaves, taken for the purpose of harvesting blood diamonds. Those who came to work willingly are underpaid, mistreated, abused and working under backbreaking conditions. While the Kimberley Process addresses the crisis of blood diamonds funding war and slaughter, the giant blank space remains that diamonds are unethical under the certification.

The need for ethical sourcing is as relevant as ever, especially with the millennial push for fair trade. While other luxury items like electronics and fine wines are booming, the diamond market has been stagnant for years. The current generation cares about ethical conditions, sustainability, and environmentally responsible practices. Knowing that blood diamonds are perpetuating poverty, millenials are abstaining from consuming the product at all.

This push has led big companies such as Tiffany and Co. and De Beer’s Forevermark to enforce stringent standards on their diamonds. Whether they choose to only buy from Canada, or work directly with the diamond sellers, they are listening to the push for fair trade.

Ethical Sourcing

While this is a great start, the issue remains that it is very hard for even experts to tell a diamond’s origin. Not knowing where the diamond came from makes it difficult to tell if it came from somewhere practicing conflict-free practices or not. While things like the coffee bean have been bursting with fair trade market placement, diamonds have remained an emotionally heavy issue — people are still dying over these goods. Blood diamonds are perpetuating poverty, even now.

While many argue to simply stop buying from problematic countries all together, the issue remains that a lot of poverty-stricken people rely on the mines for food. Children drop out of school to work in the diamond mines so they can contribute to feeding their families.

While they are working in inhumane conditions, boycotting the diamonds would also mean boycotting a family’s dinner, or a child’s milk for the week.

Possible Solutions

A solution discussed by committees for human rights has often been to enforce fair trade standards, as done with coffee. While cutting off the problem would also cut off the poverty stricken workers, working with the sellers would help them keep their jobs.

Involving the sellers in the process, and making them a part of the solution, would not only ensure humane practices and improve the lives of the workers and decrease the slave trade, but would it would also motivate sellers to enforce ethical practices.

Such methods worked in the coffee industry, and many propose that it could work in this industry as well. Such moves would turn a corrupt business into a viable income for those entrapped in it.

While the line is a fine one, finding the balance between helping sustain diamond workers and holding sellers accountable is attainable. Places like Botswana and Namibia are already starting to put stricter and more humane standards into place. In time, the hope is to ensure consumers that their gems are ethically traded, just like their espresso beans and fair trade clothing.

A Conscientious Future

This generation is a conscientious one, and that alone might be enough to propel the fight for ethics forward in the diamond industry. Rather than omitting diamonds in luxury, consumers need to either buy from ethically conscious sources, or demand higher standards from those not yet practicing conflict free practices. The demand and need for diamonds must remain in order to make a difference in the lives of those who mine them.

Blood diamonds are perpetuating poverty now, but with the pressure of loud voices and those with deep pockets, the tide will hopefully shift more dramatically in favor of ethical sourcing and humane worker treatment.

– Emily Degn

Photo: Flickr

fair trade coffee in Colombia
Colombia is a land known for its jungles, food and, of course, the coffee industry. Four million of  Colombians rely on the coffee bean for income. While coffee is the second most profitable industry in the world, 30 percent of the country still lives below the poverty line. These valuable coffee farmers are living on less than $2 a day, and yet are at the forefront of the global economy.


Coffee Farm Wage Discrepancies

This discrepancy is largely due to two factors: the middlemen are making 87 percent of the profits, and most farms are too small to become “fair trade certified” in order to sell fair trade coffee in Colombia. It is an unprofitable business for the growers but is central to Colombia’s and the world’s economies.

This disconnect perpetuates poverty in the country, as well as creates a lack of interest in the youth to continue the coffee business. Children grow up watching their parents struggle on the farms and receive little pay from buyers, and witnessing such hardship significantly impacts the next generation’s well-being and career foci. There is now a growing trend of these growing sons and daughters not only leaving their communities to escape rural poverty, but participating in criminal activity and gang life due to lack of education, and a support system elsewhere.

As the coffee farmers struggle, crime increases, and in a cyclic motion, so does poverty. Fair trade coffee in Colombia is key to abolishing such high rates of poverty within the economy.

The country has been taking measures to focus on growing profits from the industry and works to address the poverty issue at hand. The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation has been working to spread fair trade coffee in Colombia, transparent and fair prices and humane working conditions for farm workers.


One Improvement at a Time

Thanks to new and required minimum price lines on the beans, and large-scale corporations stepping in to help, Colombia is slowly improving living conditions for their farmers, making it a viable income for many. Making coffee have a required fee guarantees that farmers make a certain profit. The farmers can charge more if they’re able, but doing so deters buyers from taking advantage of the small farms.

Starbucks is one of the large corporations practicing direct trade in order to ensure fair price for both parties. They don’t buy from middlemen. They go straight to the farm. This practice is spreading slowly among coffee chains, thanks to the ethical sourcing being already embraced by a few.  


Fair Trade Certification

A huge problem in the improvement process of this industry is the price to become Fair Trade Certified. Most of the coffee farms are small and lack the funds to gain certification. Many even already implement the practices involved, but are not able to participate in the movement and thus cannot gain the associated Fair Trade Certified market advantages.

Due to this occurrence, the National Federation of Coffee Growers strives to give easier access to the certification of small farmers, and lower costs. The Federation has already implemented measures to improve the sustainability, working conditions and economic value of the coffee business as a whole.


Fair Trade and Colombia

Colombia has a goal now to be certified nationwide by 2027. The government is working very closely with the different organizations to achieve this and is making the coffee business the nation’s business.

Thanks to conscious buyers, and chains that buy directly from the farmers, the country might be able to pull through with this achievable goal. The movement for fair trade coffee in Colombia has already gained a significant amount of traction in the United States and Great Britain, and small coffee farmers could be the key to raising Colombia out of poverty.

– Emily Degn

Photo: Flickr