They also use this money to train workers to create better products, or to hire people to teach them about erosion, or how to pick better seeds for coffee plants, how to pick the best shade trees, how to store seeds after harvest.
Dow met artisans who grind up insects to make dyes they use for the vibrantly colored rugs. She said that one group she met was on the verge of quitting until a businesswoman arrived to teach them how to better price their goods. The woman also helped them find microfinancing.
“They were able to continue,” Dow said. “Otherwise they would have stopped weaving. Credit is really important.”
Caring for the environment is also a key concern for fair trade producers.
When wood carvers cut a tree down for materials, they plant three more to take its place, many of which are shade trees, important for the sequestration of carbon dioxide. They also engage in composting.
The purpose of Dow’s trip was to be able to come back to Mankato and be better at convincing people that it’s a good idea to buy fair trade products.
“We’ll have a fundraiser in October,” Dow said. “I’ll have my slides, explain to people the benefits of fair trade. And anyone who wants me to come and talk to their group, I’m more than happy to do it.”
MAFTTI has made some progress recently. The group’s most visible victory has been in the area of bananas. Both Cub Foods stores now carry fair trade bananas. Hy-Vee stores carry a number of fair trade items in the health food section.
“Nobody was carrying fair trade bananas until (MAFTTI’s efforts),” she said.
One of their annual events is coming up Wednesday. They’ll be sponsoring a viewing of the documentary “Chocolate Country” at the Emy Frentz Arts Guild.