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Martin Van Den Borre

Fair Trade and Survival: The Cooperative Revolution

Date Recorded: Apr 7th, 2008
Recorded At: Nelson, BC
Recorded By: Zoe Creighton
Duration: 59:30

Topic Background
La Siembra Worker Co-op in Ottawa, of which Mr. Van den Borre is Co-Director, produces the award winning Cocoa Camino line of organic fair trade cocoa , chocolate, and sugar products, and has been a pioneer in North American Fair Trade Certification. The Co-op’s mission is to offer goods that improve the livelihoods of family farmers and the well-being of communities at home and abroad. Founded in 1999, La Siembra has chosen to identify with its producer partners by adopting the same democratic, participatory and transparent model that they follow in their own co-operatives in the South.

Fair trade is a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Its purpose is to create opportunities for, and secure the rights of, producers in the South who have been economically disadvantaged or marginalized by the conventional trading system. This is accomplished by building trading partnerships based on dialogue, transparency and respect.

The conventional free trade system is characterized by poor working conditions including low pay, overwork, pesticide exposure, and child labour; by trade regulations that are biased against small southern farmers; and by producers who have little bargaining power and receive limited returns because of powerful intermediaries who control the supply chain and reap the benefits.

Fair Trade overcomes these challenges and brings greater benefit to marginalized farmers by adhering to principles which include direct trade relationships; fair pricing; gender equity; protection of the environment, and local community development.

Mr. Van den Borre discusses how cooperatives in both the North and the South are supporting this shift in trade practices.

Speaker Biography
Martin Van Den Borre is Co-Director of Ottawa’s la Siembra Worker Co-op, best known as the producer of cocoa camino organic fair trade products, and as as one of North America’s leading fair trade organizations.

Martin has been a long-time activist in the co-op movement in Quebec, and a leader in the development of co-ops for the delivery of community health care. He has recently become an international figure in the advancement of Fair Trade practices in Canada and abroad.

He lives in Gatineau, Quebec.

For more information about Martin Van Den Borre visit

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