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10 Mission-Driven U.S. Coffee Shops Fighting Global PovertyAccording to the National Coffee Association, 64% of Americans above the age of 18 drink at least one cup of coffee per day. Coffee is clearly important for many Americans, but few think about the often impoverished communities where the coffee beans are grown. Only a select few countries are suitable for coffee production, and many of them are at an economic disadvantage. Recognizing this inequality, many U.S. coffee shops are incorporating ways to relieve global poverty into their business model. From partnering with international nonprofits to doubling as a refugee training program, these 10 mission-driven U.S. coffee shops are fighting global poverty with each morning iced latte.

10 Coffee Shops Fighting Global Poverty

  • Elevate Coffee: This mission-driven coffee shop in Phoenix, AZ believes that small donations go a long way in the fight against global poverty. With every purchase of a latte, Elevate Coffee donates $0.10 to Water 4 Kids, a nonprofit organization that works to make clean water more accessible in developing countries. Water 4 Kids provides clean water packaged in easily recyclable aluminum cans to children in areas where clean water is scarce.
  • 1951 Coffee Company: Taking inspiration from the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention where the protection of refugees was first discussed on an international level, 1951 Coffee Company is a nonprofit cafe based in Berkeley, CA that trains refugees for careers in specialty coffee. So far, their program has trained 79 individuals and created a supportive community for refugees in the local area.
  • Duo 58 Cafe: This cafe in Orlando, FL is committed to reducing world hunger. Duo 58 partners with a nonprofit organization called Mission of Hope that provides meals for children in Haiti. In 2020, Mission of Hope has been able to serve 101,000 meals to students every day.
  • The Well Coffeehouse: The Well Coffeehouse in Nashville, TN is taking a hands-on approach to relieving the conditions of global poverty. By funding the construction of wells in developing countries and forming strong relationships with the farmers who produce their coffee, The Well Coffeehouse is certainly “turning profits into hope.” So far, The Well Coffeehouse has funded the construction of 23 clean water wells in different African countries.
  • FEED Shop & Cafe: This mission-driven coffee shop in Brooklyn, NY is the first retail location of the nonprofit, lifestyle brand FEED. FEED sells products crafted by artisans in developing countries such as India and Sri Lanka and donates their profits to nonprofit organizations that relieve world hunger. Each price tag of a FEED item tells the buyer how many meals their purchase can provide in developing countries. At FEED Shop & Cafe, customers can enjoy great coffee and buy products that foster sustainable communities.
  • Ascension Cafe: Based in Dallas, TX, Ascension Cafe aids impoverished communities in coffee-producing regions. This cafe understands that the effects of poverty are multifaceted, so its profits go toward improving conditions for struggling communities in a variety of ways such as funding clean water projects and entrepreneurial programs.
  • MiiR Flagship: MiiR Flagship in Seattle, WA doubles as a cafe and shop that sells MiiR products, such as stainless steel bottles and tumblers that encourage sustainable living. With each purchase of a beverage or MiiR product, the company donates to poverty-reducing projects in 26 different countries. Since its start in 2010, MiiR has raised over $1.3 million!
  • The Roosevelt Coffeehouse: This mission-driven coffee shop based in Columbus, OH is partnered with a group of nonprofit organizations including Blood: Water Mission, Food for the Hungry and Gracehaven that work toward solutions to global hunger, clean water scarcity and human trafficking. The Roosevelt Coffeehouse doesn’t keep its humanitarian work under wraps—the brand strives to bring awareness to global injustices and inspire others to get involved.
  • Mocha Joe’s Cafe: This cafe in Brattleboro, Vermont serves coffee made by Mocha Joe’s Roasting Co. The company wants to cultivate flourishing ecosystems and communities, so its coffee blends are made with fair trade and sustainably-sourced beans. Additionally, Mocha Joe’s maintains direct trade partnerships with small coffee farms in Cameroon, Bolivia and Guatemala to encourage economic development in their communities.
  • Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee: With a “Do Good Initiative” at the core of its business, this coffee company based in Roswell, GA gives back directly to the communities that grow their coffee by funding projects to provide needed resources. Recently, Land of a Thousand Hills built a health clinic near Kivu and Ruli, two remote Rwandan villages.

