‘ Shop for Change ‘ brings hope to farmers

New Delhi, April 11 (Inditop.com) Despite government initiatives like debt waiver and higher minimum support prices for their produce, farmers in India struggle to earn a decent living. They do not get a fair deal because of uncertain markets, poor productivity and inability to add crop value. Now an international NGO is trying to improve the livelihood of farmers with training and certification of their produce.

Shop for Change, set up by the International Resources for Fairer Trade (India) and Tradecraft (UK), is helping farmers in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa develop their communities with enhanced knowledge and better market prospects.

“We provide training to the farmers to improve productivity and quality of the produce. We provide certification for these commodities produced under specified standards,” Petchers told IANS. “We help farmers get a better deal by certifying their produce,” said Seth Petchers, CEO, Shop for Change.

The Shop for Change certification assures that from the farmers to the retail store there is fair trade for all concerned. The organisation has developed a set of standards for producers and companies which require adherence to its strict social, economic, and environmental principles.

For farmers, this not only means more direct access to markets and long-term relationships with buyers but also healthy and safe work environment.

And companies get product differentiation, enhanced brand image, customer loyalty and assurance.

“Such standards for farmers and companies provide consumers with a guarantee that products meet social and environmental criteria,” said Petchers.

The not-for-profit organisation, which is working with cotton growers, recently launched its certified t-shirts at Future Group affiliated Mother Earth retail store.

“We are also in talks with big departmental stores, fashion designers and retail companies to sell these certified products and get a fair deal for farmers,” he said.

Fashion designer Rina Dhaka has partnered with the organisation and introduced a designer wear made from Shop for Change certified cotton at the Wills Lifestyle Fashion Week last year.

Film actor Gul Panag is the brand ambassador to raise consumer awareness about its certified products.

The NGO is also working with colleges and universities to propagate the idea of fair trade. The organisation is providing certification for cotton, but will soon expand to other commodities and handicrafts.

“Right now, it is only cotton, but we’ll soon expand to other range of commodities and handicrafts to help other farmers and artisans,” he said.

Asked whether the NGO is also focussed on increasing the export base for the farmers, Petchers said: “We are just focussing on getting a better deal for them in domestic (Indian ) market”.

The NGO, which receives financial support from the European Union, is not seeking any help from the Indian government.

“We are working for the benefit of farmers. We want to provide equal opportunity to all, particularly the most disadvantaged,” said Petchers.