I was excited for today’s speaker, Amanda White from Divine Chocolate, not only for the free samples our faculty adviser ordered for us (the toffee nut crunch is, well… divine!), but for the opportunity to engage in conversation with someone who is in the depths of this complex and valuable global movement.
After giving us the history of Kuapa Kokoo, the farming co-op in Ghana that began their own chocolate company in 1997, Amanda talked about the importance of the Fair Trade business model. Not only does it provide farmers with fair wages in the form of minimum prices for their cocoa plus a social premium, but it provides them with knowledge, power, and profits that enhance many areas of their lives.
Amanda White (Divine Chocolate) speaking at Penn State Brandywine, April 16, 2012 (via Fair Trade at Penn State Brandywine)
Empowering small farmers is at the root of the Fair Trade movement. Farmers learn more about their product by understanding the industry and having face-to-face communication with consumers, retailers, politicians, and activists. They have power over their own company by knowing exactly where their cocoa goes, how it’s handled and traded, and what contracts look like. With the knowledge and power that comes with owning their own chocolate company, farmers are swimming in profits that are not just monetary. The Fair Trade model gives farmers the ability the share in the profits they have helped create. So instead of using a lump of charity-donated money to build a school or a health clinic, their business practices allows for sustainability.
“It’s more than just a school or a health clinic,” Amanda shared with us. “It’s teachers and clinicians, too.”
Co-op farmers utilize this business model to build upon their profits. And with sustainable profit growth comes more knowledge, more power, and ultimately, the empowerment that the Fair Trade movement has set out to provide.
After her talk about Divine Chocolate (and a dozen or so chocolate bars later), Amanda fielded some questions and sat down with our committee to talk about the future of Fair Trade in the United States.
Amanda White (Divine Chocolate) with the Fair Trade TrailBlazers, after her seminar on April 16, 2012 (via Fair Trade at Penn State Brandywine)
We talked about the many facets of the movement. Want to get involved? Study agricultural anthropology, economics, international business, nonprofit management, women’s studies, communications, environmental sustainability… the list goes on. Our conversation reminded me of what Billy Linstead Goldsmith of Fair Trade Towns USA said during a workshop at Temple University a few weeks back: “Fair Trade is kind of a meeting point of all the aspects of social justice.”
That is what makes me so invested in the movement. That is why I’m eager to continue learning about all that Fair Trade has to offer, about it’s successes and vulnerabilities, about finding a place and a voice in our society, and moving forward as a sustainable movement in our country, and ultimately, the world.
Many thanks to Amanda and Divine Chocolate for lending her to us on this beautiful spring day! Learn more about Divine Chocolate at divinechocolate.com.
Contributed by Sara Neville