When we talk to people about fair trade, it can sometimes be hard to get across the many different ways fair trade can impact a maker’s life. Despite the inherent complexity, fair trading relationships, not charitable ones, are the foundation we’ve built Ten Thousand Villages on. Unlike charity, fair trade isn’t working to provide one specific thing like shoes, or food, or clothing. Instead, fair trade empowers. And empowerment is a lot harder to quantify.
What would you do if disaster struck your family twice in the same year? That was Sarala Shai’s reality a couple of years ago.
Shai, a maker working in the felting department for the Association for Craft Producers (ACP) in Nepal, was already struggling with the death of her father when the violent 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country – followed shortly by a 7.3-magnitude aftershock – killing 9,000 people, injuring over 22,000 and leveling approximately 800,000 homes.
Take a short drive North of Lima to San de Lurigancho and you might just come across a multi-storey building owned by Fermín Vilcapoma Bohórquez and his wife Madeleine Labán Rivera. They’re silver and semi-precious stone jewellery makers in Peru who have been in the business for nearly 30 years – and they’re the master makers behind some of Allpa Peru’s most stunning pieces.
“We’re a group of workers who make a living out of this,” he says. “We have no other income.”
And that is exactly how Fermín wants it to be. Although he once dreamed of going to university to become an engineer as a young man, his family did not have the money to send him, so he was forced to change his plans. His stepfather eventually taught him the handcrafted jewellery trade and Fermín hasn’t looked back since.
As temperatures dip outside, there’s nothing that says “comfort and joy” more than the smell of cinnamon wafting from the oven. But here’s another way the aromatic spice can fill your home with the warmth of the season:
Decorate with it.
Or… Maybe not.
Every morning, the men who fish the cloudy waters of the Mekong River in Cambodia trawl for fish, crab, snails, and whatever else they can snag in their nets. The river is second in aquatic biodiversity only to the Amazon, so fishermen are used to catching – and selling – almost anything they can pull out of the mud. But there’s one thing lurking that no one wants to disturb.
From frosty Andean peaks to dense Amazon rainforest, Peru is a country of geographic extremes.
Diversity is found in its communities, too.
Urban and coastal areas have seen recent economic growth, but rural, indigenous communities still struggle. Today, the poverty rate in the Peruvian Amazon and mountain areas hovers at 55 per cent and approximately one quarter of all children aged six to 14 are forced to work.
Glass. We drink from it, eat off of it and look through panes of it. So ubiquitous that we barely notice it’s there. It becomes invisible.
But for the artisans and employees who work at Crisil, a glass-making workshop based in the highlands of Cochabamba, Bolivia, its impact on daily life is perfectly clear.
Crisil is a family-run business founded in 1991 by the Bustos family, who wanted to support the Cochabamba community where unemployment ran high and families struggled just to find food. Based on fair trade principles including fair pay for work, respect for the environment and good working conditions, it now employs roughly 100 people in jobs ranging from sorting recycled glass to hand-blowing each tumbler, bowl, vase and goblet with expertise and precision.
Maybe you can’t travel to Kenya and plant 20 trees tomorrow, but what if your socks could?
Sound far-fetched? Maybe not. Ten Thousand Villages recently partnered with Conscious Step, a social enterprise in New York that makes fair trade socks with a manufacturer in New Delhi. The company’s “Socks for a Cause” campaign matches a sock design with a non-profit organization to make the world a better place.
With Hallowe’en just days away, it’s easy to get swept up in the spooky excitement of October 31st. Kids across Canada are counting down the days until they can wriggle into their costumes, ring doorbells and return home with a stash of candy and mini chocolate bars.
But, sadly, chocolate does not always lead to happiness for children who toil on cocoa farms, particularly in Western Africa where child labour and even slavery continue.
Although there is a huge demand for cocoa worldwide – which can only be grown in small tropical areas in Africa and South America – most farmers live in destitute poverty due to low prices, small farm sizes and lack of infrastructure. According to the most recent Cocoa Barometer, cocoa farmers in Ghana make 84 cents a day. This figure is well below the local poverty line, so they rely on children’s cheap labour to carry the load (sometimes literally.) Child workers have described being forced to hoist cocoa-pod-filled sacks larger than they are.