On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Executive Director of Fairtrade America Hans Theyer talks about what it takes to support the faces behind the world’s food, especially as they experience alarming levels of poverty. “Any time someone speaks about the silver bullet or ‘this is the way to solve poverty,’ I profoundly understand that thats not the case. So fair trade helps farmers increase their income and have long term relationships with businesses around the world,” says Theyer.
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“The chance to connect and the ability to help people be business partners is tremendously powerful,” says Theyer. “All farmers want is a fair chance and they want to sell in more reasonable terms: they don’t want charity.” For Fairtrade, the internationally recognized certification is only one initiative on the roadmap to improve farmer livelihoods across the globe;: the roadmap also calls upon companies to account for all the external costs—environmental, social, and economic—that their businesses produce. “Consumers and companies sometimes turn a blind eye on negative externalities. It’s only fair to the system and the earth that they take those on and help compensate for them. True cost accounting is vital,” says Theyer.
Conventional supply chains have created a lifestyle for farmers that is uprooting farming traditions, according to Theyer. “The average age of a cocoa farmer is about 51. That means that the next generation is really not interested in continuing to farm because they see how pitifully their parents and families have lived in the past.” By joining with organizations such as Fairtrade, farmers hope to create opportunity on the farm for their children. “By doing business, they hope to have a better life and give their kids a better life,” says Theyer.
According to Theyer, consumers are equally important in the equation for better farmer wellfare. “Consumers, especially the younger consumers, are realizing what is behind food and how food is produced. Their voices are growing louder in front of companies expressing this desire for their food to be more sustainable,” says Theyer. “Know that we’re interconnected. Know that every time you buy something fair trade, you’re not radically changing that family’s life, but you’re helping them on their way out of poverty.”
Photo courtesy of Hans Theyer.