AID, other orgs host fair trade speaker

Hannah Bushon

WKU’s chapter of Americans for an Informed Democracy, in conjunction with other organizations within the university, presented “A Sweeter Deal: Fair Trade Sugar Farming in Parguay,” on Friday night.

Speaker Francisco Ferreira visited WKU to spread awareness about the importance of supporting fair trade economics. Ferreira is visiting universities encouraging students to campaign to become fair-trade institutions.

Fair trade is a movement in which growers of items such as bananas, sugar, and coffee, along with other items, are guaranteed a fair wage for their products, Ferreira said during the presentation. The fair-trade movement also supports communities and their development, as well as equal pay for workers of all sexes and races.

Ferreira is from a small town in Paraguay, and produces sugar on a 30-acre farm, which he sells to an American company called Wholesome Sweetness. Ferreira and his family grow organic sugar.

Ferreira is part of cooperative made up of about 220 members, which independently own a total of 260 farms. Some are larger than Ferreira’s, some are smaller. Ferreira and his peers strived to create an organization that would be diverse and democratic, a far cry from the oppressive government that had been ruling over Paraguay at the time.

Ferreira attributed the group’s motivation to producers in the region who had been unable to keep their farms in production, due to unfair wages offered by big businesses.

Ferreira happily reported, however, that in less than ten years the cooperation is seeing their “fruits come to flower.” Ferreira’s farm started producing a million kilos of sugar at that time, and in the past seven years, that number is seven times that.

Ferreira also said his motivation stemmed from his hope that his son will not have to do what he did.

“I had to leave my studies for sugar,” said Ferreira, who went on to say that his oldest son has graduated high school and is preparing for the next steps, and his two younger sons will do the same. To Ferreira, the benefits far outweigh the stress of the work he’s had to do thus far.

Ferreira, when asked by a student, also stressed the need for sustainably-grown produce. For Ferreira and the cooperation he is a part of, sustainability and fair-trade go hand in hand. One’s farm must meet a sustainability minimum in order to be declared fair-trade, and all the farms within Ferreira’s organization have met these standards.

Ferreira finished the evening with gratitude toward WKU.

“I feel important that you’ve given me your attention and space and invited me here,” he said.

WKU is on its way to becoming the next declared fair-trade university, behind three others, Ferreira said.