Making Halloween Less Scary for Small Farmers: Families Celebrating with Fair Trade Chocolate
In conversation with Adrienne Fitch-Frankel of Global Exchange
This Halloween, Synchronized Chaos Magazine encountered an intriguing advertisement for Reverse Trick-Or-Treating, where children gave out free candy along with flyers concerning the values of Global Exchange’s fair-trade chocolate. Here we discuss the ins and outs of the campaign, along with broader economic and ecological and cultural issues, with Global Exchange’s Adrienne Fitch-Frankel.
For our readers – Global Exchange offers free fair-trade Reverse Trick-Or-Treating kits available for kids and families who wish to participate…more information and the signup form available here: http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/fairtrade/cocoa/ Deadline for church/temple/mosque/school etc group signups is the end of September, deadline for individual trick or treaters is October 13th. So you know, they can and do run out of chocolate!
Synchronized Chaos: Many of us in the Western world hear the phrase ‘fair-trade’ frequently, even at Starbucks and Peet’s. What does that label usually represent, and how does Global Exchange incorporate fair trade practices?
Adrienne Fitch-Frankel (paraphrased): Fair trade involves a commitment to building a business relationship with farmers where those who work the land may earn a decent standard of living. This can happen through practices such as guaranteeing a minimum price every year so one poor harvest does not bankrupt farm workers. Or by facilitating farm cooperatives so farmers may pool their capital and invest in education, healthcare, or sustainable environmental practices such as relatively inexpensive, nontoxic ways to fight fungi and improve crop yields.
Synchronized Chaos: Great humanitarian ideas, and decent business model, too – surely bankrupting one’s suppliers would not be to a company’s economic advantage. But, could ordinary people (in the Western world) still afford coffee or cocoa produced this way?
Adrienne Fitch-Frankel: Yes, definitely. We’ve seen consumers demanding fair trade products, and major firms such as Starbucks and Cadbury Chocolate have joined the trend. Competition has driven down the price…also some fair trade products offer higher quality. Chocolate bars may have more cocoa, or real cocoa butter.
Synchronized Chaos: So, why should someone care about fair trade? Is it really important to consider labor conditions when buying food?
Adrienne Fitch-Frankel: We work on a variety of issues, ecological awareness, fair trade, anti-sweatshops, all centered on human rights. We’re trying to help end child labor – which is not just helping out on your family’s farm.
We’re referring to situations where children have been kidnapped to work on large plantations and the families don’t know what happened to them, or where a child can’t go to school or has to handle dangerous equipment. There are five year olds with chronic back pain or injuries from hacking away at crops with machetes. And international groups estimate around 12,000 children suffer through situations like these. There was a recent Interpol raid liberating hundreds of children from Ivory Coast plantation slavery, for example.
Synchronized Chaos: We certainly applaud the concept of creating a sustainable, affordable economic alternative to child slavery. However, let’s talk about a choice Western consumers may feel confused about how to make. Environmentalists often encourage consumers to buy local, to save the pollution generated by shipping food long distances. So, is it better to buy local products or international fair-trade goods?
Adrienne Fitch-Frankel: I agree with the environmentalists about locally grown food…but many of the products available in the Western world as fair-trade can’t be grown locally everywhere. Coffee and cocoa only grow within 20 degrees of the equator. It has to be hot and wet enough – which is why Hawaii is the only U.S. state producing coffee. So buy local if you can, otherwise do your best to find fair trade!
Synchronized Chaos: Probably would open the eyes of many coffee-drinking Westerners to visit a coffee plantation.
Adrienne Fitch-Frankel: Definitely, and that represents a great opportunity for intercultural exchange. We sponsor a service known as Reality Tours, where people can visit places where different crops grow. For an affordable price for international travel, we bring folks out to Nicaragua, Afghanistan, or Israel/Palestine to see how people grow coffee, tea, or other popular foods.
They have the experience of staying with a host farm family, meeting everyone, eating rice and beans together, waking up early and picking coffee beans together. So far everyone’s enjoyed it, both the Westerners and the farmers…and people can see how fair trade practices make real, practical differences in farmers’ lives.
Synchronized Chaos: Okay, that’s wonderful for people ready to take that step. But what can someone do right from their homes? Let’s talk about the Fair Trade Reverse Trick-Or-Treating you mentioned earlier.
Adrienne: Great! We’d love for more people to participate…please sign up on our website! http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/fairtrade/cocoa/ Reverse Trick-Or-Treating represents a way for families with children to work as a team and stay active for the issues which matter. We work within people’s lives here in the West, within traditions and holidays people already celebrate, so that activism can be fun and can involve the entire family.
Children are often great at understanding social justice issues. Kids jump up and tell you all the time on the playground that something isn’t fair, and they can apply that sense of fairness in a broader context. We’ve found that children enjoy this chance to take fair-trade chocolate to friends and neighbors and help educate others regarding the cause…as well as our other campaigns, such as Christmas caroling with lyrics reflecting justice issues, and our outreach programs for synagogues and schools and other community groups.
Synchronized Chaos: Wonderful, and thanks for the information! We’ll be sure to pass on the link through our article. Out of curiosity, how is Global Exchange handling the world recession?
Adrienne Fitch-Frankel: Well, candy sales actually tend not to plunge too far during hard times – people need their comfort foods! And we’re looking at the positive, this is a chance to figure out how to become more efficient, do things such as emailing out action alerts rather than spending cash on mailings. But – if people reading this wanted to donate to the cause, we would very much appreciate it now!
Synchronized Chaos: Well, we wish you and Global Exchange and the farmers the best of luck, and look forward to the holiday season with our Fair Trade Chocolate! Thanks very much for your time…and we’ll provide another link to the website for our readers: http://www.globalexchange.org/index.html