A Living Wage
One of the biggest issues in agriculture today is the provision of a fair living wage for producers. This is in issue all over the world, not just in the third world, but it is in the third world that the full hardships of global trends are being experienced. Fair trade is a movement that is designed to guarantee fair living wages for producers of all products, no matter where they are located in the world.
Consumer associations in the US frequently point out that the real price of food in big supermarkets has consistently dropped over recent decades. This is a great thing for consumers, and there is nothing worse than seeing people every day who are struggling to get the basics of life. However, the cost of this benefit to consumers must be shared fairly and it is not sustainable if the comfort of some is bought by the hardship of others.
Fair Trade World Wide
When fair trade products are purchased for supermarkets in Europe, careful attention is paid to make sure that cost of living of the producer is taken into account when setting the price. While fair trade products do not seek to make every farmer in the third world rich, they do wish to see their producers obtain at the very least, a sustainable living wage. This money is then used to ensure that environmentally sound farming methods are used so that future generations will still be able to support themselves on the land. They also seek to spend money on social products that will protect not only our definition of a good life, but also local priorities and desires. This has led to the setting up of a number of innovative social projects that seek to build a sustainable future for the communities that provide us with the food we eat.
One of the most exciting projects that the fair trade movement has pursued is the promotion of new legislation in both the developed and less developed countries that seek to protect the achievements and progress that local communities make in their path to prosperity. These sometimes have taken the form of local legislation such as an ordinance to cease using harmful or environmentally destructive farming methods in areas that are under fair trade production.
Ethics of a Living Wage
The main difference between the fair trade model of assistance, and more traditional charity work is that fair trade recognizes that both the rich and poor have equally valid abilities to contribute to the process of development. It is simply applying basic ethical principals into the process. Fair trade does not mean collecting donations and then spending them in ways that we think will benefit poor areas. They simply seek to provide a fair and level playing field where producers can improve the quality of their products, and their own communities, and get a fair price for their contribution in return. This type of approach to aid completely reverses the traditional model of donor and recipient and instead empowers local communities to build on their strengths. While the majority of the proceeds from the sale of fair trade products goes back to the producers directly, some if it goes into funds, administered locally, that allow the community to decide what they want and need to improve their situation and give themselves and their children a better life.