Shea butter, coconut, soya and olive oil make up a growing list of contemporary and unique Fairtrade certified products available on Canadian grocery and health food shelves. You can find them as single ingredient products like coconut milk, or as composite products like cosmetics, granola bars or ice cream.
Coconut products are growing in popularity - from coconut nut shavings and coconut oil to coconut milk and coconut water, Canadians are going nuts for coconuts! Yet despite the growing demand for coconut products, the producers are not benefitting.
Coconut producers are affected by extreme poverty and unfavourable and variable prices. Coconut is mainly farmed as a monoculture which results in low long-term yield and is harmful to the environment.
Coconut farming takes place mainly on small plots of land in the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia where farmers and farm workers receive minimal wages for their coconut harvest.
Until recently, women living in rural areas primarily gathered shea nuts to meet their families' food needs, and to for everyday uses such as lighting oil lamps or making soap. In recent decades, shea butter has experienced unprecedented growth in export markets, yet the farmers do not benefit from its large-scale commercialization.
The Fairtrade difference
When you purchase Fairtrade certified products, farmers receive a Fairtrade Minimum Price which helps enhance their socio-economic standards, as well as a Fairtrade Premium that is invested in developing sustainable farming practices and much-needed community-based projects.
The women of the Akoma Cooperative in Ghana cover their costs of production by receiving the Fairtrade Minimum Price which is three times higher than the conventional price for shea butter; olive producers in Palestine who sell their oil for a fair price send their children to school and live in modest homes; Sri Lankan coconut cooperative members experience the benefits derived through the Fairtrade Premium, such as drinking water projects, and the building of preschools.