As part of a Master of Indigenous Studies from the University of Otago, Trade Aid staff member, Michelia Ward, conducted research throughout 2011 and 2012 on whether fair trade is able to contribute to the aspirations of indigenous producers. The research focused on fair trade as practiced by Trade Aid, New Zealand and one of its Peruvian partners, MINKA.
Fair trade is a development mechanism that aims to support food and craft producers around the world to improve their lives through trade. Many indigenous communities are producers of craft or food products such as woven textiles and coffee, and have engaged in fair trade relationships selling mainly to Western consumers.
Fair trade organisations have universal principles that provide guarantees to consumers about working conditions, fair payment and trading relations with producer groups. This research project focuses on whether a universal framework designed to bring development to disadvantaged and marginalized producers can work for unique indigenous cultures across multiple continents.
This research focuses on Trade Aid in New Zealand and their partnership with a Peruvian fair trade organisation, MINKA, who works with Quechua producers in the Andes. Indigenous theorists place large value on local epistemes (knowledge systems) and local solutions to local problems. Is fair trade one of these local solutions, or just another solution imposed from the outside upon indigenous producers?