Article: Fair Trade Friends: Oxfam America

Written by Cafe Campesino on Aug 1, 2003 in Article, NEWSLETTER |
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As I rode through the back streets of Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, I watched in shock at scenes I’d only seen on television. Simple homes lined the dirt streets, most without running water or electricity, while mere blocks away Americans and Canadians complained to the front desk at their hotel of running out of hot water.

Scenes such as these are not uncommon, not even within the United States. Poverty rages around us, while many of us don’t even realize how close to home it is. As fair trade coffee sellers, we are committed to helping those who produce the coffee we enjoy by purchasing their coffee at a living wage, and in our journey, we have come across other like-minded organizations, such as Oxfam.

Oxfam America (http://www.oxfamamerica.org) is a member of an international organization dedicated to finding long-term solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice around the world. Oxfam believes that changes are needed to trade and investment rules in the Americas to reduce poverty and promote respect for human rights and sustainable development. To that end, one of their big campaigns is the “Make Trade Fair” campaign.

The Make Trade Fair campaign goes hand in hand with the Big Noise Petition. In an effort to get Proctor & Gamble, one of the world’s largest coffee companies, to promote Fair Trade coffee, Oxfam is sending components for an Activist Center to coffee businesses.

An attractive cardboard box, postcards and stickers are included in the display set-up, with instructions for business owners once the box is filled with postcards.

Oxfam’s Activist Center presents people with postcards to sign which will then be sent to Proctor & Gamble, asking them to purchase and sell Fair Trade coffee. The center also provides a place for them to put their name to a petition, stating that they’ve filled out the postcard. The results of this petition will be presented at the World Trade Organization summit in Cancún, Mexico next month as a means of showing the trade ministers that the U.S. public supports Fair Trade.

The upcoming WTO summit will see the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy launch its Fair Trade Expo, complete with exhibits and sales of fair trade products, as well as a schedule of speakers and workshops on fair trade topics. The Fair Trade Federation will release the 2003 Fair Trade Trends Report during a press conference kicking off the expo.

Coffee isn’t the only item that is fairly traded, nor is it only coffee farmers who are living in poverty. From Oxfam’s website: “Oxfam America pursues solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice in many ways, starting with the support of grassroots community programs in poor countries. These organizations – which we call our partners – provide inspiration and leadership to people who are living difficult lives locked in poverty. With new resources, organization, and opportunity from Oxfam, our partners and their communities gain skills, direction, and the hope and energy to create a new future.

“Poverty comes from lack of knowledge, resources, and opportunity. At its root, it exists because of inequities established and perpetuated by political and economic policies and social norms. People who are poor are locked out of the systems that create policies and norms. Individuals and their communities will create their own best solutions to poverty if they have the necessary financial resources, skills and technical information, and access to the political process.”

Oxfam seeks to give people the resources necessary to do just that.

For further reading, check out these links:

Get Involved with Oxfam — Join Oxfam in challenging Americans to broaden their world view, push elected officials and other decision makers to adopt pro-poor policies, and raise funds for Oxfam to continue fighting poverty without the aid of government grants. www.oxfamamerica.org/involved/art204.html

Fair Trade Federation — The Fair Trade Federation (FTF) is an association of fair trade wholesalers, retailers, and producers whose members are committed to providing fair wages and good employment opportunities to economically disadvantaged artisans and farmers worldwide. www.fairtradefederation.org

WTO Watch — A global information center on the WTO, trade, and sustainable development, from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. www.tradeobservatory.org

Cancun Welcoming Committee — The Cancun Welcoming Committee is a coalition of local activists and organizations in Cancun, Mexico, working to provide logistical, political, and media support and grassroots mobilization for the protests against the WTO in September, 2003. www.cancuncommittee.org

Third World Network — The Third World Network is an independent non-profit international network of organizations and individuals involved in issues relating to development, the Third World and North- South issues. They have an extensive, up-to-the-minute website on the WTO. www.twnside.org.sg

Samantha Slater is the Customer Service Manager at Café Campesino. Hailing from the Oregon coast, land of Douglas Firs and drive-thru espresso shops, she comes by her love of coffee and the environment naturally. Sam is committed to Fair Trade as a viable way to protect and sustain the environment, while still providing a living for the people who depend on the land.

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