Did you know many farmers and food producers aren’t paid enough for their work to feed themselves and their families? Imagine working your whole life farming a food staple such as rice, while still returning home from the fields every day hungry.
It’s a reality that much of the world faces, especially in small faming communities. This is why we see Fair Trade food as a viable solution to bring people out of poverty. The poor don’t want handouts, they want jobs. Jobs that provide a fair wage so they can do everything we expect to do with our wages, like provide food, shelter, education, and medical care for our families– all of which Fair Trade premiums provide.
Meet Phakphum, and Alter Eco rice farmer
A great example of a Trade as One producer who is leading the way in community development and sustainable farming in traditionally impoverished areas is Alter Eco. Their cooperatives span from Bolivia to Thailand, and we’re proud to include their Ruby Red Rice and Rainbow Quinoa in this season’s subscription box!
Their Surin Cooperative is in Thailand, several hours away from the loud noises and fast paced lifestyle of Bangkok, Thailand’s largest city. Here in Surin, the majority of people are farmers, like Phakphum. He grew up in Thailand’s northeast region, where he has been working in his family’s field since he was seven years old. When he was 13, he dropped out of school to help his single mother with farm work. The family used to struggle greatly with the financial imbalance of conventional rice farming practices, making a meager profit after extensive fertilizer, labor and herbicide costs to maintain yield of the depleted soil.
Now Phakphum no longer worries about losing his ancestor’s land because he, his sister Sohm Rien, and his mother Coo-eye represent one of the 7,500 families currently selling organic Fair Trade rice through a farmer cooperative. The Fair Trade price has allowed Phakphum to make the three-year transition to organic farming. Subsequently, his pesticide related respiratory illness has subsided, and the health of his fields have improved. He has not only been able to pay of debts he incurred under conventional trade, but also has invested in more land and buffaloes.
Phakphum is the leader of his village committee through which farmers annually set the rice price and enforce organic standards. This cooperative structure also gives Phakphum and his neighbors yearly dividends and a community savings fund.
Most important to Phakphum has been the return of his dignity. As he looks out over a golden rice field he says, “I like to be self-reliant. Rely on my two hands and my head. It’s safe for my life and other people’s lives.”
Ready for the Giveaway?
Not only is October Fair Trade Month, but we’ve just passed 10,000 Facebook fans! We figured it’s only appropriate to celebrate this month and milestone by sharing a Trade as One Fall subscription box with you, so you can experience the delicious flavors of Fair Trade while knowing each and every farmer behind these products where given a fair wage for their work. Enter below!