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Welcome to my blog. Here I share my successes and failures along my journey to becoming an anthropologist. My most prominent interest anthropologically are the new approaches to handing food security/healthy eating in the US, particularly in urban "food deserts". I enjoy the Anthropology of Tourism as well; combining food and tourism has scholarly promise. My other interests which have converted into anthropological hobbies of sorts include converts to Islam, diaspora of Muslims, and MENA in general. I also have some interest in historical archaeology.

I welcome comments, discussion and even respectful debating. I will however keep discussions to a respectable level. I reserve the right to ban anyone from this forum.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fair Trade

This is a short paper I wrote in my second semester as an anthro student. I think I have grown in my writing since then but this is an interesting topic. I wrote this for Nutritional Anthropology

“Poverty is not only about a shortage of money. It is about rights and relationships; about how people are treated and how they regard themselves; about powerlessness, exclusion and loss of dignity. Yet the lack of adequate income is at its heart.”
-Mahatma Gandhi (2005: 246)

Poverty, overworked employees, inconsistent pay schedules and unsafe working conditions are just a few of the exploitive problems international producers of goods (in this case coffee and chocolate) face when not working with a fair trade company. However, there are many companies, even some locally, selling high quality fair trade products to consumers; while doing so; they are giving back quality of life to millions of people around the globe. Here, I will give a brief description of what fair trade is, how it positively affects the producer, examples of fair trade and finally, I will talk about where the US consumer can buy these fantastic products.

There are thousands of products in the marketplace that claim fair trade (usually with a label) but what is it and how does it affect the people who produce these products? In short, according to Kimberly M. Grimes, “The marketers agree to pay fair wages to the artisans and farmers (based on producer’s basic needs, costs of production, and margins for investment); provide advance payments for working capital; purchase goods directly from the producers; eliminating the chain of the middlemen speculators; and provide technical and financial assistance when necessary.(2005:239)” On its website, the Fair Trade Federation also mentions the following agreements between marketers and producers: respect for the local culture, giving the producers a healthy working environment and increasing the growth in the community through education.

Regarding different examples of fair trade consumable and fresh products, in the US those products include coffee, tea, cocoa/chocolate, honey, sugar, fresh fruit, rice, vanilla, flowers and herbs. According to their website, Trans Fair USA is a “third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S. TransFair's rigorous audit system verifies industry compliance with Fair Trade criteria.”

There are many websites that specialize in fair trade of coffee and chocolate. Incidentally, there are many more fair trade sites that sell non-consumables such as artesian goods but I will limit this to coffee and chocolate. One of my favorite products and has a dual message is ‘Peace Coffee’. I have bought this coffee many times and find it to be some of the best I have had! According to the Thanksgiving Coffee website who is a marketer of this coffee, the coffee producer has Jewish, Muslims and Christians working side by side for a common goal; working for peace is something we all know is needed in this world climate. The marketer sells fair trade coffees from around the world. I have attached a few websites on the citation page for further inquiry. If one wants to buy fair trade coffee locally Transfair USA website has provided the consumer with a list of local companies who carry fairly traded coffees. For example, Whole Foods carries a wide selection; Wal-Mart’s ‘Sam’s Choice’ coffee is affordable; Target’s ‘Archer Farms’ coffee is fairly traded, as is Costco’s ‘Kirkland Signature’ Coffee and finally, Dunkin Donuts’ espresso.

Chocolate and cocoa is another consumable that has some fantastic products on the market. One cocoa company has a huge UK following and the products can be ordered or purchased right here in the U.S. Divine Chocolate has a huge variety of cocoa and chocolate products to satisfy even the most intense chocolate cravings! The Divine Chocolate website not only has a great variety of products but the products have great packaging that catches the eye and makes an attractive gift. In addition, on the Global Exchange website, one can purchase a variety of chocolate products that are fairly traded. Locally, one can purchase fair trade chocolate at Whole Foods market (and probably other “natural food stores”).

In conclusion, I have only touched the surface on the topic of fair trade. More and more, I find people concerned about moral issues surrounding the foods they eat. Fair trade success depends on us-the consumer. I believe that purchasing products to fit our value system is a statement in itself. Personally, I have been making fair trade choices (with coffee in particular) for a couple of years now and find that it is my own statement against large company greed and abuse of the weak around the world.

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