Background: Earlier this year, Stephen Kelly, a Boston College law student contacted me to discuss a mutual interest: helping small entrepreneurs in developing countries throughout Latin America. My background is in Fair Trade and microfinance. Before law school Stephen volunteered with As Green As It Gets (AGAIG), a non-profit organization operating from San Miguel Escobar, Guatemala that focuses on “direct trade.”
What is Direct Trade? In short, it is a term used by an increasing number of organizations that disagree with some of the practices of some (not all) Fair Trade organizations. The objective of direct trade is to get as many of the proceeds of a sale directly to the producer instead of to intermediaries, which is also a goal of Fair Trade. Folks in direct trade are concerned about insufficient Fair Trade premiums for coffee farmers, marginal differences in prices comparing Fair Trade-certified coffee to conventional coffee, and the fact that Fair Trade certification creates a new class of intermediary. Moreover, Fair Trade certification is expensive for small producers. For one organization’s perspectives on direct trade, see http://www.ethicalcoffee.net/direct.html.
Perspectives on As Green as it Gets: I will share more about AGAIG and direct trade on this blog and in my public presentations soon. In the end, whether it is direct trade, Fair Trade, microfinance, or some other tool to promote sustainability, the success of a program depends on the transparency and honesty of good people working to help small entrepreneurs develop and run their own businesses independently and sustainably. I am enthusiastic about direct trade as it is practiced by As Green as it Gets. For more information about AGAIG, see http://www.asgreenasitgets.org/.
Photo: (Left to Right) Miguel Gonzalez, Stephen Kelly, and Freddy Gonzalez on a visit to Freddy's and Miguel’s coffee cuadros (parcels of land).
Copyright© 2012 by Paulette L. Stenzel for text and photo.