our money where our mouth is
October is Fair Trade month! We are FAR from experts in this area, but simply put, Fair Trade "is a social movement whose goal is to help producers in developing countries achieve better working and trading conditions and to promote sustainability" (full disclosure: I copied & pasted that sentence from Wikipedia). Generally, Fair-Trade advocates are lobbying for better pay for exporters, and improved social and environmental standards. The hope is to achieve full, holistic partnership instead of charity. The Fair-Trade movement has been brought to light by two major instances: when Nike faced public criticism for the treatment of its workers overseas in the 1990's, and the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013 that killed 1,129 people. The True Cost is an excellent documentary about the clothing industry, and I've heard good things about Poverty Inc., as well, if you're looking to expand your knowledge. And this website http://slaveryfootprint.org/, will guide you through a survey so you can find out how many slaves you own, based on the products you purchase. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but we live in a world that prioritizes profits over ethics.
The Fair Trade movement isn't without criticism or problems, but it does raise valid points and reminds us to research what we buy. Again, we are not connoisseurs, but here are a few of our favorite GHANAIAN brands that practice good business, create excellent products, and treat their workers well:
Shea Moisture SheaMoisture is dedicated to giving back. Two women-led collectives in Northern Ghana produce the shea butter and African black soap we use as a base in our shampoos, body washes, and skin care products. Your purchase of SheaMoisture products helps give back to these cooperatives, providing a living wage, better equipment, and a better life for these women and their families. Personal note: Target has started carrying this line and we have been using the African Black Soap shampoo. Clare Warrington has really curly hair and gives it the thumbs up as well!
Aduna Aduna is an Africa-inspired health & beauty brand and social business. Our mission is to create demand for under-utilized natural products from small-scale producers in rural Africa. We are already working with 700 women in 13 communities in Upper East Ghana where our baobab supply chain is based, who are benefiting from life-changing sustainable income flows. Personal note: they also use moringa, which we are big fans of at The Yellow House (see this post).
Essie Spice For one little girl, the journey started in her mother's tiny kitchen in Ghana. As her experiments with spices grew, so did the demand for her homemade sauces which all boiled down to what you now find in this jar: bottled up joy handed down through three generations to spice up your life. Our sauces and spice blends have been crafted in small batches using traditional West-African spices and cooking methods with influences from Asia, the Caribbean, South America and Europe. Personal note: we haven't actually tried these products yet, but I've heard good things and the recipe for jollof rice on their website looks spot-on.
Divine Chocolate Divine Chocolate is co-owned by the 85,000 farmer members of Kuapa Kokoo, the cooperative in Ghana that supplies the cocoa for each bar of Divine. As owners, they get a share in the profits, a say in the company, and a voice in the global marketplace. Personal note: Ghana is one of the world's biggest suppliers of cocoa, and the cocoa industry has a notorious reputation for mistreating its workers. We've been trying to be a lot more intentional about the cocoa we buy. The dark chocolate raspberry bar is my favorite.
Osei Duro Osei-Duro is based in Los Angeles, CA and Accra, Ghana. We produce our textiles and garments in Ghana, applying traditional techniques including hand dyeing and weaving. We aim to support local apparel industries – on both large and small scales – in becoming sustainable. We work towards a vibrant fashion industry, one that exceeds international production standards while respecting the rights and aesthetics of local makers. Personal note: On a lark, Teddy and I emailed Maryanne Mathias (one of two founders) on our first trip to Ghana and she invited us over to her house in Accra! She gave me a dress and it's one of my favorite items of clothing.
Global Mamas Global Mamas launched in 2003 with just 6 founding producers and now we work with over 550 Ghanaian producers. The impact of employing women is exponential as most of the Mamas employ other women, use their earnings to send their children to school, and spend the money they make in their local community. Global Mamas products are full of life and love. Each item is hand-crafted using traditional techniques, maintaining local artisanal skills such as batiking, bead-making and Shea butter production. Personal Note: If you travel to Ghana with us, we will take you to the Global Mamas store in the Osu district of Accra before we leave. So lots of you probably have gifts and souvenirs from this brand.
Father's House Ghana Okay, so this isn't actually a "retail" operation, but we have to include it because they have wonderful products! Everyone knows that The Father's House is the big brother and inspiration for Eight Oaks, and last year Tammy Garrett, one of the founders, packaged shea butter from Ghana in tins for hand cream or lip balm, among other things (see this picture). I am REALLY PICKY about chapstick and I love this stuff, plus the proceeds directly support a cause I'm very passionate about:) Follow their Facebook page for updates about products!
We aren't trying to oversimplify or trivialize what is a huge, complicated mess of a problem, but rather engage in the dialogue. As Americans, we have MASSIVE power to enact change because we've got the *cha-ching*. Consumers wield influence, both in choosing what products to buy and what products not to buy. It can't be fixed by simply shifting what we purchase: we need to stop spending so much to begin with. Everyone has heard this statistic, I think, but it bears repeating: it would cost 28 billion dollars to provide education, sanitation, and healthcare for all. The world spends 59 billion dollars on ice cream alone each year (source).
Anna Lappé said that “every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” What kind of world do we want? Am I willing to put my money where my mouth is? Can I afford not to?