Fair trade aims for justice

The Peace and Justice Center held a fair trade festival at Burlington City Hall on Sept. 29 to educate the community about the importance of supporting fair trade.

Fair trade is an alternative way of trading based on the principles of economic and social justice.

The event was lined with tables serving various fair trade goods such as hand-knitted scarves, organic chocolate and coffee, handcrafted beverages and Ben and Jerrys ice cream.

Gaby Ochoa Brenneman, the program director of the Peace and Justice Center, has been involved with fair trade for the last 10 years. She organizes events and said she is passionate about the issue of fair trade.

The center is important to me especially for the impact that it has in our community, Brenneman said. We are an organization that focuses on education, and to me it is only by creating learning opportunities on issues like social, racial and economic justice that we can make the changes that are needed in our society.

The Peace and Justice Center focuses their work on opening peoples eyes to issues involving many areas of food production. Highlighted at the event was the production of cocoa around the world.

According to information at the fair, 70 percent of the worlds cocoa comes from the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Forty percent of the worlds cocoa and 50 percent of cocoa consumed by the U.S. comes from the Ivory Coast alone.

As of 2009, more than 1.8 million children worked in the cocoa sectors of both countries. The event stressed that child labor and human trafficking have become a huge problem in this part of the world.

All of the worlds major cocoa companies, including Hersheys, Mars, Nestles and Cadbury, employ the work of these children in their cocoa production. The center stresses that everyone can make changes in their life to address this issue, such as purchasing chocolate from fair trade brands like Equal Exchange, who were represented at the event.

Students went to the event for a variety of reasons. First-year Lauren Jacques was curious about what the event would entail.

I dont know anything about fair trade, but I hope Ill be more informed about it, Jacques said. I also want to learn about what Burlington is doing to raise awareness about fair trade.

Junior Julia Sheed, intern with the Peace and Justice Center, was pleased with the way the event turned out.

The event this Saturday was a great way for us to showcase what is being done by real companies to make an impact on the fair trade movement, Sheed said.