These 10 coffee shops are doing their part to contribute to the global fight against poverty—one cup of coffee at a time.

Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Flickr

Fair trade productsIn a global marketplace full of exploitative producers and hungry consumers, fair trade product markets can seem like a welcomed compromise that allows exporters in developing countries to prosper from their resources. These initiatives usually involve goods exported from developing countries to higher-income trading partners, including coffee, tea, cocoa and handicrafts. In more socially conscious trading models, producers are compensated equitably for their products and held to higher environmental and social standards. However, the true efficacy of fair trade models is complex.

Price and Accessibility

Consumer attitudes and behaviors play a significant role in the pervasiveness of fair trade products. Buyers often report positive attitudes toward more ethically traded items but are not always willing to pay the inevitably higher prices. As a result, fair trade products are still a more niche commodity, making up less than 1% of the market. Ironically, the extra expense of these items often makes them less accessible to lower-income consumers in developed countries, creating connotations of elitism. Despite these setbacks, the demand for more ethical products is steadily on the rise.

Fair Trade Product Marketing

Despite many well-intentioned consumer attitudes, fair trade product markets frequently feature marketing strategies that conjure up imperialistic images. Rather than honoring the work of exporters as equitable trading partners, many marketing campaigns portray farmers as grateful and dependent on western purchases.

Transparency in Fair Trade Certification

In products marked as fair trade, the certification might only apply to the product’s raw materials, rather than the full process of production. This means that a shirt made with fair trade cotton could have been manufactured in a sweatshop. Naturally, this lack of transparency can mislead consumers and dilute the meaning of the certification.

Economic Impact of Fair Trade

The efficacy of fair trade as a poverty management tool is up for debate as well. Although fair trade marketing is centered on empowering those in producing regions and reducing poverty, the effects are not as straightforward as many well-intentioned consumers might hope. A 2014 study theorizes that these practices are somewhat effective, “although on a comparatively modest scale relative to the size of national economies.”

Often, the poorest workers are spared the prosperity from fair trade product market practices. A study that observed coffee mills in Costa Rica between 1999 and 2014, explored the impacts of fair trade systems on household incomes within the region. Researchers found that farm owners and skilled growers reap most of the benefits. Unskilled laborers receive no benefits other than the economic spillover of an increasingly prosperous coffee-growing region.

Many requirements of the fair trade certification are inaccessible for growers with fewer resources. Smaller producers might struggle to pay the fees associated with becoming certified fair trade producers. Similarly, producers struggle to attract large corporate trading partners who have no interest in paying the extra cost of sourcing materials equitably. NGOs like Maya Traditions, which helps Guatemalan artisans sell their products on the international marketplace, aim to make entrepreneurship accessible to small producers in developing countries.

The Verdict

The efficacy of fair trade systems is the subject of a great deal of criticism. While fair trade products like coffee, tea, and cotton are worth investing in, the benefits are imperfect and not accessible to all producers or consumers. Some activists advocate for a ‘direct trade’ system, in which consumers can buy goods directly from growers while paying growers sums closer to retail prices. However, the direct trade model comes with its own set of challenges and infrastructural changes. Nonetheless, establishing a system that allows producers to reach more advanced development from trading their crops is challenging but is certainly worth investing in.

Stefanie Grodman
Photo: Flickr

The protection of women’s’ rights and access to opportunities for economic empowerment are vital pieces to the reduction of extreme poverty. Indian women continue to face major challenges in gender equality as inferiority persists between men and women through familial relations and cultural norms. Emphasis on traditional gender roles such as taking care of the home, children, elders and religious obligations often leave women with little time to pursue educational opportunities. As a result, India has one of the lowest female literacy rates in Asia. With a lack of education, finding employment that provides a livable wage can seem hopeless, but organizations like Shakti.ism are creating new hope.

