Nov 292004
Authors: Kathryn Dailey

The CSU Fair Trade Research Group is working on a research project to broaden and deepen the impact of fair trade.

Fair trade is an initiative that works to create more socially just and environmentally friendly production, trade and consumption, according to a press release from Laura Raynolds, associate professor of sociology and co-director of the CSU Fair Trade Research Group. Fair trade also tries to help consumers be more aware of the impacts that their consumption choices can have globally.

Fair trade strives to guarantee fair prices to producers by establishing price floors so that even when world prices decline, producers receive a price for their product that covers their costs. It works to make sure that marginal producers and workers are fairly represented in global trade and it supports environmental efforts to foster sustainable production.

The CSU Fair Trade Research Group recently received a $300,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to evaluate the poverty-alleviating effects of fair trade coffee in Latin America, Africa and Asia, according to the Ford Foundation Web site.

Raynolds said the two main objectives of the project are researching and networking.

Research is being conducted on how the positive impacts of fair trade can be broadened and deepened. The project aims to find ways to bring more commodities to regional areas and make the positive benefits long term and institutionalized. Each center of fair trade research is seeking to develop a regional, more localized network, Raynolds said.

Raynolds and her colleagues have been collaborating with scholars and activists in Brazil, England and South Africa.

"Certain pieces are happening simultaneously, but there isn't the research and networking for people to know about it," Raynolds said.

The research group is laying the institutional foundation for a permanent Center for Alternative Trade Studies, which would study fair trade and other alternative trade markets, said Douglas Murray, associate professor of sociology and the other co-director of the CSU Fair Trade Research Group.

The CSU Fair Trade Research Group is already functioning as a focal point and is becoming known worldwide, Raynolds said.

Businesses and individuals around the community are involved in selling and buying free trade and alternative trade products, which range from agricultural products to handicrafts and art.

A range of fair trade and alternative trade goods are being sold around Fort Collins. Places in the community such as Wild Oats, 200 W. Foothills Parkway, Whole Foods, 2201 S. College Ave., and Ten Thousand Villages, 113 Linden St., carry these types of products and a number of local coffee shops are selling free trade coffee.

This exhibits that there is already a consumer-driven, market-based effort at social change, Murray said.

"The center itself is not in the business of promoting products or initiatives," Murray said.

Finding Racial and Economic Equality is a group on campus that students can be a part of.

"We try to bring awareness to the campus on global, economic and racial issues," said Katie Guiffre, a sophomore art major and member of FREE.

Some students in FREE are working to get the residence halls and Sweet Sinsations to sell fair trade coffee, Guiffre said.

The FREE group also sells fair trade coffee and chocolate at the student flea market in the Lory Student Center on Fridays.

"Through our research we can provide students, academics and people around the community with information about different initiatives and how well things are working, so they know what they may want to get involved with," Murray said.


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