What is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers. This movement provides market access to marginalized producers, connecting them to customers. It aims to provide higher wages than typically paid to as well as helping artisans develop knowledge, skills and resources to improve their lives.

Fair trade has a basic idea of engaging in free trade, in such a way that the artisan behind the product is empowered rather than exploited.  The idea of Fair trade began in Europe more than 40 years ago and was built originally more as a charitable model rather than a profit-making endeavour. The basic principles of fair trade include paying a fair wage, ensuring safe working conditions, building long-term business relationships, providing market feedback and business development support and maintaining transparent business practices. The idea of fair trade was first introduced to the United States through the commodities market with fair trade certified foods like coffee, sugar, rice and bananas.

Many times the term “fair trade” is misunderstood because of the policies behind it. Many consumers of fair trade handicrafts are under the impression that they are buying a product, produced through more equitable, fair, and humane production methods. However, until the organization has met the criteria for fair trade certifications it shouldn’t be misguiding the consumers. The benefit of fair trade certification for producers is that they have access to a large international market. In categories such as handcrafts, furniture or textiles, there is currently no product-level certification available.

When a small scale producer participates in a fair trade network such as the Fair Trade Federation or the WFTO (World Fair Trade Federation) it gives them access to technical assistance, confidence to expand, to improve handicraft quality and yield, social welfare programs (such as school scholarships or educational supplies for their artisans), micro credit programs critical for their workshop improvements, and organizational capacity-building courses.

The way Noah’s Ark approaches the idea of fair trade is by (1) working closely with the artisan groups and educating them to understand the Fair Trade business (2) preparing them for fair trade business, (3) marketing their products to the organisations with similar objectives, (4) providing transparency to our clients (5) and by investing our profits in the welfare of artisan and community.