Economic Empowerment as a Solution – Shakti.ism

Shakti.ism, a female-led social enterprise, aims to dismantle these cultural norms through economic empowerment. The organization provides employment opportunities for women in India, many of whom are victims of domestic and gender-based violence. The women work to create unique hand-crafted accessories and develop and establish themselves as artisans. The social enterprise partners with NGOs throughout India to reach as women and girls as possible. Shakti.ism is also committed to abiding by and promoting the 10 Principles of Fair Trade and the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. Founded by Jitna Bhagani, a survivor of gender-based violence herself, she hopes to encourage self-sustainment, independence and entrepreneurship in efforts “to break the cycle of poverty.”

Bhagani recognizes that cultural norms continue to largely impede upon the achievements and rights of women living in India. In a featured post by the Harvest Fund, Bhagani shares the stories of some of the women that Shakti.ism has helped. Many of these women are victims of discrimination as a result of the caste system. Although outlawed in 1950, it still remains deeply culturally embedded today. She notes that a lack of education, sex trafficking, familial relations and religious and cultural beliefs are some of the most prevalent causes of poverty and gender-based violence in India.

Impact

In collaboration with several NGOs, Bhagani’s Shakti.ism aims to tackle these issues by providing women with training focused on strengthening livelihood skills, compensating for a lack of formal education, a safe place to work, and alleviating dependence on male family members which reinforce societal norms. Another core goal of Shakti.ism’s mission is to provide women with the opportunity to become self-sustaining entrepreneurs, granting them access to a global market, financial and emotional support and secured wages.

Shakti.ism’s partnership with several NGOs has allowed the organization’s mission to reach women living in many parts of India, including Pondicherry, Jaipur, Hyderabad, and Chennai. The nonprofit organization has also partnered with another social enterprise called Basha Enterprises, allowing the mission to expand its reach to women in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Many of the women that have been employed by Shakti.ism have pursued entrepreneurship and are now participants in a global market, and working to ensure economic prosperity and a decrease in global poverty.

Future Directions

The United Nations cites that “empowering women in the economy and closing gender gaps in the world of work are key to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Growth” which strives to end poverty. As demonstrated by the work and reach of Shakti.ism, the economic empowerment of women is vital in the mission to end global poverty.

– Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

Fashion and Poverty
Fast fashion has been an ever-growing presence within first world countries since the 1990s. At first glance, consumers purchase cheap and trendy outfits for a fraction of the price of high-end brands. However, beneath the surface, impoverished workers in developing countries are toiling in dangerous sweatshops for minimal pay. These supply chains show a direct link between fast fashion and poverty.

Many fast fashion companies, such as Forever 21 and H&M, receive new clothing shipments every day, while Topshop features 400 styles per week. These brands are able to produce apparel at rapid speed because they do not interact with production, and instead outsource to supplier firms in developing countries. These firms then subcontract production to unregistered suppliers that operate under no government regulation. This means that brands are not legally obligated to ensure safe working conditions. This process takes advantage of the less fortunate. For this reason, more people should be aware of the processes behind their fast fashion finds.

Unethical Production Practices

Due to the fact that many sweatshops reside in countries with inadequate labor laws and little government oversight, working conditions are dangerous and dehumanizing. These sweatshops prey on the poorest people who do not have the luxury to turn down any form of work. In many manufacturing countries such as China, India and Bangladesh, the minimum wage only ranges from a half to a fifth of the living wage required for a family to meet its basic needs. Furthermore, the average worker in an Indian sweatshop makes just 58 cents an hour, and in Bangladesh this drops to 33, linking fast fashion to the cycle of poverty.

Dangerous Working Conditions

Along with the miserable pay, working conditions in sweatshops are often incredibly dangerous. Garment workers have to work 14-16 hours a day, seven days a week while facing verbal and physical abuse from overseers. Employees often work with no ventilation while breathing in toxic substances. Accidents and injuries are also common; the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh provides a grisly example. The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory caused over 1,000 garment workers to die on the job.

Child Exploitation

While these companies prey on the poor, they especially prey upon children in poverty. A report investigating mills in India found that 60% of the workers were under 18 when they began working. Trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty, these children are extremely susceptible to forced labor in sweatshops. These unethical labor practices demonstrate how fast fashion and poverty are intermingled.

