Why Buying Fair Trade Supports the Work of Justice
Why Buying "Fair Trade" Supports the Work of Justice Written by: Hugo Ciro, Level Ground Trading
When I ask poor farmers in the mountains of East Africa or Latin America what they need, their reply is typically, "education for my kids and a better price for my harvest”.
People in rural areas of the developing world long for the same things we do: family stability and adequate income. Too often, a lack of regional stability and poor education limit their potential.
During Level Ground Trading’s 19 year ‘experiment’, I’ve become convinced that Direct Fair Trade can effect positive, lasting change! Fair price for fair product is a predictable way for farming communities to plan for a better future.
Hugo with Adam, a coffee farmer in Ileje, Tanzania
Level Ground Trading was started in 1997 with a mission to trade fairly and directly with small-scale farmers in developing countries. Our underlying vision is to alleviate poverty with a business model based on trade, not aid. We seek out long-term relationships and promote care for the environment. We import the annual harvest of 5,000 farmers from ten countries in South America, East Africa and South Asia. We are direct importers of coffee, tea, dried fruit, cane sugar, heirloom rice, cacao nibs, vanilla beans, coconut oil and spices.
Often in the shadow of injustice, we are able to pioneer trade partnerships in marginalized communities. We seek to model and promote the principles of Fair Trade with our trade partners. An example of this is championing the rights of women and children. A solid economic foundation among neighbouring farmers creates an excellent setting for human rights to flourish.
Hugo and Stacey from Level Ground with Julio and his wife, coffee farmers in Los Yungas, Bolivia
So what is "fair trade”?
For some, it is a system based on a certification scheme that collects a toll on the use of their logo based on a set of criteria. For others, it's a set of social guidelines. For Level Ground, at its core, 'fair trade' is about price for quality. By being direct importers of the products, we can ensure the farmers themselves receive the bulk of our payment. We disclose our payments to farmers on our website – because we know transparency breeds justice.
Gobin (right) is a small-scale tea grower in Assam, India.
We enjoy the adventure of visiting our trading partners in their villages. We collect stories and photos to assemble a vibrant mosaic that includes: kids in school, women safe and empowered, families working together, health care in rural areas, justice for the poor, and peace.
Hugo Ciro is the Co-founder & CEO of Level Ground Trading. As a boy growing up in Colombia, Hugo often visited his grandparents’ coffee farm in the mountains of Antioquia. With firsthand exposure to quality coffee and the impoverished working conditions of coffee farmers, Hugo set out to make a difference. After graduating with a BA degree in Economics and Business from Macalester College in Minnesota, he worked for several finance and high-tech companies. In 1992, Hugo attended Regent College in Vancouver searching for ways to apply his faith to his work. He ventured out in 1997 to establish Level Ground Trading--a Direct Fair Trade company. Level Ground’s first product, "Café San Miguel” from Colombia is a coffee from the same region where he played as a child. In 2002, Hugo established Fruandes, a fair trade fruit drying company in Colombia. Fruandes provides employment to refugee women and fair trade prices for small-scale fruit growers in Colombia. Hugo spends his time between his home in Victoria BC and visiting farmers in South America and East Africa. Hugo is married to Tracey and they have a daughter, Chrisaleen, and a son, Samuel.