Today is World Water Day and the UN has declared 2013 to be the International Year of Water Cooperation. Unlike its appearance, clean water is not a simple, transparent problem; rather, it seeps into other areas of global development including women’s rights, sanitation, disease, education, hunger and sustainability. There are some unpleasant water statistics: a child dies every 20 seconds due to lack of clean water, 2 million tons of human waste are disposed of into our water sources every day, and most relevant to fair trade, collectively women spend 200 million hours a day gathering water, when ideally they could spend that time and effort on going to school, learning or marketing a trade, and spending time with their families.
In 2013, water stands as a symbol, fluidly taking on the shape of the many global development “containers” we put it in. Interestingly, many of the problems listed above are addressed, on a smaller, but more intimate, way by the fair trade system. Fair Trade is much more than a fair price for the farmers or artisans – it means equal rights for women, access to education for children and training for adults, financial stability and environmental stewardship.
2013 may be the International Year of Water Cooperation, but Fair Trade has relied upon and uplifted the benefits of cooperation since its inception.
For a look at how Fair Trade cooperation can create real improvements in the livelihoods of the artisans, watch this video about the Million Liter Water Conservation Project created by one of our suppliers, Handmade Expressions. It is a noble project with remarkable results that show the holistic benefits of the cooperative fair trade system.