This is part of a series on "The Future of Fair Trade," written in collaboration with Fair Trade USA. A 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, Fair Trade USA is the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States. To follow along with the rest of the series, click here.
This Valentine’s Day, Americans will spend $1.5 billion on approximately 220 million flowers, most of which are roses grown in Colombia and Ecuador. The billion dollar flower industry in Colombia, in fact, employs over 100,000 workers.
Unfortunately, the truth about this booming market is that working conditions on flower farms are often far from rosy (pun intended). Many workers find themselves stricken with asthma from inhaling fuel and pesticide fumes; work seven days a week; and rarely receive vacation or overtime. Access to medical care and educational opportunities are also scarce--a harsh reality for those who need it the most.
The good news is that you can still give that special someone a bouquet of beautiful red roses this Valentine’s Day AND support the farmers and workers that grew them. Fair Trade Certified™ flowers are a great way to celebrate this 700-year-old holiday—a way to share the love with folks at home and give special thanks to farmers and workers abroad.
Take the case of Ana Salome Sivinta, a 25-year-old woman who works among 175 employees at Jardines Piaveri, a Fair Trade flower estate in Ecuador. Prior to working at Piaveri, Ana worked at a broccoli farm where she had no benefits--not even those required by Ecuadorian law. She had no job or labor protections, no access to healthcare, was not paid minimum wage, and did not earn overtime for extra hours worked at the farm.
Ana’s life changed significantly after she began working at a Fair Trade estate. She now has access to medical care, enjoys 21 vacation days a year, can afford to see a dentist, earns higher wages, and is also able to borrow money through a loan program made possible by the Fair Trade Community Development Premium.
With this additional income, Ana was able to buy a small plot of land and build her own home. She also purchased a washing machine, and can now spend less time washing clothes in the river and more time at home with her family and friends.
When we asked Ana what message she would like to send to American consumers this Valentine’s Day, she replied:
“I would ask that they continue buying Fair Trade flowers, because with that income the families that work on the certified farm can improve our standard of living and can provide a better future for our children.” - Ana Salome Sivinta, Jardines Piaveri flower estate
A gift of Fair Trade flowers also supports women’s empowerment, and education for workers and their families. Meet María Carmelina Chimborazo Guamangalle, a 22-year-old single mother who came to the AGROCOEX estate in Ecuador after working for years on a conventional flower farm.
In addition to feeling that she is valued as both a woman and a worker, Fair Trade makes it easier for María to balance her job with parenthood. She now has access to things like transportation subsidies, child care services and monthly incentive bonuses to further support her family. Student grants made possible by Fair Trade Premiums also helped María complete her secondary education; she now aspires to grow her leadership role at the farm.“I want to see this company grow, and I want to grow within this company,” said María.
María is deeply proud of her work at AGROCOEX, and believes that Fair Trade has played an important role not only in her own life, but in the future life of her child.
“I live today, and for tomorrow I see better days for myself and my little daughter.” - María Carmelina Chimborazo Guamangalle, AGROCOEX flower estate
Fair Trade USA is a nonprofit organization that is the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States. Fair Trade USA audits and certifies transactions between U.S. companies and their international suppliers to guarantee that the farmers and workers producing Fair Trade Certified goods were paid fair prices and wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment, and receive community development funds to empower and uplift their communities.