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Why the World Needs Fairtrade Bananas

Photo: Feliciana Quintero holds a fairtrade banana hand ready for export. COOBANA, Panamá. PHoto: James Rodriguez


What other fruit grows in its own packaging that comes off so easily?!

As a nation, we love bananas. We each consume about 26 pounds of them a year. The world loves bananas – it’s 4th most important food staple!

But this tropical fruit comes with a whole host of issues. Workers’ rights violations and environmental destruction just to name a few.

The typical banana plantation uses over 10 times more pesticides than in the production of other crops in industrialized countries. These chemicals can seriously impact the health of the workers and the wildlife.

Workers have few rights and have to work really hard for low pay. 12-14 hour days are common, with little to no assurance that they’ll have a job the next month.

Why are conditions so bad?

One of the main problems is that only about 20% of the price you pay will reach the exporting country. And of that, only a tiny fraction will go into the workers’ hands. This is because 5 major corporations control 80% of the global banana market. Prices are kept low intentionally – at the cost of people and the environment.

How does Fairtrade change this?

Fairtrade certifies smallholder farms or plantations only if they meet high social and environmental standards. Farmers are guaranteed a minimum price for their bananas. And workers are guaranteed a wage that meets or exceeds the national minimum wage to avoid exploitation. These measures offer stability and guard them from fluctuating prices.

Furthermore, banana farmers get a Fairtrade Premium. Farmer cooperatives democratically vote on what to spend the Premium – some choose to build a school, some a clinic, and some to re-invest it in state-of-the-art farming equipment.

Fairtrade also improves workers’ rights – guaranteeing them the opportunity to join a union if they so wish, thereby having a stronger collective voice. Children under the age of 15 are not allowed to work, and farms and plantations must put in place health and safety measures that protect workers and the environment.

What can you do?

Look for the Fairtrade MARK! (It’s at the top of our website)

You can be sure that bananas with a Fairtrade Mark have met our independently audited standards and more money is going back to the people who grew your delicious fruit.

Ask your local store to stock Fairtrade bananas like Oké USA, which sources Fairtrade bananas from Peru. YOU have the power to make real change that will affect so many lives.

If there is demand, you can bet your supermarket will be stocking Fairtrade faster than you can watch a slip-on-a-banana-peel gag.

Banana Slip GIF

The following is reblogged from Fairtrade International:

"As well as cocoa and coffee we also grow maize, beans, cassava, yams and rice, in order to feed the family. We keep chickens and my husband has sheep. We produce a bit of palm oil and attieke [a cassava based dish] that we sell at the market."

Traore Mariam, pictured top right, is 25 years old and has four children. Her husband is a cocoa farmer of the ECOJOD cooperative in Dalao, Côte d’Ivoire. Traore is typical of many Fairtrade farmers who not only grow crops for cash, but much of their food as well.

Today is World Food Day and we want to bring the issue of food security to light with a focus on family farming – “Feeding the world, caring for the earth”.

The following is reblogged from Fairtrade International:

The problem of hunger is rife across the globe, and is closely connected with poverty. On October 16, World Food Day aims to bring this issue to light with a focus this year on family farming – “Feeding the world, caring for the earth”.

Ensuring food security and sovereignty are important issues for many Fairtrade farmers. If small holder farmers are to run effective businesses, they must be able to support themselves and their families. Around three quarters of the world’s poor live in rural areas and most of them depend directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihoods.

Fairtrade is helping small producer organizations to strengthen their position, take more control over the value chain and become viable businesses. Of our 1,139 producer organizations worldwide, over 86% are small producer organizations.

A study undertaken in Colombia with banana farmers on Fairtrade certified small producer organizations found that 23 percent of farmers had food security constraints. The Fairtrade Premium was essential for improvements in a number of areas including overall income, income stability, and cash flow, all of which contribute to increasing food security.

Learn more about World Food Day on the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization website.

Flower Power


Image: Smiling woman holding a bunch of red & white roses. Piaveri Flower Producers, Equador

When you read the slogan “Flower Power,” you might think of the 1960s, hippies, the anti-war movement, and groovy psychedelic music.

