What does “value” mean to you? Is it purely about dollars? I suspect, if you’re reading this, you define value more broadly than the cost of an item. When you purchase something it has to fulfil your need, but also benefit the person who produced it and the retailer who has provided it to you. You can take control of the latter by choosing to shop locally. But when it comes to the raw ingredients, we have to rely on organisations like Fairtrade to ensure people are getting a good deal.
As part of Fair Trade Fortnight, Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand produced a real example of the difference ethical sourcing can make in the form of a cocoa grower from West Ghana, Esther Mintah Ephraim.
Esther works on her family’s 38-hectare farm, which is part of the Fairtrade certified Kuapa Kokoo collective. She is a respected woman in a part of the world where women hold little power, and she has spent the week talking to community groups in Australia about the impact Fairtrade certification has made on her life. I had the opportunity to ask Esther about this. Here are her answers:
Can you describe a typical day working on your family’s farm?
I rise early in morning, get ready and eat breakfast. After that I walk to our farm which is 3km away. I check the cocoa pods for ripeness, weed and do other activities for a few hours around the farm. I then go home to prepare lunch, and after lunch rest and then I go to the cocoa shell [office] to perform my duties as a recorder for Kuapa Kokoo, the cooperative I have been a member of for 8 years. I receive cocoa from farmers for a few hours which involves checking the quality, weighing their cocoa and paying them. I close the cocoa shell at 5pm and go home and prepare dinner with my family. If I am teaching the next day I also prepare a lesson plan. During busy times, such as harvest, we may receive a helping hand from other farmers in our community. This is called ‘nnoboa’ in my local dialect which means ‘collective spirit’. We harvest about 40 to 50 bags of cocoa per year.
How does your situation compare to others’ working in the same industry?
We receive so many benefits as a family and community from Fairtrade – a fair price, cutlasses (essential for opening the cocoa pods), access to healthcare (through the provision of a mobile health clinic), access to potable water year round (through the provision of a hand dug well), and training in farming practices as well as additional skills training (soap making, batik printing to enable us to earn income during non-harvest times). Kuapa Kokoo also gives a voice to women and allows them to participate in the decision making process, as well as to vote and hold positions within the organisation.
We joined Fairtrade because we saw the benefits that others were getting from it, and it has enabled us to have a better standard of living than other farmers.
What does the label “Fairtrade” mean to your family and wider community?
To me, my family and my community Fairtrade means the principles of democracy, fairness and empowerment of women. We are able to produce a higher quality of cocoa bean due to the training we have received and we have a better standard of living. We also benefit from the economic and social developments funded through the Fairtrade Premium (paid on top of the Fairtrade Minimum Price) such as access to clean water, healthcare and education.
Why should consumers choose Fairtrade?
Consumers should choose Fairtrade because the Fairtrade principles are good and ensure all products are produced ethically. Through the benefits of Fairtrade, we are able to produce better quality cocoa. By buying Fairtrade products, you can help farmers in other countries improve their lives. Fairtrade helps people like me and my family live better and achieve our goals.
Tell us about your time in Australia – do you feel you have educated people on the importance of choosing Fairtrade?
Australia is a beautiful country and I have seen so many things – different weather, the beaches and beautiful buildings. I have been able to meet and speak to so many different people and share my experience and the benefits we have gotten from Fairtrade. School children, businesses and many many people that are interested in supporting farmers from different countries. I hope that I have inspired people to keep buying Fairtrade and supporting us!
How does Fairtrade work?
Fairtrade is a certification scheme that provides farmers and workers with a fair price for their produce. This protects them from exploitation and fluctuations in world market prices. The Fairtrade Premium is an additional sum of money to be invested in the community for facilities such as wells, schools and health clinics. The extra price we consumers pay at the check-out funds these facilities, which have life-changing effects on the communities. Today more than six million people in 70 developing nations benefit from Fairtrade certification.
More than 1700 products are certified with the green and blue Fairtrade symbol here in Australia. Most is cocoa and chocolate or coffee, but look for Fairtrade tea, cotton and sports products too.
To find out more, visit www.thepowerofyou.org.au