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10 years of fairness

Oxfam New Zealand Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier reflects on how far Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand has come in a decade.

Fairness – we all know what it looks like. It doesn’t feel right when we see people being treated unfairly. And we don’t like it when we discover that our own actions could be a source of injustice for others.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to find out if the things we buy are causing injustice to people who grow and make them in the developing world. Out of sight too often means we just don’t know.

But for Oxfam, we do know, because we work directly with small businesses based in local communities in over 90 countries across the developing world. We see first-hand how unfair trade sets people back, how it keeps them stuck in extreme poverty. Take coffee farmers for example. There are 100 million poor people who rely on the coffee industry for their way to make a living, the majority of whom live on the edge with little or no social welfare as safety nets. When massive multi-national companies create a race to the bottom, pushing down the prices paid to growers, many farmers can no longer even cover their costs of production. And families go hungry.

A fair alternative

It doesn’t have to be this way. Oxfam believes that trade can be a powerful force for eliminating poverty and challenging injustice – if it’s done fairly. That’s why we’ve worked hard to foster the Fairtrade movement. When producers get a fair price for their goods, when they have certainty and security for their businesses, when they receive a premium to invest in their families and in critical development projects in their communities – like clean, safe water – their lives improve.

Ten years ago you would have been hard pressed to find many Fairtrade Certified products on New Zealand shelves. But not anymore. Since the establishment of Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand in 2005, the number of Fairtrade products available, and the total sales, have skyrocketed.  You can now buy 2500 different Fairtrade certified products here and across the Tasman, and total retail sales last year in New Zealand was $NZD 89 million; a 28% growth on the previous year’s sales figures.

Consider the fact that a higher percentage of this money is going to the people who made these products and there are vital social and environmental projects built into the system. Now that’s fair progress.

A hand up

In the Pacific, Oxfam encourages producer organisations to work toward Fairtrade certification. This involves people working together, forming cooperatives, sharing resources, tools and skills, coordinating production and selling goods of a higher value so buyers have the confidence of a fair and ethical producer who can provide a steady supply with consistent high-quality.

At the same time, Oxfam has worked hand in hand with Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand to build a bigger market for these products by raising awareness about Fairtrade and the benefits that come when consumers use the power of their choice. Here in New Zealand, we’ve organised Oxfam’s Morning Tea (formerly Oxfam’s Biggest Coffee Break) ever since 2005. The event has become an institution, when thousands of Kiwis get together with family, friends, colleagues and classmates to enjoy tasty Fairtrade and ethically produced goods and raise funds to support growers in the developing world.

It’s been inspiring for Oxfam to be a partner in this success as we see the increasing number of ethical and Fairtrade producers worldwide over the past decade. Equally exciting is the fact that more and more Fairtrade producers, many of whom are Oxfam partners, are leading their own path forward, with a growing number actively involved in the democratic processes of the Fairtrade movement globally. We truly appreciate the role Fairtrade movement in Australia and New Zealand has played in spearheading all these changes. Fantastic work – you’re indeed a force for fairness.

So…happy 10th anniversary Fairtrade! Let’s keep growing this movement to make sure more farmers around the world get a fair and better deal.

Rachael Le Mesurier is the Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand. Follow Rachael on Twitter here: @RachaelLeMes

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