Where the Fair Trade initiative is applied to wild plants, two contradictory objectives may arise: that of conserving a target plant species (conservation) and that of increasing income from it for collectors (poverty alleviation). As identified through my fieldwork in India, a Fair Trade certification for wild plants has been introduced for different purposes, including (a) to teach the local community the forgotten value of natural resources (conservation), (b) to make current collection practices more sustainable in exchange for better prices (both conservation and poverty alleviation), and (c) to help the most vulnerable collectors with better prices (poverty alleviation). A review of my past study (Makita, 2018) suggests that when there is a single primary objective, such as (a) or (c), certification can more obviously contribute to the achievement of this objective. Given the uniqueness of wild plants as an income source, it is important to clarify which one of the two contradictory objectives will be prioritised, rather than pursuing both.
The names and images of indigenous people such as the Maasai, Cherokee and Navajo are used to advance the intangible value of thousands of products from cars to shoes and luxury brand clothing across the globe. The Maasai name or image are used on over 1,000 products. This article highlights a decade of work to enable the Maasai tribe of Kenya and Tanzania, of over 2 million tribal people, to receive sustainable income from the use of their name and image by creating a win-win situation. We describe how the Maasai have been organised into a legal entity called the Maasai Intellectual Property Initiative Trust (MIPI), to own and receive income from their Intellectual Property. Secondly, we describe a definitive strategy to enable the Maasai to grant certification to companies and to license approved users. This atypical model of Fair Trade would enable a sustainable source of revenue to the Maasai who live largely in deep poverty. The strategy is not dissimilar, albeit atypical, to what a well-known individual such as Charlie Chaplin or a product such as Coca Cola would do – own, protect and benefit from their iconic brand that adds value. The initiative has implications for other indigenous people who comprise about 6 per cent of the global population.
This article reflects on the evolution of rubber (natural latex) production and aspects of its bloody, colonial history, noting the varied applications of rubber in objects around us. The author shows why rubber is a product in need of a Fair Trade label to promote good conditions for rubber tappers, farmers and workers, despite being rejected as a product candidate by FLO international. Lessons are drawn from the evolution of Fairtrade certification criteria and design flaws and the barriers this represents for other major commodities like rubber to be added. Building on the innovations in criteria, representation and premium system developed for Fair Trade Tea plantations, the Fair Rubber Association's approach is described, including the dynamics of the market for workers and small-scale producers. This essay explores issues of measuring labour costs, determining fair prices for workers and farmers. The article shows how this was resolved for Fair Trade rubber and the challenges to be overcome of extreme price sensitivity of major users (like the car industry) and rise of synthetic rubber.
The plight of the smallholder cotton farmer in the Rwenzori region of western Uganda starts with the unfair terms of hiring land for cultivation. The next hurdle is the loss of ownership of the cotton at the earliest stage of the value chain after delivering the produce to the ginner. Even the Fairtrade standards base the minimum price for the farmer on delivery of seed cotton at the ginnery, implying that the farmer is not expected to participate in the value chain and share the accruing value additions further up the chain. However, members of the Rwenzori Farmers' marketing Co-operative Society decided to move a step up the value chain by hiring the ginning services and, hence, retained the ownership of both the lint and cotton seed, which improved their income by at least 30 per cent. The strategy is to find investors to enable them to spin the cotton and manufacture the final products.
Traidcraft Exchange and its sister business Traidcraft plc have been developing Fair Trade supply chains for over three decades. As core certified ‘Fairtrade' products have become mainstream in UK markets since the late 1990s, Traidcraft Exchange has focused energies on bringing innovative supply chains and small-producer organisations into the wider Fair Trade system. The case study presented here is of rice sourced from smallholder farmers in Myanmar's Ayeyarwady region: the world's first Fairtrade product from Myanmar. The case study illustrates how Traidcraft Exchange's explicit focus on small producers and innovating new supply chains from ‘left behind' communities can work in practice. It explains challenges faced at both the supplier and market end. It seeks to show how broader programmatic aims to strengthen small producer skills and organisational capacity to engage with trade on fairer terms can mitigate risks associated with export trade to the challenging UK market.