Well, it’s 2014, baby, and “Flower Power” has a whole new meaning thanks to Fairtrade.

That’s because Fairtrade protects and benefits flower workers by certifying farms that ensure safety and good working conditions for their employees.

As a result, you can buy Fairtrade daisies for your hair knowing that the rights of the workers who produced them are being respected. Among other things, Fairtrade Standards for flowers ensure:

  • The Fairtrade Premium goes to what both the workers and management democratically decide is most important.
  • The Premium must be used for community development and improved working conditions.
  • Forced labor and child labor of children under 15 years old is stamped out (an ongoing process).
  • Workers have freedom of association and collective agreements. They have the right to establish or join an independent union, elect their advisers and design their own programs.
  • Salaries must be equal to or higher than the regional average or the minimum wage.
  • Measures are taken to protect workers’ safety and banned pesticides are prohibited.

Now that’s flower power.

Top 5 Reasons to Buy Fairtrade Flowers

To paraphrase Nora Ephron, there’s no possible way every human being on earth is born with good taste—even though we all like to think we are.

Similarly, we all like to think we are good gift givers, and yet we’ve all been the recipients of “unfortunate” but well-intended offerings. You might think flowers are a no brainer, but even a bouquet of perky peonies can be tricky…unless.

Unless you buy Fairtrade.

That’s because every Fairtrade certified flower you purchase helps secure a better life for the person who grew and tended to it.

Here, the top 5 reasons Fairtrade flowers are the gift everyone will appreciate:

  1. Fairtrade certified farms ensure safety and working conditions for their employees, an important factor when workers are often vulnerable young women. 
  2. Producers get a minimum price and a premium of 10% for every stem or bunch sold, allowing them to invest in healthcare, education and more.
  3. Fairtrade flowers are traceable back to the original farm or cooperative, with most labels saying which farm the flowers have come from.
  4. When you give Fairtrade flowers through businesses like or, you’re helping reduce poverty through your everyday shopping.
  5. In addition to being a thoughtful, generous and discerning boss, spouse or admirer, your Fairtrade flower recipient will think you are also an exceedingly good egg.

Make Fairtrade Your Cup of Tea

There is a right way and a wrong way to drink tea.

Mind you, we’re not talking about Downton Abbey right and wrong. We don’t care if you drink from bone china or a chipped “Pugs and Kisses” mug.

You can sip Earl Grey or Rooibos with pinky outstretched or double handed. You can even have four lumps of sugar or an upside down milk-to-tea ratio and we won’t judge (much).

What simply isn’t done, however, is buying tea without the Fairtrade mark.

Why? Because Fairtrade standards help regulate wages, health and safety standards, and address child and forced labor. In addition, Fairtrade is part of the Ethical Tea Partnership, which is working to make the long-term future of the tea industry sustainable.

Fairtrade is a custom even the Dowager Countess would approve.

Image: Female worker smiling amidst tea estate in Kenya. Photo - Linus Hallgren

Three Cheers for You, Fairtrade Coffee Drinker!

So your day’s not going so well. You showed up to 5am boot camp at 6, forgot your spinach ravioli on the counter, and found a typo in yesterday’s tweet to your boss.

Well, lighten up, Buttercup.

You’ve got Fairtrade coffee in your mug, and that makes you a winner. Why? When you buy Fairtrade, a farmer earns a fair price and a shot at a better life…all on account of little old you.

Now, go enjoy the day.

Improve your Fairtrade Coffee IQ


Image: FAPECAFE President Valentin Chinchay collects coffee beans in Equador - Taken by Didier Gentilhomme

You’d like to think you know all there is to know about your morning coffee addiction habit. For instance, you know the only way to drink coffee is from a tiny little cup while standing in an Italian café next to smartly-dressed Italians…right?

While this may (or may not be) true, there is much more to learn about coffee. Here, a few facts to impress your friends, and to ponder the next time you’re buying coffee.