Apparel Companies Working for Change

Fast fashion companies that use unethical production are among some of the most prominent leaders in the industry, including Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, H&M, Zara and more. However, in response to these widespread atrocities, many apparel brands have made a conscious effort to utilize ethical production practices.

One of the most well known Fairtrade certified brands is Patagonia, a company that offers more Fair Trade Certified styles than any other apparel brand. In response to prominent injustices, the company has built a social responsibility program to analyze their impact on workers and communities. In addition, since Patagonia does not own any factories, it is partnering with production companies across the globe to ensure ethical practices. The company strives to be a positive force that “not only minimizes harm but also creates a positive benefit for the lives they touch through their business.”

Know the Origin is another Fairtrade brand that works to be transparent about their production practices. This brand goes above and beyond paying minimum wages and ensuring safe working conditions. Know the Origin is working to create sustainable employment opportunities that help lift communities out of poverty. Able is another Fairtrade brand that centers on ending generational poverty. As over 75% of apparel workers are women, Able focuses on lifting women out of poverty through stable working positions. While these are some of the most prominent Fairtrade companies, there are many more that any consumer can discover with a few quick minutes of research.

Why You Should Vote With Your Dollar

These Fairtrade brands are paving the way for a new type of ethical apparel production. The apparel industry has the ability to provide dignified jobs for impoverished communities rather than forcing them further into poverty. While increased prices make many Fairtrade products inaccessible to those in poverty, a significant number of people who buy fast fashion have the means to buy Fairtrade. In the end, change must occur at the hands of fast fashion companies to make a permanent difference. However, consumers can still make an impact by pushing them to make this change. When consumers choose to buy Fairtrade, they show their demand for ethically-made apparel.

As a consumer, you can act for change. In buying Fairtrade, you refuse to funnel your money into an industry that abuses and torments impoverished communities. You communicate that you are against the sweatshops that force workers to endlessly toil for minimal pay. You show that you care about the world’s poor.

Natascha Holenstein
Photo: Flickr

Coffee farms fight world povertyCoffee is the world’s second-favorite drink, only behind water. In the U.S., Americans drink more than 580 million cups of coffee per day. Worldwide, more than three billion cups are consumed per day. To support the world’s love of coffee, many developing countries rely on their coffee-growing industries supported by small farmers. The majority of these small farmers, unfortunately, live in impoverished conditions. With the popularity of coffee and the market, there is a way that coffee farms can fight world poverty.

An Unsustainable Business

Small farmers produce about 80 percent of the global coffee supply. These farmers, known as smallholders, are defined as “owning small-based plots of land on which they grow subsistence crops and one or two cash crops relying almost exclusively on family labor.” An estimated 25 million smallholder farmers produce the world’s coffee supply. Unfortunately, they earn less than 10 percent per pound of the sale value of their coffee. Combined with the added costs of production, this quickly becomes an unprofitable business.

With the current situation being so hard economically, more and more coffee farmers have moved out of the industry. The past couple of years have brought drought and an increase in crop diseases like “coffee rust.” Coffee prices have dropped to a 12 year low.

Not only are farmers unable to support themselves and their families, but there are also a number of other challenges that have pushed them out of the coffee growing business. The environment in which coffee grows best requires a high altitude that is usually in remote and mountainous areas. This limits access to markets and adds the cost of transportation and middlemen. Changing weather conditions and lack of environmentally sustainable practices along with weak management and poor training have led to the inefficiency of coffee production.

In the department of Risaralda in Colombia, lies a small coffee farm known as a “Finca del Café.” Here, there are 10 hectares of land dedicated to the growth of Arabica coffee, a type of coffee that does best in the high altitude. The winding path through the Finca reveals the complex process of coffee growing that takes years of time. The farmer, who learned to grow coffee from his grandparents, expressed the unsustainability of the coffee business in 2019. They had to turn to other sources for revenue such as capitalizing on tourism of the area and building conference buildings.

Is Fair-Trade The Solution?

