Developing communities of eco business practice

Introduction to the unit

When commodity prices fall rapidly, the impact on the lives of millions of small scale producers can be catastrophic, forcing many of them into crippling debt and many others (eg due to the low price of coffee in the early 90s), to lose their land and their homes. The cost of many products such as coffee, tea and chocolate supplied to the northern hemisphere from growers in warmer countries of the southern hemisphere has not increased in real terms over the past forty years. The value of fertilisers, pesticides and machinery imported from developed countries has, however, increased considerably. The net result is that those who grow these crops have to work much longer and harder for less income. This issue has eventually been recognised and taken onboard by international development agencies. They have appreciated that they could play a vital role in improving the situation of the producers. The concept of consumers buying direct from farmers at fairer prices would help to strengthen them. With assistance in business management, farmers could market their own products directly through their own catalogues. The charities could then offer consumers the opportunity to buy products bought on the concept of a fair trade. This approach has been in place for some while now at home and overseas and has worked well. It has put hundreds of small poor farmers back on their feet and enabled them to trade their way out of poverty and with a true sense of pride.

Learning outcomes