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Two students to attend fair trade conference

Two members of the on-campus fair trade awareness group will lead workshops at a national fair trade conference this weekend in Boston. At the conference, students, fair trade producers, companies and related organizations will come together to network and learn from each other, Frogs for Fair Trade members said.

Rory Phillips, who launched Frogs for Fair Trade two years ago, and Kate Lewis are both national leaders of United Students for Fair Trade, the national organization that is hosting the conference, called Convergence.

Phillips, a senior religion major, defined fair trade as “a market system created to give producers an opportunity to improve their socioeconomic status and environmental surroundings by selling their goods at just prices.”

Phillips spearheaded and coordinates the banana campaign for USFT and will lead a workshop about the banana industry aspect of fair trade at Convergence for the second time this year.

Fair trade bananas protect the baseline producers from decreasing market prices. By selling bananas at a fair price, producers receive appropriate wages needed to afford the basic necessities in life.

Phillips said he started the campaign because fair trade bananas are not usually available to colleges.

Phillips said the banana trade is important because it is a widespread commodity. He also said bananas require a lot of chemicals, some of which are illegal in the United States, to grow into clean-looking products because bananas are particularly susceptible to pests and fungus.

These chemicals, mostly used in Latin American countries, Phillips said, harm the producers’ health and environment. Phillips said his is the only fair trade bananas movement in the country.

He said he works as a networking point for students interested in fair trade bananas, as well as working with Oke USA, a fair trade organic banana company. Oke USA has opened pathways to distribute its bananas to about 20 schools in the country.

Lewis, a sophomore anthropology major and movement liaison for USFT, works as the point of contact between all national and campus social justice movement organizations, Phillips said.

She will lead a workshop at the conference called “Interfaith Fair Trade,” which will discuss the varying faith backgrounds of fair trade activists and the differing goals and approaches toward the movement that come from the different backgrounds. The workshop will examine how the activists can work together and learn from each other in the midst of the diversity in faith, according to the Convergence program.

Three other members of Frogs for Fair Trade are attending the conference for the first time.

Raef Payne, a sophomore graphic design major, said that although he can learn more about fair trade by reading articles, he thinks personally interacting with people who care about fair trade and learning from them will be empowering.

Payne said learning more about fair trade will allow them to lead the fair trade movement more effectively.

“We need to be able to lead it because we’re the ones that know and care about it,” Payne said.

Payne said fair trade is “a way of injecting the market with human values.”

Although the Convergence is mainly a national event, participants are also coming from China, Hong Kong, Nicaragua, Mexico, Pakistan and Canada, Phillips said.

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