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Building Relationships=Building Capacity: Fair Trade Principle #3

Build capacity #3 When you hear the term build capacity, you probably think about companies building new factories to increase production.  In the fair trade world, building capacity encompasses a completely different approach. Its aim is to develop the independence of the producers who grow and create fair trade products.

The fair trade community, both business owners and non-profit groups, develop long-term relationships with the producers to guide them towards improved production and larger audiences for their crops and creations.

Producers receive training to improve their craftsmanship, production, and business skills. They also gain access to larger markets through the fair trade community. 

To help them seize the opportunity to fill the larger orders from these markets, their fair trade partners pay them in advance for raw materials so they can purchase them without taking out high-interest loans.

Underpinning these business elements are relationships based on solidarity, trust, and mutual respect.   Producers know they can depend on their business partners to be transparent in their dealings with them, to include them in all aspects of the business from design to marketing, and to help strengthen their communities.

Ulala with founders

Jen & Liz of Greenola Style with the Ulala Women’s Cooperative in Bolivia. Ulala makes some of the beautiful alpaca knitwear for sale at http://www.FairTradeDesigns.com.

If products don’t sell or the economy turns south, these businesses and non-profits don’t cut and run.  They continue to work directly with the producers to create new designs and better farming methods, and to provide financial and other assistance during economic, personal, or community problems.

It’s a holistic approach where the fair trade community shapes positive change socially, economically, and environmentally through continued relationships.  Beyond fair wages and safe working conditions, these relationships empower artisans and farmers to grow their businesses, knowing they can depend on stable and long-term income to support their families and improve their quality of life.

Ulala Cooperative photo courtesy of Greenola Style.

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