This article comes from Martin Rizzi, who has lived in Taxco, Mexico for decades, and worked closely with the artisanal women in support of their fair trade production. I have visited him, seen his impressive projects, and listened to his accounts of fair-washing artisanal products. I requested he submit an article documenting his experiences, which he has done below.
On this site, we focus primarily on fair trade issues relating to the mainstream jewelry sector, rather than the niche ethnic fair trade jewelry that ends up on the shelves of fair trade stores. Nevertheless, the issues Martin raise are important and have far reaching consequences.
Please read his article below… Marc Choyt—Fair Jewelry Action USA
1. Fair trade advertisements featuring colorful Third World folk. Are the people in the pictures actually employed in the making of the items advertised for sale? Or, are these imaged Third World craftspeople virtual stand-ins? Likewise, testimonials attributed to Third World artisans and farmers. Are these genuine? Is there any way to know?
2. Fair trade products made in homeless shelters or refugee camps are sold to the well-meaning first world customers, where displaced persons without civic identity are being spoken for by international humanitarian aid workers and missionaries.
3. When the retail price of a fair trade product is nearly ten times what the producer got paid for making it, isn’t this an abuse of both the artisan and the customer?
4. The solicitation of donations to ‘promote’ Fair Trade is a doubtful practice, particularly in the cases where no collected money ever gets into the hands of artisans or small farmers, and when the donated funds are raked off as expenses, or plowed into the company’s branding and marketing campaigns, improving ability to solicit more donations.
5. Microcredit was claimed to be the savior of the Third World poor people, trapping them into the cycle of monetary indebtedness, while generating well-paid employment for first-world financial officers.
6. Idealistic high school and college students are solicited to volunteer for work in fair trade stores, where they are encouraged to donate their time and youthful passion to the businesses of retailers engaged in fair trade.
7. One-trick-pony doctrine pretends to explain producer economics in terms of purely financial metrics. Per-piece price is only one factor in weighing benefit to a cottage industry manufacturing or small farm enterprise.