In other words, embracing Cultural Relativity as an excuse not to address existing inequality is alive and well within the Fair Trade Movement. For more on that topic, read a recent post, Gender and Cultural Relativity. Again, I quote Paul Hawkins regarding the stark differences between principles and practices, “Practice seems more humble word than principle, a word behind which it is easy to hide, and which often leads to some sort of failure. You can betray a principle, but you can always keep on practicing.”
|Sumatra: The island where some of the worlds best |
organic Fair Trade certified Arabica coffee originates
As a professional trainer in Fair Trade, development, gender, and women’s rights, I decided to directly address the existence of inequality in their cooperatives. To be successful the exercises had to be experiential and participatory; this was not to be lecture from some foreigner telling nineteen Muslim men and one woman how it ought to be.
I prefer tackling the difficult issues first. I divided them into small groups of four, and presented a scenario that resonated with the people of Aceh. Firstly, the Indonesian Parliament has five hundred and sixty (560) representatives from thirty-three provinces covering 17,000+ islands, of which Sumatra is one of the larger islands. Of the total representatives in Parliament, twelve come from Aceh.
However, in this scenario those twelve representatives had been removed. From now on, the neighboring province of North Sumatra which had 17 representatives will also represent Aceh.
I asked for each group to write down their reactions to this news and how they felt about it. The results were as follows:
- Political and Social ambitions of people from Aceh not achieved
- Different priorities between the two provinces
- No infrastructure development for Aceh
- No balance in development projects
- Social jealousy
- No ambition for the people of Aceh
- This situation leads to conflict
- A deep seated desire to be free from this situation
Next, I asked if each cooperative was founded on Participatory Democracy and there was a resounding “Yes.” Delegates are elected to represent their constituents, and meet with them a couple weeks before the annual cooperative meeting in which issues are addressed and local development projects proposed. Considering 50% of the village populations are female, I asked how many delegates in their cooperatives were women. I knew the answer beforehand: None in most cooperatives, and very few in the others.
Gender Equity is about a principle they very much believed in:
- Currently 100% of the Fair Trade Certified Organic Arabica green beans from the cooperative are for export
- No prepayments from coffee importers have left cooperatives short of capital
- No capital meant no payment for members when they delivered their beans. At this time when conventional prices are as high as Fair Trade prices, members deliver their beans to the conventional markets instead since there is no payment offered on delivery by the cooperative
- No prepayment also meant that there were no funds to process the beans to be export ready. This activity generates income for the cooperative and members of their community
- From the perspective of the cooperative, this led to a loss in credibility with its members
- A loss in credibility threatens the cooperative’s existence as member may relinquish their membership, or simply continue selling on the conventional market, thus greatly reducing the cooperative’s future ability to source the beans and process them for export
- Unite to create a national franchise and a national Fair Trade Label (Read: Franchising Fair Trade)
- Initiate University Fair Trade Movements and advocacy campaigns (Read: Catalysts for Social Change)
- Fair Trade Organizations need to make finished products for local markets (Read: Defining "Competitive" in Local Markets)
- Sell to the conventional market (let the price be X)
- Sell to the cooperative at Fair Trade prices for Y, which is a fluctuating amount higher than X, depending on the current market price (For this exercise, Y becomes the base price)
- The Cooperative processes, roasts, and packages their own Fair Trade Coffee brand for local consumption. A kilogram of packaged coffee could be sold locally at 2*Y (* represents to multiply in this equation). For local consumption in Takengon the price would be 2*Y, but in the cities of Aceh, this could be sold at higher prices
- Locally a 250gr package of ground coffee would make 17 cups (They like their coffee served strong here!). 4 packages = 1kg. 1 kg = 68 cups. 68 cups of high quality coffee served in the local contexts would make a handsome profit for a cooperative. The final retail price of 1kg of organic Arabica coffee = 12*Y.
Going through this exercise awakened them to a potential business venture! A cooperative could become sustainable on a local market. A collective of twelve cooperatives could expand such a venture to the cities of Aceh and throughout Sumatra!
I divided them into three groups, each with a specified task to foster this newfound interest:
- What is your vision for the future of Takengon, and how do we make it a reality
- What is your vision for the future of Aceh, and how do we make it a reality
- What is your vision for the future of Indonesia, and how do we make it a reality
- Meet with the twelve cooperatives and Fair Trade exporters to discuss how to make coffee sustainable.
- Meet with government officials to discuss the creation of a legal and unified collective integrating all twelve cooperatives
- Raise awareness to members on making Fair Trade organic coffee locally sustainable
- With government support influence the education programs in the local university and high schools through the creation of seminars.
- To invite educators and agricultural departments of the local university to the cooperatives
- Conduct a feasibility study about the viability of Fair Trade products in local markets
- Start a chain of franchised cafe's in major cities and universities in Aceh
- Promote the cafe chain in exhibits in and outside of Aceh
- Lobby local and provincial governments on integrating Fair Trade into local markets
- Conduct awareness raising campaigns on university campuses
- Less than 0.01% of Indonesians are aware of Fair Trade. We need to promote Fair Trade via a multi-media campaign
- Lobby with big business such as hotels and supermarket chains to promote Indonesian Fair Trade products
- Join with the Indonesian Fair Trade Forum
- Support the Yogya Fair Trade Movement
Mitch Teberg, MA