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The progress of the Latin American Fair Trade Towns’ Campaign

 

Latin American Towns and Villages for Fair Trade” is the regional fair trade towns’ campaign developed by CLAC, WFTO-LA and SPP-Global. CLAC and WFTO-LA started the campaign in 2015, and SPP joined in 2016. The three networks reaffirm today the commitment of working together and participate in the worldwide “trade justice” movement as part of their strategy. The regional Latin American campaign will also take part in the International Fair Trade Towns Conference in Saarbrücken (14-17 September 2017). Rosa Guamán, President of SPP, Miriam Elizabeth Pérez Zelaya, from COMSA (Marcala, Honduras), and Marco Coscione, CLAC’s campaigns’ coordinator, will be there.

«Since we started the regional campaign in Latin America, we were able to raise the interest of different fair trade producers’ organizations, networks and local authorities in different countries», says Marco. «This was exactly what we wanted to do with our members: showing them the global campaign, accompany them to start a local advocacy campaign and adapt it to the Latin American context». This will, of course, help building a stronger fair trade movement also in the South.

After receiving the Saarbrücken delegation in Marcala (Honduras, March 2016), the fair trade small producers’ organization COMSA convinced local authorities and local civil society associations to start a local campaign in Marcala: «For COMSA is very important to establish local fair trade relations», says Miriam Elizabeth. «Of course we will continue exporting fair trade coffee, but we know that our producers have a lot of different organic products that, as coffee, can be also traded at local level. We need to create new trade relation between local producers and consumers». Marcala started the campaign in March 2017.

The three producers’ networks propose to build new bridges between Fair Trade Towns in the North and potential Fair Trade Towns in Latin America. This would also help to spread the campaign in the South and promoting new solidarity activities around the world.

«We know it’s not easy to spread the campaign in Latin America», says Marco. «Especially because in Southern countries only few products recognized as fair trade products are available and in very few places; but we have a lot of producers and other products also produced by fair trade organizations». Fair trade and responsible consumption are concepts and practices still not very well known among Latin American consumers. In this sense, the three networks will intensify their advocacy and communication actions in order to spread the campaign in the region.

A good example of advocacy and raising awareness work is the Ecuadorian one. In 2016, Riobamba and Quito reached their adapted local criteria and were declared as “Fair Trade Towns”. Quito is the first Latin American fair trade national capital city. In Riobamba, the local leadership of the fair trade producers and organizations was essential to establish a local action plan and start the related activities to promote fair trade in the city. «We worked hard to reach the fair trade towns criteria in Riobamba», says Rosa. «The relation between local authorities and fair trade producers is very good, and we succeed in involving also the universities, as part of the Riobamba civil society. This connection among different actors is the starting point to build the movement in Ecuador and to better communicate to consumers what fair trade really is».

Promoting regional campaigns, led by fair trade producers networks, is empowering producers organizations in advocacy activities; and it is demonstrating that fair trade organizations can reach more local actors, producers, and activists, by speaking the same language and understanding better the situation of southern small rural villages or towns. «But we need a strong and constant commitment of the fair trade regional networks and local producers’ organizations in order to keep the campaign alive and have a real impact», Marco comments.

The three Latin American fair trade producers’ networks invite all national, regional and global fair trade networks to work together in advocacy activities like the Fair Trade Towns campaign; promoting joint campaigns all over the world and with a leading role of the small producers (artisans and farmers), who represent the roots and the heart of the Fair Trade Movement.