Fair trade, which seeks to support small producers and local communities especially in developing countries, is become more and more popular around the world. It also is an approach to product sales which is closely tied to the idea of ecotourism and has the support of the ecotourist sector and of ecotourists themselves. The idea of fair trade is based on several premises: fair price for product, fair product, fair work conditions, direct sales (minimizing intermediaries between the producer and the end-buyer), support for the local economy and methods of production that are environmentally friendly.

text ©Dominika Zaręba

The best known product sold in line with fair trade rules is coffee. An excellent example of a country benefiting from fair trade is Guatemala, where coffee, tourism and handicrafts are the main source of income for the local indigenous community.

Guatemala is ranked as the world’s 6th largest producer of coffee, with almost 3.5% of all coffee coming from this small Central American country which is only slightly larger than Iceland. Volcanic soil, tropical forests, humidity, relative elevation and temperature vary considerably across the country, with the result that Guatemala is able to produce 7 different types of coffee beans from the Coffea arabica species. One of the most important coffee-producing regions is the area of Lake Atitlán, the magical lake of the Mayas. Here, 95% of the coffee produced (mainly the Bourbon variety) is grown by small, local producers whose plots are on average 12 hectares. The indigenous peoples cultivate this crop with traditional, environmentally friendly methods, without using artificial fertilizer and with the beans being left out in the sun to dry. The small producers have joined forces to set up cooperatives which help promote and sell fair trade coffee products in Guatemala and internationally. Another means of supporting the local economy are ecotourism business initiatives which are developing in the Lake Atitlán region, including the more & more popular Spanish language immersion programs taking place in local schools. Several hour-long lessons take place out in the open, surrounded by tropical nature, with each student being assigned their own teacher. In local cafes, visitors and residents alike can savor the delicate taste of beans from plantations covering nearby volcano hillsides. After 1 week of intensive language courses combined with living with local families, the results speak for themselves. A special place that I would recommend to all those travelling to this corner of Guatemala is the San Pedro Spanish School, which is located in the village of San Pedro, on the shores of Lake Atitlán. 

On the global scale, several organisations are involved in promoting environmentally friendly products, including the Rainforest Alliance, which manages the more and more recognizable Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal, which features a green frog.