Fair trade conference brings industry leaders to Winnipeg

Industry leaders in Canada's fair trade movement gathered in Winnipeg for the fourth National Fair Trade Conference this weekend.

4th annual National Fair Trade Conference wraps up on Saturday

Fair trade flowers were among the various products on display at the fourth National Fair Trade Conference in Winnipeg on Saturday. (CBC)

Industry leaders in Canada's fair trade movement gathered in Winnipeg for the fourth National Fair Trade Conference this weekend.

The conference, which began Thursday and is wrapping up on Saturday, aims to create new partnerships and help the fair trade industry grow.

Among the dozens of speakers who shared their expertise was María Pacheco, president and founder of Wakami, a brand of bracelets and other handmade accessories that are crafted by women in rural Guatemalan villages.

"We see the bracelets as a symbol of many dreams happening, of lives changing there, and also as an invitation for people of the world to go back to Guatemala and meet these communities," she said.

"What we love is really seeing how when a woman has a source of income, everything changes. The first thing she will do is invest in the education and nutrition of her children, and those are big challenges right now for Guatemala."

Another speaker at the conference was Tukwini Mandela, granddaughter of Nelson Mandela, who talked about her experience running the House of Mandela winery.

The family winery sells wines that are made from grapes grown in South African vineyards. A premium is included in the price of each bottle of House of Mandela wine, and it goes directly back to labourers, she said.

Mandela said the country has a dark past when it comes to making wine.

"Farm workers were not always treated with the dignity and respect that they deserved and they were not adequately compensated for the work that they did," she said.

"They were essentially paid in cheap wine, which just created a cycle of alcoholism which continues to plague wine communities in South Africa."

This year's conference was presented by the Canadian Fair Trade Network and the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation. Previous conferences were held in Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

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