Saturday, 23 February 2013

Go Further for Fairtrade - 25th February - 10 March

Fairtrade Fortnight starts on Monday – 25th February.

Go Further for Fairtrade

Following on the from the ‘Take a Step’ campaign last year, this year, the Fairtrade Foundation is calling on us to Go Further for Fairtrade in 2013: to look after the food we love and the people who grow it. Without our support now, farmers in developing countries face a difficult and uncertain future. Crucially, the interactive petition that will call on the Government to take action before the 2013 G8 Summit will signal the start of a three-year long campaign by Fairtrade Foundation – ‘Make Food Fair’.

I can barely move in the morning until I’ve had a cup of tea, rendering it, in my privileged life, an essential – the Husband certainly thinks so. And yet while we in the First World sit in our comfortable homes in relative security, there are thousands, if not millions of farmers in the Third World working hard to produce many of what we might consider to be our daily essentials –– and yet they are still not getting paid fairly for their produce and still cannot make a living from their labour. Aid is all very well, but to quote Mike Gidney the Fairtrade Foundation CEO “Trade - if it’s done fairly - enables people to take control of their own lives and build a more secure future.  It’s a very clear proposition and the results can be transformational.

But what about ‘local’?

As you know if you read my blog regularly, I’m a lot about local – but the tea leaves that make my essential morning cuppa don’t grow in rural Hampshire at the moment, so I choose Fairtrade bags. The same goes for the chocolate and sugar I bake with:

and the coffee the Husband loves. Small holder tea growers, for example, often receive less than 3% of the value of the tea they grow – sometimes it’s as little as 1%. Maybe I’m naïve but I find this shocking.

I am aware that sharp practice is applied to farmers in this country too – big business often making them sell their meat, milk or veg for pitiful amounts of money. This should be addressed too – I’m not saying it shouldn’t – but I believe that we should also look beyond our national boundaries and think about where all our food is coming from and the conditions in which it has been produced. If you are going to buy a product from overseas, why not make sure that it has been ethically sourced?

‘Fairtrade’ requires companies to pay prices (which must never be lower than the market price) that cover the costs of production, when buying from Fairtrade certified farmers. This amount must never fall below the Fairtrade minimum price which is decided by Fairtrade producers and traders. This acts as a guarantee that producers receive a price which covers the cost of producing their goods in a sustainable way. And in addition, money paid on top of the Fairtrade minimum price is known as the Fairtrade premium. This is invested in social, environmental and economic development projects, decided upon democratically by a committee of producers or workers. Marvellous.

So what’s going on?

Well, as I mentioned, there’s an interactive petition you can join for starters – and let me tell you it’s really fun: you get to create your own little marcher online – do it with the kids, they’ll love it. Here’s my Recipe Junkie marcher – and no, I don’t look half as glamorous as that in real life but they didn’t have wonky specs, and bags to go under the eyes for the avatar… 

The petition will be presented to David Cameron in the advance of the G8 summit in May, when hopefully, he will champion the cause of small holder farmers who need the support of governments to enable them to create viable businesses and feed their families, becoming self supporting.

There are many other events organised across the country encouraging people to get involved and this year to get creative, building sculptures out of fairtrade packaging which will form part of the petition. Pink is already obsessively collecting the Fairtrade logos from the food packaging in our house to stick on her class ‘fairtrade banana’. There will also be visits from fairtrade farmers themselves talking about the difference fairtrade has made to their lives.

Of course, it's not just about a fortnight - it's about the choices we make every day when we shop for our food - whether we can take a step to think beyond the act of putting a packet into our trolley or clicking on a radio button to 'Add to trolley'. Taking time is hard for all of us in our busy lives, but it seems to me that times are a changing and, more of us are taking that step to think a little more about where our food has come from, and what has gone into it - not just in terms of the product itself (I'm hoping there won't be horsemeat in my fairtrade chocolate bar), but the toil that went into to making sure I get my morning cuppa.

You can find out more about the Fairtrade Foundation and the Fairtrade Fortnight actvities on their website.

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