Despite the current situation of coffee production, the demand for the drink is increasing. If the current trend continues, there is predicted to be a shortage by 2050. In order to help small farmers and the coffee business, many companies are turning to fair-trade. According to the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics, “the promise of the fair-trade movement is that coffee growers in poor nations will receive a higher price for coffee if it is produced in better working conditions with higher wages.”

Unfortunately, no solution is perfect. Fair-trade impacts farmers by artificially raising the sale price of coffee, targetting production and not poverty. Other initiatives that focus on coffee farmers’ operations and management have shown more success. NUCAFE (National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises) works to facilitate services for Ugandan coffee farmers while having them take ownership of their crops. In Colombia, coffee farmers are investing in digital tools to better manage their farms and transactions.

Coffee and Culture

There are many coffee farms in Colombia’s Cafetero region facing these issues. While some are forced to give up coffee due to the lack of profit, others try to maintain the culture of coffee growing. Coffee farms like the aforementioned “Finca del Cafe” make it their purpose to inform others of the coffee-making process and also to bring awareness to the problems modern coffee farmers are facing.

Local coffee is sold all around the region and coffee is a large part of Colombia’s larger society. The problems encountered by coffee producers can ultimately change Colombia’s culture, a country that prides itself on its coffee.

– Margarita Orozco
Photo: Flickr

ethical shopping websites
Online shopping is a quick, convenient way to buy almost everything these days. However, as more consumers become concerned with labor conditions and the ethics of the companies they are purchasing from, online shopping has become more complicated. In order to help users see which brands align most with their ethics and values, multiple platforms have become available to help take the guesswork out of ethical shopping. Using one or all of these ethical shopping websites allows consumers to vote with their dollars and take some of the guilt out of online shopping.

Good On You

Good On You is available both on the web and as an app. It ranks clothing brands on a zero to five scale based on their performance in three categories: people, planet and animals. The organization then uses the ratings of these categories to formulate the brand’s overall rating from one to five. Good On You provides links to where users can buy Good and Great brands (rated fours and fives, respectively) on its respective rating pages.

The people category focusses on workers’ rights across a brand’s supply chain. Factors taken into consideration include practices and policies related to child labor, worker safety, forced labor, the right to join a union and payment of a living wage. The planet category considers a brand’s impact on the environment. Specific metrics included in the evaluation are resource use and disposal, carbon emissions, energy use, water use and chemical use and disposal. The animal category is concerned with whether or not a company uses animal products, and if so, the sourcing of such products. Specific animal products Good On You notes include fur, down feathers, angora, karakul, shearling and the skin and hair of exotic animals. The company also considers if and how brands use wool, mulesing and leather.

For each of the three categories, Good On You also considers whether or not brands are taking positive steps toward becoming more ethical or showing industry leadership. Conversely, it also considers “negative citizenship” practices, such as lobbying against legislation to reduce harm or increase transparency.

The organization sources information used to determine brand ratings from independent certification schemes and rating projects like Fair Trade, OEKO-TEX and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). Where one of the rating projects does not cover an ethical issue, Good On You utilizes the brand’s public statements. However, Good On You only uses brand statements if they make specific and relevant claims. In most cases, if these claims are false, the company in question would be violating misleading advertising laws, and thus, people would not consider the claims reliable.

Ecoture

Ecoture is one of Australia’s only ethical shopping websites. It allows users to shop ethical clothing and beauty brands all in one place. Like Good On You, Ecoture allows users to see which brands align most with their values. Icons designate whether or not a brand is cruelty-free, natural, upcycled/recycled, ethically made, organic, vegan, handmade, sustainable or vegetarian.

Ecoture’s Impact

Ecoture also commits to alleviating labor abuses and the poverty that comes with them. Today, an estimated 40 million people are garment workers, and 85 percent of them are women. Ecoture has partnered with i=Change to help empower the girls and women working in the garment industry. The organization partners with multiple NGOs in order to support projects that directly impact the lives of women and girls worldwide.

With every purchase from Ecoture, consumers may choose an NGO fighting on behalf of women and girls in developing countries. Then, Ecoture donates $1 per sale to that customer’s organization through i=Change. Customers can then track the impact of Ecoture and i=Change supported projects, allowing them to see just how Ecoture is using their contributions.

