Fair trade means life changes

Higher returns bring basic service to the world’s poor.

Gwen Repeta
Gwen Repeta

Coffee is a go-to, hot beverage in winter for most of us. Or alternatively we’ll drink tea, or hot chocolate. As we warm our hands around a hot cup of our beverage, we seldom pause to wonder about how it got from its home country to here, or the nature of the transaction that launched the trip.

The coffee you see on the shelves at Ten Thousand Villages comes through our partnership with Level Ground Trading. Based in Victoria, B.C., Level Ground Trading was established by four Canadian families in 1997 for the purpose of improving the lives of disadvantaged producers through trade; Ten Thousand Villages Canada was Level Ground’s first customer.

5,000 farmers sent beans

In 2013, Level Ground imported the harvests of 5,000 farmers in 10 developing countries. Level Ground groups are members of the large North America’s Fair Trade Federation, a sister body of the World Free Trade Federation.

The company’s first trade relationship was with a cooperative of small-scale, coffee farmers, in the area around Antiquia, Colombia. The greatest desire of these impoverished farming families was to see their children go to school.

A fellow Columbian, Hugo Ciro, spotted their need and set out to help, pulling together the little group and soon introducing them to a collection of dedicated teachers and community members who would leap at the opportunity to produce a school. Funding came from the B.C. coffee group, drawing on the money funded by Fair Trade premiums on the coffee they had purchased.

As Fair Trade associates, Level Ground members have a rich awareness of the hard work and risk involved in growing and selling crops. Focussing on farmers, Fair Trade actions have the following effects:

  • Creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers by supporting small-scale farmers that live in remote, rural areas;
  • Paying a fair price to producers, and invests social premiums in their community;
  • Establishing direct trade relationships, based on trust and respect, by regular visits to producers;
  • Supporting sustainable environmental practices; and
  • Promoting independence, education and positive work conditions.

Every year, Level Ground invests a Fair Trade community premium formed by the proceeds from its Colombia coffee purchases. The resulting fund has, since 1998, granted 1,184 academic scholarships to rural youth in Colombia and has invested in infrastructure connected with rural mountain schools.

Meanwhile, in the true spirit of the Fair Trade pronouncements, Level Ground members make a point of getting to know the farmers with whom they work. They know their stories and how fair trade empowers and changes people’s lives. We at Ten Thousand Villages are so happy to know that our partnership with Level Ground is built on such trust and transparency.

Gives people power

Ten Thousand Villages carries Level Ground coffee from six origins: Colombia, Bolivia, Peru., Tanzania, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Bean and ground coffee is always available to sample in ours stores.

Enjoy your coffee! You can see that if it’s Free Trade coffee its more than a simple cup of coffee. You’re investing in people around the world!

Gwen Repeta is Canadian rug program co-ordinator and manager of Ten Thousand Villages, at 134 Plaza Drive; phone 204-261-6387. You can learn more about Ten Thousand Villages and Fair Trade at http://www.tenthousandvillages.ca.

Let's talk...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s