The third and final day of the Fair Trade Campaigns Conference in Chicago – filled with more great conversation and nervous conference attendees that were not sure if they would be able to leave Chicago (thanks to Hurricane Sandy).
The third day started with a Producer Panel, where banana farmers and artisans talked about how Fair Trade makes an impact in their communities. Felipe Echeverri Zapata and Jorge William Restrepo represented Bananeras de Uraba in Columbia, Hannah Dodoo represented Global Mamas in Ghana, and a third panelist Andreas represented Minga Fair Trade Imports. The group shared some fascinating information, such as the challenges of climate change and El Nino causing a loss of up to 30% of banana production, and shared some inspiring quotes, such as Hannah Dodoo telling us that “if you train a man, you train an individual, but if you train a woman, you change a nation” (I’m guessing she based the quote on this African proverb).
The Producer Panel ended with the panelists being asked about what they saw as future challenges for Fair Trade. Hannah stated that Fair Trade must be embraced in all businesses, with continued purchasing from Global Mamas. Andreas said that he did not see a challenge because many people know what the tagua is, but he stated what he really needs are better designs of products. Jorge ended with the comment that those who market Fair Trade products are still “missing,” and the system still needs to be much more transparent. It was inspiring to hear how Fair Trade has had a positive impact on their lives, and how they believe that this impact will continue in the future.
For the morning breakout session, I attended the Building a Strong & Sustainable Committee talk by Gwendolyn Tedeschi and Ben Thomas. We at Penn State Brandywine certainly have built our committee, but sustaining a committee when most of our students leave after the first two years is a challenge for the future I am worried about. The session had some great discussion about making sure the committee is diverse across students groups, faculty, administrators, food service and the campus bookstore. There were also suggestions to add staff and alumni. Finding an institutional anchor is key, as well as giving each student an important task/responsibility with the movement. I am excited and nervous about the future of the Penn State TrailBlazers, but this information is great for me to bring back to my group as to what we need to keep focused with, and information that I can share with students at other campuses looking to form their own Fair Trade movements.
Our working lunch had everyone split into two groups – the Fair Trade Towns people in one room, and the Fair Trade Colleges & University people in another room. I was excited to see Parker Townley, coordinator of Fair Trade Colleges & Universities, show us a new tool kit for campaigns looking to be approved, and I had some great conversation with the students from Penn State – University Park in attendance at the conference as to what they could do to keep the movement moving forward at their campus. Having more online resources available should better assist all campaigns, especially the University Park group.
Parker ended his session with the “Let’s Get to Work!” challenge. Parker is asking all university campaigns to create change by moving our campaigns forward by major steps. We are asked to either increase the number of our social media followers, add more Fair Trade products or host two educational events, or reach out to two new groups to form new partnerships. We are totally going for the social media challenge (stay tuned for a future blog post about this!).
The final session of the meeting was a closing keynote by Kirsten Moller, the co-founder of Global Exchange. If you ever get a chance to hear her speak, it is a must! She is so passionate about social, economic and environmental justice. And her sharing of the Raise The Bar, Hershey! campaign energized the entire room. I think her take home message was that we have done great work, but there is still much more to do and we can’t sit back and assume it will get done by others.
I think it is going to take me some time to digest all of the information and interactions from this conference. I do not think that I have yet realized all of the impacts this conference has made on myself as an individual and the impacts it will make on my students, my campus, and possibly, even on the larger Fair Trade movement. I wonder what I will be blogging about a year from now….
Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin