Trip Report: Fair Trade Advocacy in Ecuador

Fair Trade Campaigns August 1, 2017

Fair Trade Towns is a global movement. Today, there are almost 2,000 Fair Trade Towns in 30 countries around the world.

During our recent trip to Ecuador, we had the chance to connect with local Fair Trade organizers from the country’s two Fair Trade Towns – Quito and Riobamba – and learn so much about their unique Fair Trade landscape that supports both producers and consumers.

As a country, Ecuador has a strong commitment to Fair Trade. The 2008 constitution recognized the popular and solidarity economy with a new law that supports small producers. Under the new law, small producers are held to different requirements than large businesses, and at least 15 percent of products carried by large retailers must be from small producers. Outside of the government, there are also a numerous organizations working to support small producers and promote Fair Trade principles in Ecuador.

Market Access – Sagrario Angulo

One of the organizations supporting producers and promoting Fair Trade in Ecuador is Camari. Founded in 1981, Camari is a community development organization that provides market access for small producers. A member of the World Fair Trade Organization, Camari works with over 150 handicraft workshops and 500 small producer organizations, supporting over 7,000 families.

Sagrario holds a tagua nut at Camari’s store in Quito.

On our first morning in Quito, we met with Sagrario Angulo. Through her work with Camari and the Ecuadorian Fair Trade Consortium, Saragrio has been actively involved in Fair Trade in Ecuador for many years. She emphasized the need to support rural production, which accounts for about 60 percent of Ecuador’s GDP, and discussed the positive impacts of Fair Trade. By keeping money in communities, this system encourages youth to continue in their families’ work, which both strengthens local communities and helps address the challenge of urbanization.

Sagrario was also a key player in the campaign to make Quito a Fair Trade Town. This campaign officially began on July 26, 2016. Working with the local government, fair trade producers and businesses, and civil society, Quito was designated as a Fair Trade Town on November 8, 2016. The Fair Trade Town effort in Quito also has strong contacts with local universities. Students implement activities, such as surveys and interviews, and do internships in organizations within the Fair Trade Consortium. Universities also provide trainings for producers, and are incorporating Fair Trade into their curriculum.

Ecuador is a leader for Fair Trade in Latin America, Sagrario told us, and Camari is the main reference point for Fair Trade in Ecuador. Sagrario is proud of the progress that they have made. And the rest of the world is taking notice as well. Presenting at a Fair Trade conference in Madrid recently, she noted that roles are being reversed – instead of the North teaching the South, the South is now stepping in to teach the North.

Dignified Lives – Rosa Guamán

Mirroring our first meeting of the trip, we closed the week with another conversation with an amazing Fair Trade advocate. Rosa Guamán, president of the Small Producers’ Symbol (SPP) and previous coordinator of CLAC, spoke to us about her career, her work to make Riobamba a Fair Trade Town, and her commitment to supporting small producers.

SPP, created by CLAC in 2006, is a certification system that is “made of, by, and for small producers.” As Rosa told us, “our work has to do with making the small producer the main actor in the entire process.” Producers simply want recognition for their work – not pity or charity. “As president of SPP,” she said, “I’m committed to working with consumers to raise awareness that small producers have dignified lives.”

Along with her work with SPP and CLAC, Rosa also led the Fair Trade Town effort in Riobamba. The campaign began in November 2015, and Riobamba became the first Fair Trade Town in Ecuador on October 18, 2016. There is a local committee made up of representatives from the local government, provincial organizations, universities, organizations of the popular solidarity economy, and civil society. In addition to the town-level campaign, Riobamba has worked with Fairtrade International, SPP, and the World Fair Trade Organization to initiate new Fair Trade University campaigns.

“I’m committed to working with consumers to raise awareness that small producers have dignified lives.” – Rosa Guamán

Rosa and Sagrario left us inspired to return to our advocacy work here in the United States. It was incredible to see their work bridging producer and consumer advocacy in Ecuador, and their passion for supporting the individuals at both ends of the supply chain.

This post is part one of a two-part series recounting our travels in Ecuador in July 2017. Check out part two where we cover our visits to Fair Trade farms and cooperatives here.

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Fair Trade Campaigns, National Organizer, Fair Trade Communities