What I Learned From the Mining Community That Produced My Engagement Ring

When people in the global North think about gold, “they think about something beautiful and precious, like your ring,” says Dajhanna Zarate, the daughter of a miner, referring to the gold engagement ring on my left hand. But when people who work at her father’s mine in Peru think about gold, she says, “they think about a metal — about rocks and hard labor.”

The band of my engagement ring, which supports a flower-shaped cluster of small, ethically sourced diamonds, is made of Fairtrade gold from the SOTRAMI mine in Peru where Zarate’s father has worked for 27 years.

“When someone buys Fairtrade gold jewelry, they give something precious to the miners and the community,” Zarate added near the end of our long, crackly conversation over WhatsApp.

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Fair Trade is Dead. Long Live the Farmer Cooperative.

Originally published on 21 Century Nomad on December 18, 2011

Since 1999 Fair Trade USA, formerly TransFair USA, has brought Fair Trade certified coffee to the U.S. market. The organization, which manages the licensing and distribution of products in the U.S., introduced millions of consumers to the principles of Fair Trade. They did so primarily through coffee, which accounts for over seventy percent of the American Fair Trade market. Through product branding and advertising campaigns, even an award-winning documentary film, people in the U.S. have come to associate the Fair Trade label with democratically organized farming cooperatives, a minimum price that on average is higher than the price per pound paid on the open market, and social, economic, and environmental initiatives in producing communities. Well, come January first, you must forget everything you know about Fair Trade. Fair Trade USA (FTUSA) has changed the rules dramatically. While they will continue to market the small-scale farmer and the cooperative as the face of the brand, the base of it will be transnational corporations and large-scale plantations. So much for the little guy.

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