This year, Americans are expected to spend astonishing amounts of money preparing for the upcoming school year. Back-to-school spending is expected to reach $26.5 billion, while back-to-college spending is expected to reach $48.5 billion, over $3 billion more than last year.
Farming families are also preparing to send their kids back to school – and paying for the required uniforms and supplies is a real challenge. Luckily, your Fair Trade purchases are helping to make going back to school a little easier for these families.
Many Fair Trade Certified farms have chosen to invest their Fair Trade premiums on education. From creating scholarship funds and computer centers, to purchasing backpacks and supplies for students, the additional income from Fair Trade is giving children in remote farming communities the opportunity to learn.
So whether you’re shopping for products like coffee, bell peppers, roses and more, look for the Fair Trade Certified label to make sure that your purchase is helping support education. Read on to learn just how it’s working in communities around the globe.
At Divemex, a bell pepper farm in Culiacan, Mexico, Fair Trade premiums were used to fund an academic scholarship program. The program ensures that Divemex workers and their children can continue their education.
Julia Lizeth Soto Valerio is a scholarship recipient. Every morning, she wakes up early so she can study industrial engineering at her school, which is 40 minutes away. With a 3.7 GPA, Valerio makes every early morning commute worth it.
“I am very happy to be part of this program because it gives me the motivation to improve my life and I can see the improvement each day,” she says.
Meanwhile, at ALG Boerdery, a citrus farm in South Africa, farm workers voted to use their Fair Trade premiums to construct a daycare center for young children. They also established a scholarship program that benefited 46 students last year.
“The daycare center is a haven for parents. They know where their children are during the day and that they are in a safe environment where development and growth are encouraged,” says Tieke September, head of the Fair Trade Committee at ALG Boerdery. “The Fair Trade program makes this possible of for our children and for that we will be eternally grateful.”
Having access to education is much less meaningful if you don’t have any school supplies—which is why the 442 farm workers at Florecal, an Ecuadorian rose farm, decided to use their Fair Trade premiums to purchase school supplies for their children.
“The list of supplies are much more affordable for me and enables me to pay for all the supplies without having to choose between buying supplies or shoes,” says Veronica Cacuango, a mother.
Fair Trade is also helping to send parents back to school at the Agrogana flower farm in Ecuador. Elivia Almachi and her husband Luis received scholarships to attend adult school on the weekends to finally earn their high school diplomas. At home, they get to study alongside their three children.
“It is through these Fair Trade flowers that hundreds of families, like mine, continually improve our lives.” – Elvia Almachi
Similarly, farmers at Promotora de Desarrollo Cooperativo de las Segovias (PRODECOOP), a collection of coffee-growing cooperatives in northern Nicaragua, decided to use their Fair Trade premiums to purchase school supplies like backpacks, writing utensils and notebooks for children. On average, 3000 packages of school supplies have been given to children a year.
Like Divemex and ALG Boerdery, PRODECOOP has also invested its Fair Trade Premiums into a scholarship program that benefits 80 children a year. The program has also significantly reduced the community’s dropout rate.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, in the Ugandan Highlands, the Gumutindo Coffee Cooperative is helping to send children back to school after a devastating storm took the roof off the local school. Members voted to use Fair Trade premiums to repair the building and to purchase 60 desks for the school. Previously, children had to sit on the ground, which made writing very difficult. The community also allocated funds to hold workshops and trainings for teachers.
Confederacion Nacional de Cacacocultores Dominicanos (CONACADO) is one of the Dominican Republic’s top three cocoa producing and exporting entities. For the cooperative’s 10,040 farmers, cocoa makes up 90% of their cash income. The farmers voted to use their Fair Trade premiums to build a new school and fund school repairs in five regional sections of the cooperative. The premiums were also used for scholarships and school supplies for low-income students.
CONACADO also used Fair Trade premiums to build a new computer room and community center, which are now used by students to complete assignments. Before the center was built, students were forced to travel 14 kilometers to get to the nearest computer.
Not all children are as lucky as the ones at CONACADO. In 2010, 9.3% of children worldwide were out of school. Fair Trade is part of the solution to this global problem. As each of these farms show, Fair Trade premiums are often invested in education so that farmers can afford to keep their children in school and out of the fields. So whether you’re shopping for coffee or cocoa, look for the Fair Trade Certified label to see if your purchase is helping send students back to school—and keeping them there.