World Fair Trade Day

Friday, 7th May 2010 by

Tomorrow is World Fair Trade Day, an annual global event held by by producers, retailers and supporters of this alternative trading system.1 To celebrate, we're taking a tour of the Fair Trade Google Earth layer. Full instructions on how to explore the layer are available at the Transfair site.

Fair traders have established a number of organisations, notably the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO), and national licensing bodies such as the Fairtrade Foundation in the UK, and Transfair in the USA and Canada. Transfair's Google Earth layer has made it easy to locate fair trade suppliers.2

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Above we see icons for a pair of cocoa growing cooperatives - CONACADO in the Dominican Republic and Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana. The members of the latter are (partly) direct owners of Divine Chocolate produced in the UK.3

Craft producers are not currently certified by Transfair, but many commodities are. In India (and several other countries) we can see the icons for rice - the Federation of Small Farmers - and tea - the most excellent Makaibari Tea Estate in Darjeeling, where we do get a good look at the tea terraces.

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There are a large number of coffee producers, such as this cluster in Peru, where we can also see the icon for fruit growers.

Fair Trade

The WFTO sets global standards for the operation of fair trade businesses, including fair pay, protection of the environment, gender equity and more.

The national licensing bodies certify that goods have been produced within minimum fair trade standards. They also encourage communities to promote fair trade by becoming fair trade towns, villages or cities - meaning that a certain number of qualifying businesses include some fair trade products in their offerings.

The first such community to achieve this goal was Garstang in England, which proudly shows this on the road signs at the entrance to the town.


The majority of fair trade producers in developing countries work in distributed groups, and generally at small farms or workshops, meaning they are hidden in areas where the satellite imagery is very low resolution. However, I have been able to track down one location in Bangladesh - the workshop of Biborton Handmade Paper, in the village of Agailjhara.


Biborton - part of the Prokritee agency - is a group of approximately 70 women working to create paper, which they then transform into greeting cards, gift bags and more. At the right time of day the grassy central courtyard would be a colourful field of paper drying in the sun.

The building at the top of the image is their office and workshop where final products are assembled. The building on the left is where fibres are processed into paper. They also have a number of metal-sided kilns that allow paper to be dried and production to continue even during the monsoon season.

Visit the World Fair Trade Day website to find events in your area.

  1. Full disclosure: the author of this post operates a pair of fair trade retail stores in Ottawa, Canada. ↩︎

  2. Note that while these are suppliers identified by Transfair USA, the majority of them would sell to fair trade retailers around the world. ↩︎

  3. Note that in most cases the icons represent head office locations, or general ideas of where groups are based, rather than specific production facilities. ↩︎