50 Reasons to Buy Fair Trade

24 January 2007

Fair Trade consumers and supporters can be inspired by a new book: “50 reasons to Buy Fair Trade” by Miles Litvinoff and John Madeley, recently published in the United Kingdom.

This book provides 50 reasons why buying fair trade delivers a host of benefits to people and the planet. It’s an inspiring account of how every consumer can play a part in improving lives and making global trade work better for poor people.

FLO had the opportunity to interview one of the authors, Miles Litvinoff. He told us about his experience with Fair Trade, how he got the idea to write a book on the subject and about his encounter with Fair Trade producers.


FLO: When did you first hear about Fair Trade?

Miles Litvinoff: I first heard about Fair Trade in the mid 1980s through Oxfam and Traidcraft. Their stories of people and communities that have benefited from Fair Trade made a strong impression on me, and I started to buy Fair Trade instant coffee – which was not all that tasty at first! The flavour and quality of Fair Trade food and drink have been transformed in recent years. I have bought Fair Trade food, drink and gifts since the 1980s. Some years all the Christmas presents I have given have been Fair Trade.

FLO: Why did you decide to write a book on Fair Trade?

Miles Litvinoff: Poverty and injustice have been one of my concerns for years. I have worked on human rights and sustainable development as a writer and editor, a campaigner, an adult educator, and a manager in the NGO sector. With so much bad news around, I wanted to write a book focusing on good news, and Fair Trade is one of the best success stories we have today.

The idea of Fair Trade is so simple and compelling. It’s what all trade should be a mutually beneficial exchange between producer and consumer. If more people in the global North knew how much Fair Trade helps people in the South, they would make more of a point of buying Fair Trade produce. So I felt it was important to tell the real life stories of people and communities who have gained from Fair Trade, as a way to encourage more people to see its potential and support it.

By chance another writer I knew, John Madeley, was also interested in writing a book about Fair Trade. We joined forces to make it a popular guide, celebrating Fair Trade as a great idea that really delivers benefits for poor people, and allowing Fair Trade producers to describe the benefits in their own words, while also covering a range of issues linked to trade justice and the Millennium Development Goals.

FLO: What did you find out about Fair Trade that you did not know before? 

Miles Litvinoff: At the start, of course I had a general idea of how Fair Trade works but did not know about the social premium on Fairtrade certified produce, the importance of workplace democracy in deciding how the premium is spent, Fair Trade’s use of advance payments, and all the detailed attention paid to standards and certification.

Also I did not realise how strong and diverse the worldwide Fair Trade movement has become, or how fast it has grown. Through writing the book I learned about imaginative forms of ownership such as pioneered by AgroFair, the Day Chocolate company and Progreso coffee shops. I learned too about Fair Trade’s close links with the cooperative tradition, its support for the rights of indigenous peoples, and how much women have been a key driving force behind Fair Trade and empowered by it.


FLO: How was your encounter with Fairtrade Producers? 

Miles Litvinoff: I really enjoyed meeting Fair Trade producers from Africa, Asia and Latin America as I worked on the book. These people impressed me with their commitment and determination, as well as with their appreciation of the Fair Trade system. We can all learn from the care with which Fair Trade producers invest their incomes.

Most of the producers I interviewed were visiting the UK. But my visit to the COASBA bee"on"keepers’ cooperative in southern Chile in 2005  described in Chapter 6 of the book was special. I will never forget being shown proudly around the splendid new honey processing plant COASBA were building, which is probably functioning by now.

The message from Fair Trade producers is so often the same one. They don’t want charity. They are fiercely independent and proud of the quality of their produce. All they ask for is a fair price for their work, a decent living wage, and the opportunity to steadily improve the circumstances in which they and their families and communities live.



50 Reasons to Buy Fair Trade by Miles Litvinoff and John Madeley is published in paperback by Pluto Books (www.plutobooks.com), London, price €15.00, 256pp.

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