5 February, 2018

Changing trade starts with sustainable cities and communities

by Ian Brown, Fairtrade Canada

The focus of Sustainable Development Goal number 11 is sustainable cities and communities. Increased urbanization as a result of migration from rural areas to cities sees increasing pressure on housing, energy and other resources. More than half the world’s population live in cities today, with over 800 million people living in slums. 

Target 11.A of this Goal is:

Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning

While the majority of Fairtrade farmers don’t live in cities, if they can’t make a sustainable income from their production, they may be forced to leave their land and move to a city in search of other work. Fairtrade supports the ongoing viability of agricultural communities through the Fairtrade Premium which can be used both to improve the productivity of farming land, and to improve communal resources such as schools, clinics and drinking water.

As cities expand to accommodate increasing populations it often means they encroach on arable land used for the production of crops for local and export markets, meaning more pressure on farmers and workers.

If there is a lack of suitable housing in rural areas, agricultural workers may be forced to live in cities and travel long distances to their workplaces. Given the low wages they are typically paid, their access to good housing can be limited, forcing them to live in precarious situations.

On a recent visit to Ecuador, three Fairtrade Canada staff saw an exceptional example of what can be done to help Fairtrade workers through sustainable communities. The flower company AGROCOEX has supported their workers with the development of a housing project (shown above) using both company and Premium funds. Twenty four houses have recently been built and are about ready for the first workers to move in, with the long term plan to build at least a hundred. The development has a coop store, laundry, nursery and a community centre, making it a desirable place to live.

FAIRTRADE MarkLook for the FAIRTRADE Mark when you shop to support farmers and workers in the communities where they live.

For an introduction to our series of blog posts about Fairtrade and the Sustainable Development Goals, see our post from a few weeks ago