Online shopping does not have to mean compromising on ethics or core values. With ethical shopping websites like Good On You and Ecoture, consumers are able to choose which brands, causes and values they should use their dollars to support and promote.

– Shania Kennedy
Photo: Pixabay

What You Need to Know about Fair Trade
Imagine being in the local supermarket, perhaps in the coffee aisle. There is an abundance of options, from decaf to french vanilla and everything in between. Some of the choices have a special seal marked “Fairtrade.” But what does that mean? Here are the facts to know about Fair Trade.

What is Fair Trade?

One fact to know about Fair Trade is the difference between Fair Trade and Fairtrade. Fair Trade is a set of social, economic and environmental standards for companies and the farmers and workers who grow the food millions enjoy each day. Fairtrade, on the other hand, is a trademarked labeling initiative that certifies a product has met the agreed Fair Trade criteria.

For farmers and workers, standards include the protection of workers’ rights and the environment. For companies, they include the payment of the Fairtrade Minimum Price and an additional Fairtrade Premium. This premium can be used to invest in business or community projects of the community’s choice.

How does Fair Trade combat poverty?

The Fair Trade argument is that the poor are being paid less than fair prices for their products in the free market trading system. The Fairtrade foundation states that its goal is to “empower marginalized producers to become economically stable and self-sufficient and to promote sustainable development, gender equality, and environmental protection.”

Offering decent prices for products can help support jobs and improve living conditions for producers, their families and the local businesses they buy from. It can also divert young men from involvement in militias. The intention is that this will ultimately decrease conflict levels in impoverished nations.

While not all poor states are volatile, data indicates that violent conflict contributes to poverty in a number of ways. It can cause damage to infrastructure, break up communities and contribute to increased unemployment and forced displacement of peoples.

Additionally, free trade boosts economic sectors, thereby creating more jobs and a source of stable increased wages. As developed countries move their operations into developing countries, new opportunities open for local workers. An increase in the general standard of living reduces hunger and increases food production. Overall, a higher income makes education more accessible, increases literacy, increases life expectancy and reduces infant mortality rates.

Fair Trade focuses on the exchange between individuals and companies. Fair Trade supply chains utilize direct partnerships that take into account the needs of individual communities. Often times, cross border supply chains strengthen ties between two or more nations. By bringing people together in mutually beneficial trade pacts and policies, Free Trade can contribute to a sense of peace in war-torn areas. Through cultural exchange, there is a rare absence of marginalization in this type of commerce.

What are the disadvantages to know about Fair Trade practices?

Although the Fair Trade movement has good intentions, it also has a few disadvantages.

Fairtrade targets farmers and producers who are financially secure enough to pay certification, inspection and marketing fees, which are necessary to ensure compliance with government regulations. Thus, the poorest farmers who would benefit most from Fairtrade certification are often excluded.

Fairtrade minimum prices and wages ensure fair payment of farmers. However, farmers for non-certified products are left at a considerable disadvantage. When prices fall in the world market, it is the non-Fairtrade certified farmers who suffer. That being said, prices in stores are not monitored by the Fairtrade Foundation. Thus, the producers receive only a small piece of the revenue from retail mark-ups.

Conversely, research conducted by various groups such as CODER, the Natural Resource Institute and Brazilian based BSD Consulting has shown positive impacts of Fair Trade practices around the globe. In Colombia for instance, a 2014 study by CODER assessed the impact of Fairtrade for banana farmers in small producer organizations and workers on plantations. The study concluded that Fairtrade, with the support of other organizations, contributed to a revival of the banana sector in Colombia and increased respect for human and labor rights. Other studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of Fairtrade on worker empowerment in Ecuadorian flower plantations and the benefits of Fairtrade orange juice for Brazilian smallholder farmers.