  1. Legend has it that the energizing effect of the coffee bean was first recognized by a 9th-century goat-herder in the Kaffa province of Ethiopia, where the coffee tree originated.
  2. The Fairtrade movement started in the Netherlands and quickly spread across Europe as a response to the dire struggles of Mexican coffee farmers when world coffee prices collapsed in the late 1980s.
  3. Global coffee consumption doubled over the last 40 years from 4.2 million tons in 1970 to 8.7 million tons in 2013.
  4. In 2011-12, the Fairtrade premium in coffee more than doubled to $40 million. Farmer cooperatives democratically invest this in projects such as coffee quality improvement, better education, health care and clean drinking water.
  5. Coffee is grown in more than 70 countries, but over 60 percent of the world’s coffee is produced by just four of them—Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia and Indonesia.
  6. The first Fairtrade coffee from Mexico sold into Dutch supermarkets in 1989 was branded “Max Havelaar” after a fictional Dutch character who opposed the exploitation of coffee pickers in Dutch colonies.
  7. Rising global temperatures are fueling coffee rust, or La Roya, a fungal disease wreaking havoc on coffee farms throughout Central America. Fairtrade provides financing assistance, training and support for organic production to help farmers combat La Roya.
  8. Fairtrade currently works with 660,700 coffee farmers through 402 Fairtrade certified producer organizations. These produce about 441,000 tons of coffee, 37% of which is also certified organic.
  9. Humans have consumed about 500 billion cups of coffee since the drink was discovered.

Last, but not least, one of the most important facts you should know about your morning mug of go-go juice?

       10. Know if your favorite brand is Fairtrade…look for the Mark!


(And you can always find an up to date list here).

Pour Yourself a Cup of Good Mojo


Your multi-tasking goal for this morning: turn your coffee break into your good deed for the day.

All you have to do is make sure that cup of Fairtrade Certified caffeinated awesomeness is produced by roasters like Ethical Bean Coffee Company, Jim’s Organic Coffee, Kaladi Coffee Roasters, Kicking Horse Coffee, Starbucks Coffee Company or Thanksgiving Coffee Company.

Kudos, do-gooder. You just made the world a better place, and it was easy as espresso.

Spice Up Your World


Image: Vanilla producers at work in Madagascar

The spice trade is practically as old as time and rich with history. Did you know that …nutmeg was once worth more by weight than gold? That in the 16th century, London dockworkers were paid their bonuses in cloves? Or that in 410 AD, when the Visigoths captured Rome, they demanded 3,000 pounds of peppercorns as ransom?

One of the world’s most popular spices is vanilla. Fairtrade partner Nielsen-Massey Vanillas knows fun facts about vanilla like:

Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing vanilla to the United States in the late 1700s. While serving as Ambassador to King Louis XVI of France, he became familiar with vanilla beans and brought 200 vanilla beans back with him when he returned to the United States.

George Washington kept two pewter ice-cream pots filled with vanilla ice cream at Mount Vernon during his presidency.

Dolley Madison created a sensation when she served vanilla ice cream as a dessert in the White House at the second inaugural ball in 1812.

Fair Trade Month is a great time to learn about who and what is behind that fragrant little bottle in your cupboard.

Mubuku Vanilla Farmers

In 2008, the 6,000 small-scale farmers of the Mubuku Moringa Vanilla Farmers’ Association in western Uganda became Fairtrade certified after struggling through a period of rock-bottom market prices.

Vanilla is native to Central America, but when grown in other places like Uganda, it must be pollinated by hand - a highly labor intensive process for farmers.

The Fairtrade minimum price and premium have helped farmers improve their livelihoods and communities.

With the additional income, farmers have built houses of bricks and cement, and invested in cattle. Most farmers now own a mobile phone, a valuable asset in the isolated district.

Villagers decide democratically how to spend the Fairtrade premium and have prioritized education, paying for private school fees where government-funded schools are poor.

Farmers report that Fairtrade has indirectly led to a greater role for women, who now take part in the leadership of the association, voice their opinions and needs, and attend training workshops on micro-finance and agricultural techniques.

So the next time you wince at the price of vanilla pods that you need to bake something sweet, think of the farmers who hand-pollinate each flower to grow the beans that delightfully flavor so many things.

Thank you for helpings them to support their families to have brighter futures.

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