Monthly Update from the Presidents of Equal Exchange

Action Forum Members,

Greetings from Massachusetts on a gray and rainy/snowy March day. I wanted to share a couple of high level observations on what is going on for Equal Exchange and why the citizen-consumer initiative we are building is so important, as well as talk about a couple of easy ways you or your friends can support our farmer partners.

What has been increasingly clear to us in the last five years is that we cannot continue to succeed as an alternative trader without innovating and radically changing our model. So we are adapting our model to include you as an active participant. We believe only by doing this can we prosper and continue to build a model of democracy, learning, and social justice that the world needs more than ever.

In the last ten years we have managed to save three alternative trade organizations that were on the verge of collapse; Oke USA, Equal Exchange UK, and La Siembra (Canada). During this time we have watched other ATO’s close their doors or shrink dramatically. None of this was coincidental. A direct consequence of the commodification of fair trade–the lowering of standards, and the consumer overload that has come with the corporate take-over of fair/ethical/sustainable/etc.–has been the weakening and death of alternative traders.

We know that we are currently successful, but Equal Exchange cannot live in a world with weak involvement from supporters, the weakening of coops and other alternative economic players, and ongoing retail centralization. We need your active involvement. We need to create new ways to strengthen our small farmer supply chains and most of them begin with your involvement, commitment and participation.

At some point this will lead us to building a place in our governance for citizen-consumers. This will lead ultimately to our farmers being involved in democratic organizations, our workers being involved in our worker coop, and citizen-consumers being involved in the governance of Equal Exchange and our sister organizations. That will happen after we have done a lot of work building this new, not yet seen model of large scale, producer driven, worker controlled, re-engineered ATO from the 90’s for the next period. Please join us, please show up. We really can’t do this without you.

I wanted to highlight two special ways you can support our farmer partners right now in addition to the more week to week ways you already do. The first is to donate to the Potong association in Darjeeling, India. This group is one of our model small farmer tea projects. Due to political strife their collectively run tea garden, like other gardens in Darjeeling was unable to harvest tea for several months. They need your support to eat, to make it through the dormant season as production slowly resumes. To read more and donate please, click here.

The second is to support our farmer partners in Palestine who are organized by PARC/Al Reef.  We have been supporting these impressive coops for seven years by purchasing their olive oil. This year we are importing a small farmer’s box from them that contains couscous, roasted almonds, medjool dates among other delicacies. To learn about or pre-order one of these boxes please, click here.

As always let us know your thoughts and reactions,

In Cooperation,

Rink Dickinson

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