14 Dec 2016

Localise Globally

In some ways Just Earth's combination of local food and fair trade are odd bed fellows. The local food movements focuses on the importance of buying local and within a certain radius of kilometres to reduce food miles. This is intended to reduce the impact on climate change of freight and to build more direct connections between urban communities and their local food supply. It also aims to build the viability of organic or ecologically sound small farms by encouraging consumers to build direct relationships with their farmers. 

Whereas 'fair trade' is an internationalist movement designed to cut through the unfair models of the global market which disadvantages small producers. Fair Trade certification requires that buyers of 'fair trade' products ensure funds go back into improving the lives of producers and their communities. They are audited and expected to show improvements in access to health, education and housing. The fair trade movement has been successful in alleviating poverty and extreme hardship for coffee farmers in Ethiopia and parts of Latin America. It also keeps many local traditions alive by building a market place for artisans' products in the west. This has revitalised many traditional textile and art practices that were on the brink of being lost. Fair Trade however still relies on moving products around the globe, with the resultant use of freight and impact potentially on emissions and climate change.  

From a social justice perspective the local food movement is extremely important but has the danger of being 'protectionist' in attitude. In addition we run the risk of building pockets of 'abundance' in places such as South East Qld where we are blessed with fertile soils and an urban centre such as brisbane with a population that can support local farmers. Even is South East Qld at this point however operating local food businesses and organic farms continues to be extremely tough when up against the supermarket chains and consumers price expectations as opposed to the real costs of growing food sustainably. 

At Just Earth the reason we are both Fair Food and Fair Trade is that in their essence both movements are about sustainable community based approaches designed to disrupt the practices of the free market which don't build in business costs to people or planet. We also see a need to 'localise globally'. Localisation movements need to be replicable networks to ensure they have effect in more marginalised communities. And Western consumers as part of fair trade relationships are still needed to build local food and art traditions in 3rd world communities often revitalising them in places where local consumers may not value their local produce. 

Amelia Salmon

Fair trade keeps alive traditional textile practices of local artisans in Peru.