Community gets serious about fair trade

Locals work to make Chico a Fair Trade Town

WELL CONNECTED<br>Cecilia Richardson, owner of African Connection, sells a large variety of fair-trade art and handcrafts at her shop in downtown Chico’s Garden Walk.

Cecilia Richardson, owner of African Connection, sells a large variety of fair-trade art and handcrafts at her shop in downtown Chico’s Garden Walk.

Photo By Ryan Laine

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“We are so blessed, here in the United States. Other people in the world, they struggle for one meal a day.”

Cecilia Richardson knows the effects of fair trade. As owner of African Connection in the downtown Chico Garden Walk Mall, Richardson carries a variety of handcrafts that connect two different worlds and two economic extremes.

“Growing up in Ghana, you see the need of people trying to make a living—a very basic living,” she said.

Richardson works through a nonprofit organization to connect the purchasing power of her customers with the lives of artisans and communities of West Africa. This practice ensures a fixed price will be offered for suppliers’ goods, and that a percentage of her sales will return to their communities.

The concept of fair trade is nebulous to some, but a small group of community organizers and the Chico Peace & Justice Center have been working to change that.

On Saturday (Feb. 14) at 11 a.m., outside of City Hall, Mayor Ann Schwab will help inaugurate Chico as a “Fair Trade Town” with a ribbon cutting. To make this declaration, a local committee has been formed to maintain a common set of goals between the 450 participating towns and cities.

Fair Trade Towns is a national campaign organized by a coalition of fair-trade advocates and grassroots groups to support and grow the movement. The aim is to inspire local consumers to align their dollars with their values, and to encourage more businesses to feature fair-trade goods.

The Chico Fair Trade Town Coalition now meets regularly to increase awareness in the community by ensuring fair-trade products are served in City Council meetings, at local schools, churches and medical centers.

Local businesses are encouraged to join the coalition by offering two different products, signing a pledge to action and displaying the Fair Trade logo.

Exotic goods like coffee, tea and cocoa make up the lion’s share of local fair-trade goods, but the Chico coalition also encourages buying local products and supports sustainable models of production at all levels.

“Fair trade does help,” said Richardson, who has had her local shop for about 15 years. “I have seen street vendors getting help to become college students. If we can use things here that help others, why not help?”