Support Fair Trade
'Fair Trade' is a concept, a global social movement, whose aim is to help producers of products such as fruit to get a fair price for what they sell and to reduce poverty, support local trade, provide better wages and working conditions. The movement started as a reaction to international trade whose practice was to produce and sell things in bulk and for as low a price as possible.
The methods of mass farming and bulk trade led to them outcompeting the smaller companies and local farms and putting them out of business. International companies would enter a country, buy out all the local farms and produce things in bulk and sell them for a lower price all while paying a meagre wage to workers and putting them in bad working conditions. This meant that local farmers could not sell their products because they were more expensive than the mass produced items and if they wanted to compete with the mass produced items they had to sell their produce for a much lower price or else close down their farms and go out of business. It also meant that people who worked for the large farms suffered more yet still remained poor as they were given a poor and unfair wage.
As so many producers went out of business whole areas became poor and poverty and unemployment became rife. Farmers lost their jobs, their livelihood, their trade and had to sell their ancestral land for a cheap price just to survive. This introduced social and economic problems and the people suffered. Had all the farmers sold their farms and given up, the world would be a very different place today where all farms would be owned by massive corporations and be used only for mass production and there would be no fair competition. Thankfully, conscientious people started to realize that there was more to life than money and bringing down costs and they backed a movement that called for fair trade, better pay, working conditions, social development and social justice.
In order that Fair Trade works it relies heavily on the consumer, the customer - you and me. Instead of selling out to large corporations and buying the cheapest or most commercial products at the super market, we have to be aware of where our money is going and if it will benefit people or harm them. We have a responsibility to know where our money goes and by buying Fair Trade products we are supporting the smaller companies and making sure they are getting a fairer price for their produce and we ensure they remain in business.
Although there are numerous Fair Trade movements that help out small and/or local companies and poorer farmers, the Fair Trade Foundation label is the most well known and is commonly found in many supermarkets around the world so look out for the picture the next time you go shopping. The foundation labels are found on many different types of products such a coffee, tea, fruits, vegetables, sugar, oil, chocolate and non-consumables such as cotton and gold. What the Fair Trade Foundation tries to do, beyond ensuring that the farmers, the producers, get a better deal for their produce, is increase the development of the business and the welfare of their workers. They ensure that a portion of the profits from the sales of Fair Trade produce goes back into the business to buy better machinery to increase yield or to provide better working conditions at the farms so workers are happier, safer and get paid a better wage and are better able to support their families.
So, what of the Islamic perspective?
When our consumer behaviour, the money we pay to buy things, can drive the betterment of other people's lives and increase social justice and decrease poverty, how can we, as Muslims, as human beings with conscience not support our neighbours, brothers in faith and humanity through buying Fair Trade?! Allah says in the holy Quran: