In honor of World Fair Trade day, Ambassador David Hale participated in the Fair Trade Lebanon event at the Dbayeh Marina. Through a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of State Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), Fair Trade Lebanon, in cooperation with Rural Delights (Atayeb Al Rif) supports a network of rural women’s cooperatives throughout Lebanon. This project promotes Fair Trade certified products in Lebanon for domestic and export markets. To date, cooperatives in association with Fair Trade Lebanon and Rural Delights have exported products to the Gulf, Europe, and North America.
Below are Ambassador Hale’s remarks from the event.
Entrepreneurship is a value Americans and Lebanese share. America is proud of its partnership with Lebanese entrepreneurs. The work of the Middle East Partnership Initiative with Fair Trade Lebanon and Rural Delights is a testament to the success of that partnership. Lebanon’s mastery of entrepreneurship dates back to the Phoenicians, who explored far beyond the Mediterranean in search of business opportunities. Today, through the $2 million “So Fair” project, Lebanese from rural areas are continuing this long tradition by exporting their Fair Trade certified products far beyond Lebanon’s borders. In fact, the So Fair project is helping Lebanese-owned and led small companies export more than fifty products to ten counties in the Gulf, Europe, and North America.
The union between Atayef Al Rif and Fair Trade Lebanon gives partner companies access to “Fair Trade” certification. Buyers are thus assured that they are getting ethically produced items that meet strict environmental, labor, and development standards and that the Lebanese producers are benefitting from the sale, wherever it may be. These rigorous standards also protect Lebanon’s agricultural and natural resources by encouraging their preservation, so these can be steady, long-term income from their use. Over 4,200 Lebanese, including 850 women and their families, directly benefit from the So Fair project. They enjoy higher incomes earned with their own hands, working on their own land.
Success stories like these demonstrate what can be achieved when Lebanese civil society joins with local communities to achieve economic prosperity. America is proud to support projects that link Lebanese producers to global markets, and that raise the incomes of Lebanese families engaged in traditional rural livelihoods. Thanks to the efforts of everyone here today, we are helping you ensure that Lebanese in rural areas will have the opportunity to work on and prosper from the land they have, and will call home for generations.