A group of students from ITM, Navi Mumbai conducted a workshop at the Symbiosis Institute of Pune, India to introduce the concept of ‘Fairness in Trade’ amongst the younth of India. The one day workshop was filled with various interactive games and group exercises to simplify the concept of ‘Fairness in Trade’. The impact of the workshop was such that the students actively participated and pledged to promote the concept among the students and in localities of Pune. They were able to impact an audience of around 2000 students of major colleges of Pune. Significantly the students were so convinced that they even created a page called IRFT Pune on Facebook. The students flooded the page with all the details on Fair Trade like; What is Fair Trade? What are the benefits of buying Fair Trade products? Who benefits from Fair Trade? etc. It was surprising to notice that within a span of 1 week the fans crossed more than 50 students.To see pictures of this event please visit: Click here
You will not find Jyoti amongst the campaigners on fair trade in front of national parliaments, headquarters of large corporations and offices of multilateral trade agencies protesting for a pro-poor trade regime. However it is the benefits obtained by Jyoti and her likes from fair trade that justifies and sustains the fair trade movement globally for making trade a vehicle for developing sustainable livelihoods and providing development opportunities
for the poor communities especially in the third world.
Jyoti assists her husband to cultivate cotton in their 6 acre farm. Till recently the yield from their land was coming down alarmingly with each harvest despite large doses of chemical fertilizers. The land was losing fertility due to over usage of chemicals. Recalls Jyoti - “the literal starvation was standing at the threshold of my house”. The conventional
wisdom on agriculture practices had clearly failed Jyoti and her family.
The agriculture extension worker from the Zameen Organic Company who visited their village provided an alternative. A back bencher at the farmers meeting on organic farming, Jyoti would listen with rapt attention at the concept of fair trade, fair trade premium, sustainable agriculture, producer association etc. The arguments for entering fairly traded cotton production was convincing both in terms of remuneration and sustainability. In 2005 Jyoti and her husband joined the Fair Trade Cotton Producer Group in her village. They thereby signed up to one of the fastest growing alternate trade mechanisms globally, sharing the same conviction which has propelled garment worker groups in Nicaragua, coca producers in Ghana, coffee planters in Brazil and many more to join the fair trade movement. The statement being that, ‘trade has to be fair and on equal terms’.
Shri Deshmukh a cotton farmer would often wonder what legacy will he and his generation leave to their children. Even after the sweat and toil of tilling land for last thirty years Mr Deshmukh till very recently had trouble in ensuring a sustained livelihood option for his family through cotton farming. The fact that his generation of cotton farmers would have failed their children leaving for them a marginal/subsistence level of livelihood, low self esteem, indebtedness and loss of dignity which poverty brings always used to trouble Mr Deshmukh. This thought was both frustrating and irreconcilable.
However since Mr Deshmukh has moved into fairly traded cotton production he sees a beacon of hope. For the first time in his 30 years in cotton cultivation Mr Deshmukh could beat the curve of price fluctuations (as an economist would say) in cotton trade. No longer is he subject to the vagaries of the invisible hand of the market place. The hand is visible and is benevolent. When the prices of cotton have dipped, he was assured of a minimum guaranteed support price from the Fair Trade Procurers. The commitment has been kept. In addition the Fair Trade premiums has helped sponsor a number of community welfare projects in his village.
Today Mr Deshmukh is less sceptical about what his generation will leave for their children. The returns from the cotton farming are no longer uncertain. Also no longer uncertain is an acceptable quality of life. Mr Deshmukh and his family feel much more empowered, since now there are far less imponderables in their life.
If you happen to spot two young girls along with their father peering at earthworms burrows
in Khed village in Morshi Taluka you are most probably in the farm of Shrikant. Shrikant is an organic farmer and cultivates Maize, Mung, Toor and cotton in his 6 acre farm. Mr Srikant laughingly remarks “the streak for organic farming runs though my family”. This remark rings true when we interacted with Suvandana, wife of Srikant. Suvandana gives us a recount of how since they started fair trade cotton production since last four years and shifted to organic farming, the household incomes have stabilised. Srikant chips in “the only children allowed in our farm are our daughters”, indicating that child labour for cotton cultivation an endemic practice is not acceptable to him.
The extra premium from fair trade cotton has ensured that Srikant’s daughters go to school and their health and nutrition provisions are not subject to the vagaries of the cotton market prices. When we ask Srikant what does he dream for his daughters, the proud father replies “maybe one of them will one day become a famous agricultural scientist”. And when that happens, the fair trade movement would have played a small part in it.