Here are the facts to know about Fair Trade that can help consumers make informed decisions in their daily lives. Many everyday food items like coffee, chocolate, fruit and nuts offer Fairtrade certified options in local grocery stores. Change is already happening in the Congo where Fairtrade certified gourmet coffee is sourced from war-torn regions. Companies such as Tropical Wholefoods have begun to sell Fairtrade certified dried apricots from northern Pakistan. Just an extra minute in the grocery aisle and a few extra cents to choose Fairtrade can make a big difference.

-GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Empowering Maasai WomenAccording to recent statistics, Kenya’s poverty rate has declined sharply to 36.1 percent within a decade. New and improved entrepreneurship practices appear to directly correlate with this significant drop as they provide employment opportunities. Specifically, there has been an increase in female entrepreneurship in Kenya, as well as across sub-Saharan Africa. The Leakey Collection has proved to be a remarkable organization through its support and empowerment of Maasai women in Kenya.

Empowerment through Business

In 2001, a massive drought struck the Rift Valley in Kenya where Philip Leakey and his wife Katy lived. Their Maasai neighbors suffered due to the drought’s impacts on cattle, their main source of income. Many families lost up to three-quarters of their cattle, resulting in the absence of men in search of water for long periods of time. The women stayed home to support their children. Philip and Katy Leakey responded by creating a project allowing women to sustain themselves, and their families while working at home and maintaining their responsibilities.

The project helps Maasai women design and produce a range of jewelry for overseas markets. The Leakeys designed kits for the women consisting of ten strands and an array of colorful beads. The women pick their kits, spread the beads and create strings of jewelry that are checked for quality before export. This allows the women to work flexibly with their schedules. The Leakeys designed this system to avoid interrupting the traditional Maasai lifestyle, empowering Maasai women and cultivating pride and stability in the community. The production morphed from women creating eight strands of jewelry per day to over one hundred in recent years. The project also fosters a stronger community spirit as the Maasai women create their pieces together.

The jewelry is made primarily of zulugrass, a readily available and sustainable resource, and brightly colored Czech glass beads to attract overseas markets. The collection began in Kenya but has now spread to Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Uganda, South Sudan, Mali, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal to reflect a wide array of crafting traditions. The women raise about $100 per month per person for the pieces they craft. Rina Maini came across the collection while vacationing in Kenya. She purchased a significant number of strands to sell and send proceeds to the Maasai women, and still supports the Collection today. “The business is empowering Maasai women by increasing their self-esteem, giving them financial independence and a sense of pride. It is progressive and makes a significant positive difference in their lives,” she told The Borgen Project.

Fair Trade to Combat Poverty

The collection functions by following Fair Trade policies. Fair Trade is a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development that promotes a fair and consistent relationship between companies and workers. The policies aim to develop producers’ independence, security for workers and their families, safe working conditions and justice in the global economic system. Fair Trade offers current generations the ability to meet their needs environmentally, without compromising the needs of future generations through sustainable measures. More importantly, this strategy aims to help empower people to combat poverty and take control of their own lives. More than 1.66 million farmers and workers around the world belong to Fair Trade-certified organizations, and 23 percent of all Fair Trade farmers and workers are women.

Economic Mobility for Women

Fair Trade organizations such as the Leakey Collection reveal a trend of female entrepreneurs rising through the ranks in Kenya. Women have low levels of education compared to men, and they consistently face unemployment and the adverse effects of environmental conditions. However, the number of women who have participated in new levels of economic activity has steadily increased in recent years while the poverty rate of Kenya has declined. One in four adult women is engaged in entrepreneurial activity in sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of these women have low-income backgrounds and live in slums. Such an increase in entrepreneurial activity has exposed a need for increased business education, especially for women who actively participate in the economic and business world.

The Leakeys’ long-term goal is to create a business school in Kenya. They hope to educate women about local and sustainable materials and teach them to create a business and expand to larger markets. In turn, Maasai women can support their families and educate their children to thrive in the global economy. The rise in female entrepreneurship, paired with Kenya’s declining poverty rate, are visceral proof that despite the prevalence of poverty in Kenya, steps are being taken in empowering Maasai women and improving the lives, and futures, of all Kenyans.

