Chapter 24: Fair trade and indigenous communities in Latin America
Yuri works hard to maintain the indigenous cultural and agricultural knowledge of her people. Fair Trade helps make that a reality. By taking part in a system that provides key market access, financial training, and the ability to invest in things like education, healthcare, food security and clean water, the farmers and workers of Fondo Paez are able to participate in vibrant global trade while simultaneously strengthening their own cultural heritage. (Fair Trade USA 2011) In terms of romantic imaginings, global capitalism and indigeneity are seemingly placed at opposite ends of a vast continuum. Yet, indigenous people are highly heterogeneous in their opinions, goals and practices. As noted in the Fair Trade USA public relations statement above, some indigenous communities are in fact thriving within today’s global economy through their participation in fair trade networks. This is in spite of the fact that few, if any, of the fair trade certification standards established by international organizations such as Fairtrade International explicitly address indigenous rights or issues specific to indigenous peoples. This chapter explores the impact of fair trade on indigenous communities across Latin America. The bulk of the existing research on this topic has focused on the significant number of successful fair trade coffee cooperatives found in Mesoamerican indigenous communities. However, case studies from Bolivia and Brazil are also included for comparative purposes. The Latin America agricultural sector includes an estimated 65 million small farmers, the majority of whom are indigenous people belonging to more than 600 different groups (Toledo et al. 2010).
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