Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fair trade primer, appropriately, good coffee table book

  • Print

Fair Trade

A Human Journey

By Eric St-Pierre

Les Editions de l'Homme, 240 pages, $50

CANADIAN photojournalist Eric St-Pierre has created a coffee table book that is at once a work of art, a fair trade primer and a call to action for North American consumers.

Specializing in the subject of fair trade since 1996, St-Pierre presents us with 350 lively images of grassroots producers and Third World commodities intermingled with descriptive text, facts and figures. These provide a convincing argument that we in the North have power to help realize aspirations for social justice in the southern part of the globe.

Based on a definition by four of its major organizations, fair trade is a partnership with trading conditions that secure the rights of marginalized producers and workers, involving dialogue, transparency and respect, and seeking greater equity in international trade.

St-Pierre's style encourages readers to view Third World "others" as us, by leading us to identify firstly with their products and, secondly, with the dignity of their work, successes and aspirations.

Each chapter draws us into a historical, almost mystical perspective of an imported commodity used in daily living by North American consumers. These range from the handicrafts which gave birth to fair trade, to nine foodstuffs including coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, rice, bananas, quinoa, wine and guarana, as well as flowers, cotton and shea.

The reader's attention then is redirected quickly to the production setting. Vividly and almost intimately, photos and written text introduce us to specific individuals.

Through the first 13 chapters, we become acquainted with myriad peasant farmers, artisans and workers, and how they are trying to live with dignity and provide promising futures for their children.

In two places within this human interest section of each chapter are full-sized reference pages with more information on the commodity itself.

Interesting facts emerge about some commodities. Coffee is an item of commodities market speculation, for example, and often is deemed to be the second largest raw material in the world, after petroleum.

South American quinoa, rich in complete protein and the food most resembling mother's milk, once provided food security for the Incan empire.

St-Pierre mostly succeeds in building awareness of the fair trade movement, in stirring conscience and in deepening respect for the struggles of marginalized people against adversity. However, while providing the material for learning about the concepts, principles and mechanics of fair trade, he makes readers work hard to pull these together. That is, the book seems laid out primarily as an artistic potpourri.

Therefore, simply working through it sequentially from front to back for an overview of fair trade's operating principles and functional underpinnings can be challenging. Readers thus are advised to begin St-Pierre's book by familiarizing themselves well with his intent and organization, outlined clearly in the introduction.

At the heart of fair trade, of course, are the democratic organizations of small producers, who are at the heart of St-Pierre's book, as well.

Readers will enjoy it as an intriguing coffee table adventure as well as a resource for consumers committed to its cause.

Pat Allen is a semi-retired health promotion and community nutrition consultant and writer living in southeastern rural Manitoba.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 12, 2011 J7

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Jets players discuss outcome of Game 3 and hopes for Game 4

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Standup- Morning Fog. Horse prances in field by McPhillips Road, north of Winnipeg. 060605.
  • A mother goose has chosen a rather busy spot to nest her eggs- in the parking lot of St Vital Centre on a boulevard. Countless cars buzz by and people have begun to bring it food.-Goose Challenge Day 06 - May 08, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google