– Adya Khosla
Photo: U.N. Multimedia

10 Great Fair Trade Stores
According to the World Bank, 10 percent of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty. This means they make less than $1.90 per day. Fairtrade is an innovative business model that aims to combat global poverty. Workers who produce fair trade products are paid a fair and livable wage by their employers. Each product they produce tells a story about corresponding culture and craftsman. Fairtrade ensures safe working conditions for men, women, and children as well as products that are environmentally sustainable.

By shopping fair trade, you can provide support to impoverished communities, worldwide. Here is a list of 10 great places to do so.

10 Great Fair Trade Stores

  1. Ten Thousand Villages: Founded in 1946, this store has expanded into a chain across the US. The store’s name took inspiration from a Gandhi quote: “Because in every village are people who want to live a meaningful life with dignity and who bring beautiful culture worth sharing.” Ten Thousand Villages works to embody this quote by selling handcrafted materials and products from an assortment of villages worldwide. The products sold range from jewelry all the way to gourmet chocolate. On average, each craftsman has sold their products through Ten Thousand Villages for 25 years.
  2. Greenheart Shop: This store is the only fair trade store in Chicago Illinois. They sell items from all categories, such as clothes, jewelry, dishes and rugs, all of which are eco-friendly, and as they put it, “carry a social mission.” Their craftsmen are sourced worldwide, contributing from as far away as Tunisia in North Africa.
  3. Fair Trade Winds: This family-run business has five locations across the U.S.–Bar Harbor, Maine, Boulder, Colorado, Fairfax, Virginia, Hudson, New York and Seattle, Washington. It was founded by a couple who bought and sold fair trade items such as coffee, tea, and chocolate at their church through a nonprofit called Lutheran World Relief. As time went on, this couple began selling the fair trade products at other churches, fairs, and events until they eventually invested in a retail space, thus establishing Fair Trade Winds.
  4. Fair Trade Jewelry Company: Located in Toronto Ontario, this store is the first Jeweller in North America to use fairtrade certified gold. To make their jewelry, they use a blend of fair trade gold as well as recycled gold to ensure that their jewelry is both socially and environmentally conscious. They work with miners to teach them how to use mining techniques that are safe and efficient.
  5. The Mustard Seed: Located in Lake Forest, Illinois, this store donates all their profits to organizations that support and empower at-risk women and children. Founded in 2009, The Mustard Seed employs an entirely volunteer workforce, which allows them to donate 100 percent of its profits to charities. Over the last 9 years, The Mustard Seed has donated roughly $200,000 to women and children.
  6. WHEAT: Founded in 1990, WHEAT, which stands for World Hunger Education, Advocacy and Training, is a fair trade store that supports craftsmen from over 30 countries. They sell many items including coffee, jewelry, ceramics and candlesticks. Their goal is to allocate their profits to help feed, house, clothe and educate the less fortunate. They are located in Phoenix Arizona.
  7. The Himalayan Bazaar: Located in Ann Arbor Michigan, this store sells handcrafted gifts and gear from Nepal. Their goal is to educate the community on culture, travel and adventure. In addition to their storefront, they also provide tours of the Himalayas in Nepal twice a year.
  8. Trade Roots: Established in Arlington Virginia, this store is a coffee shop, wine bar and gift shop all in one. Their craftsmen use recycled materials such as aluminum cans, textiles, and telephone wires to create original jewelry, clothes, baskets, etc. They embody a commitment to sustainable products.
  9. JustGoods: This store sells handcrafted goods such as jewelry, coffee, and clothing from 25 different countries. Their supply-chain represents almost all seven continents. They are run by volunteers, many of whom were once Peace Corp members. Their building is powered by LED lights and wind turbines to ensure environmental sustainability. They are located in Rockford Illinois.
  10. Simply Fair: Located in Springfield Illinois, this fair trade boutique sells handcrafted items from 40 nations. They offer daily samples of coffee and chocolate to their customers.

The above list only encompasses a small percent of the total fair trade stores in North America. A website called “Change The World by how you Shop” can help you find other great fair trade stores near you. All you have to do is provide your zip code. By shopping fair trade, people worldwide are given the opportunity to escape poverty and pursue a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.

– Emily Turner
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.

Donate

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