Recently, I had two opportunities to reflect on my years in fair trade and on what fair trade is all about: I spoke to a gathering of Ten Thousand Villages’ store managers, and I prepared a reflection on the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) with Carol Wills from the UK, a former director of WFTO. Looking back got me thinking about the future of the fair trade movement, and the challenges those of us within the movement need to address if fair trade is to thrive.
In my role as Executive Director of MCC Canada, I’m fortunate to travel to many of the places where we’re involved in development work. Last month, my Executive Director colleague at MCC U.S. and I were on a trip to visit MCC projects in India and Bangladesh. Wherever we went, we made a point of visiting an artisan partner of Ten Thousand Villages. It’s important and valuable because, although our artisan communications are now usually done through email, face-to-face meetings continue to provide us with insight that you simply can’t get any other way.
He was working in his conventional tea garden in the country’s northeastern region, spraying the plants with typical chemical pesticides, when some spilled on a labourer’s shirt. Yet within minutes of rinsing the shirt off in the nearby pond, dead fish rose to the water’s surface. At that moment, Tenzing realized how his tea production was affecting his community’s water table.