THE Fair Trade Caravan led by the Advocate of Philippine Fair Trade Incorporated (APFTI) will make its fourth stop in Cagayan de Oro starting Wednesday until February 16 at Limketkai Mall, offering customers the chance to purchase Valentine’s gifts that are environmentally-friendly and socially-sound.

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The caravan is a mini-version of the Fair Trade Shop, which recently opened in Cagayan de Oro and Cebu. It aims to bring fair trade products to mainstream areas to raise awareness on responsible business and conscious consumerism.

In Cagayan de Oro, the Fair Trade Shop is owned and operated by local fair trade organization Salay Handmade Papers Industries Inc. (SHPII), a family-owned business but with employees who share pro-fits and other benefits follo-wing fair trade principles.

During this time when valentine’s Day has become overly commercialized, the caravan allows consumers to purchase gift items that give back to communities and help uplift lives, promoting the true Valentine’s spirit of caring and love for others.

Fair trade is grounded on socially and environmentally responsible principles, including fair pay, gender equity, no child labor, environmental sustainability and fair working conditions.

Among the Valentine’s Day gift products available at the Fair Trade Caravan include hand-made cards from SHPII, chocolates in heart-shaped packaging, hand-made paper and stationery, fashion accessories, wellness products, home decor, bakery items, roasted mountain coffee, jams and tablea.

Also participating in the caravan are craft products from two members of Rizal Exporters Manufacturers Association Incorporated (Remai) who were hardly-hit by typhoon Ondoy last year.

“This valentine’s period, we hope the fair Trade Caravan in Cagayan de oro reaches a new set of consumers who are willing to make their peso work for the development of the Philippines,” said Vicente Roaring, APFTI executive director.

The APFTI envisions an empowered community of entrepreneurs fighting poverty and contributing to sustainable development through fair trade. It provides business and product development services, advocacy and market access assistance to small and medium community enterprises. The caravan is part of APFTI’s three-year project that is jointly supported by Dutch funders ICCO and Cordaid.

Roaring added that the caravan hopes to reach out to the market to embrace conscious consumerism, which will pave the way for an enlightened community of small yet responsible enterprises.

The Fair Trade Caravan is traveling across the country to raise awareness on fair trade, which is an alternative trading structure that provides opportunities to disadvantaged Philippine producers, providing fair and equitable working conditions and helps address climate change.

Fair Trade is well-known internationally, with estimated sales of approximately US$5 billion in 2008, averaging growth of 42 percent in the last two years.

This is the fourth stop of the caravan, having stopped in Manila twice and had helped rehabilitate the lives and businesses of 22 Ondoy-surviving businesses belonging to Remai. The other stop was in Cebu City.