Washington — Fairtrade America’s fourth annual celebration of October Fairtrade Month features the We Are Fairtrade campaign, through new murals in Lawrence, KS, Philadelphia and Providence, RI. The association will again use public art to call attention to the people behind Fairtrade goods including cocoa, coffee and bananas.
“This Fairtrade Month, we are inviting shoppers, retailers, and brands to not only choose Fairtrade, but to also go deeper in learning about and celebrating their role in creating a food system built around justice for farmers and workers,” says Amanda Archila, executive director of Fairtrade America. “We must all stand with the people who grow our food to make fairer pay a reality.”
The farmers featured in the murals represent more than two million Fairtrade farmers and workers who grow and produce goods following the economic, social and environmental Fairtrade Standards.
Fairtrade America partnered with The Merc Co+op in Lawrence, KS, a store that provides places to shop, gather, eat and learn, to create a mural featuring coffee farmer Joselinda Manueles. Local artists Isaac Tapia and Rodrigo Alvarez painted Manueles, a member of COMSA, a Fairtrade certified coffee cooperative in Honduras of which she and her husband are founding members. Despite challenging soil quality, Manueles has created a thriving organic coffee farm, planting more than 2,000 trees. She also farms her own section of the shared land with her husband, giving her autonomy to cultivate coffee in the way she deems best with Café Joselinda grown organically. Coffee grown by Manueles’ cooperative is used in Fairtrade certified items, like Kicking Horse Coffee, which is available for purchase at The Merc’s two locations.
Riverwards Produce, a store that provides ingredients to chefs and neighbors, is home to a mural by artist Betsy Casañas of banana farmer Mariana Cobos. Cobos is a member and previous board member of the AsoGuabo cooperative in El Oro, the province of Ecuador where she has a 28-acre farm. As a 70-year-old woman, Cobos is not your average banana farmer with the majority in Ecuador being men under 65 years of age. Cobos began growing bananas in 2004 and found it difficult to compete as an individual smallholder farmer. So in 2010 she joined AsoGuabo and became organic and Fairtrade certified. By joining a cooperative and making her bananas stand out more with their certifications, she has been able to tap into their collective ability to get better pricing and increased stability through long-term relationships with business partners. Cobos grows Fairtrade bananas sold by companies like Equal Exchange, available at both Riverwards Produce locations.
“For over 35 years, Equal Exchange has pioneered an alternative model of trade that directly links small-scale farmer cooperatives and consumers through long-term, fair trade partnerships. Equal Exchange prioritizes partnerships with farmers that ensure direct pricing negotiations and more money paid directly in the form of the Fairtrade Premium dollars,” says Nicole Vitello, president of Oke USA/Equal Exchange. “Through our participation in ‘We Are Fairtrade,’ Equal Exchange encourages others to make conscious choices and contribute to a more just and equitable food system.”
The Providence mural is located at the Urban Greens Co-op Market that provides food that is nutritious, affordable, sustainably sourced and culturally inclusive. Providence-based artist Agonza Art portrayed cocoa farmer Bengaly Bourama, a member of COOBADI, a cocoa cooperative in Côte d’Ivoire where he is also the deputy general secretary. After studying human resource management at university in Mali, Bourama’s father suggested he try his hand at cocoa farming. Bourama appreciated the entrepreneurial nature of farming. Now, facing drought caused by climate change, Bourama and members of COOBADI are undertaking a significant shade tree planting initiative with the support of Ben & Jerry’s to strengthen the viability of cocoa in the region. Bourama’s Fairtrade cocoa ends up in products like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, including the varieties sold at Urban Greens Co-op Market.
“In 2005 we were the first ice cream maker in the world to use Fairtrade certified ingredients. Since 2020, we have supported a living income approach and from 2021 to 2022 alone 6,000 Fairtrade cocoa farmers received $1.4 million a year in additional payments on top of the Fairtrade Minimum Price and Premium,” says Cheryl Pinto, global head of values led sourcing of Ben & Jerry’s. “We are happy to participate in the ‘We Are Fairtrade’ campaign this year as Fairtrade strives to bring together people, businesses, farmers and more — all working together to see a more just and equitable society.”
According to the association, the murals highlight three of Fairtrade’s key areas of impact: fairer pay, increasing resilience to climate change and promoting gender equality.
- Fairer Pay: As production costs continue to rise, now more than ever, we all have to do our part to prioritize a fairer deal for farmers. It is estimated that in the next 10 years climate change will push up to 130 million people into poverty. When Fairtrade promotes fairer trading conditions, it’s working with farmers to build stronger supply networks and address the root of many systemic issues, poverty. In August, they increased the Fairtrade Minimum Price for coffee after reaching out to more than 600 farmer organizations and hearing overwhelmingly that farmers need to be paid more.
- Increasing Resilience to Climate Change: Climate change is already affecting farmers, from shifting harvest seasons to unpredictable yields to changing local workforces. The core mechanisms of Fairtrade — price, premium and standards — all serve as a critical foundation for increasing climate resilience as adaptation and mitigation require additional resources. About 25 percent of the Fairtrade Standards are related to the environment and ban the use of many dangerous pesticides, encourage best practices in water and soil management, and incentivize organic farming. Beyond that, Fairtrade also harnesses their global network and experts to advocate for policies that keep farmers in mind and provide training through programs like the Climate Academy.
- Promoting Gender Equality: Forty-three percent of the global agricultural labor force is women, yet they see little profit. Fairtrade farming organizations commit to strict social standards that ban discrimination on the basis of gender or marital status, as well as promote developing positive gender policies and programs to support historically marginalized groups like women.
In addition to the murals, Fairtrade is offering a giveaway in the U.S. this October where three winners will receive a prize package for showing their Fairtrade support, including: a Cuisinart Food Processor, one mural art print of the winner’s choosing from this year’s murals, a year’s worth of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, a buck load of Kicking Horse Coffee, an Equal Exchange hoodie, a gift card for Fairtrade bananas, and a lunch box!
“When you choose Fairtrade, you are actively choosing a better world – a world where farmers and workers have a seat at the table,” says Archila. “Together, we are part of a movement for change that makes a tangible impact. We are Fairtrade.”