Community Activist: Bay Area Fair Trade Coalition

Pub date April 25, 2006

If you happen to be at one of Noe Valley’s many cafés on Saturday, April 29, you may encounter a motley, overcaffeinated crew talking about consciousness in a cup. Don’t fret: It’s no evangelical coffee cult; these people simply want you to know that what you buy can have a profound effect on the lives of people around the world.

That’s why the Bay Area Fair Trade Coalition is going around San Francisco, neighborhood by neighborhood, planting seeds of economic and social justice.

As volunteer coalition member Kelley Buhles claims, "We want to make San Francisco the US’s first fair trade town, where Fair Trade Certified products are much more than just a niche."

The BAFTC, a newly formed group of nonprofits, activists, businesses, and consumers, endeavors to make this a reality by organizing café crawls during which volunteers migrate from café to café, spreading the fair trade gospel to café owners and managers.

During the crawls, members of the coalition explain how free markets do a great job of producing a mass of working people, and that capitalism’s ever accelerating race to drive down prices on basic commodities leaves farmers in the global south without the capital to afford such necessities as clean running water and access to health care and education.

Fair trade groups seek to ameliorate those problems by setting a floor price — the lowest price at which an importer can buy a product — on goods from farming collectives, which allows them to remain independent from multinational agribusinesses.

Though it is working with the city on legislation, at this point the BAFTC’s main objective is to educate and create demand. It has teamed up with Alter Eco, a company that sells only Fair Trade Certified products, to promote fair trade in the city at a bazaar to be held Saturday, May 13, World Fair Trade Day. There will be farmers from producer countries explaining how fair trade benefits their communities and free Fair Trade Certified products for the tasting. (Nick Rahaim)

World Fair Trade Day bazaar

May 13, 8 a.m.–2 p.m.

Justin Herman Plaza

Market at Embarcadero, SF