It is all too easy to think that we cannot make a difference through our individual actions. A lack of vision or a lack of motivation to achieve a particular change reinforces 'it is not worth bothering'. My favourite example to counter this view is the Fairtrade movement which proves we can tackle injustice and reduce exploitation by expressing our choices. And it is pretty easy to buy Fairtrade bananas!
In 1994, the movement in the UK had modest beginnings with one chocolate, one coffee and one tea on shop shelves. Over a period of 20 years, Fairtrade grew to 450 companies licensed to trade 4,500 Fairtrade products in the UK, ranging from traditional commodities such as coffee and tea, to cotton, raisins, spices, cut flowers, cakes and gold jewellery. Awareness of the FAIRTRADE Mark rose from 25% in 2003 to 78% in 2013 through the active grassroots social movement in the Fairtrade communities of over 560 Fairtrade Towns, 1050 Fairtrade schools, 170 universities and colleges and 7,000 Faith groups. A few local examples include: Broadstone Methodist Church, Poole Town and support from our schools. Most importantly, over 600 producer groups from 60 different countries are benefitting from supplying the UK with Fairtrade produce.
Farmers in developing countries sweat, toil and slog to provide food for our tables and tea and coffee for our mugs, yet they often don't make enough money to feed their own families. Fairtrade works to benefit small-scale farmers and workers, who are amongst the most marginalised groups globally, through trade rather than aid to enable them to maintain their livelihoods and reach their potential. However hard they work to provide the things we depend on, millions of farmers in developing countries aren’t paid what they deserve.
The Fairtrade Mark means that the Fairtrade ingredients in the product have been produced by small-scale farmer organisations or plantations that meet Fairtrade social, economic and environmental standards. The standards include protection of workers’ rights and the environment, payment of the Fairtrade Minimum Price and a Fairtrade Premium to invest in business or community projects.
Over and above the Fairtrade price, the Fairtrade Premium is an additional sum of money which goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers to use – as they see fit – to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions. Producers determine what is most important to them; whether this is education or healthcare for their children, improving their business or building vital infrastructure such as roads and bridges for their community.
As individuals we can choose to pay a little more for particular products and as we do that in larger and larger numbers we make a difference. Unfortunately, there has been a slowing down in the sales of Fairtrade products as 'we' have felt less able to pay the higher prices - large numbers of consumers are sourcing cheaper food including switching supermarkets in response to the current economic situation.
We can help keep the momentum of the Fairtrade Movement by supporting Fairtrade Fortnight. The theme for 2017 is 'put Fairtrade in your break and take exploitation out.' Within Broadstone's many community groups we can organise and support events to help shoppers make choices that change the lives of farmers and workers. By coming together we can change the way people think about trade and the products on sale in our shops and help to break the cycle of poverty and injustice. Why not hold a Fairtrade Break during Fairtrade Fortnight? Many ideas and resources are available on the Fairtrade Foundation website at www.fairtrade.org.uk
An amazing movement has been created which can be celebrated and sustained. Personally, I am going to make sure that I include Fairtrade products in my Christmas shopping using the Traidcraft catalogue and popping along to Fair Ground, Wimborne's Fairtrade Shop in the Cornmarket!
Fairtrade Fortnight: 27 February - 12 March 2017
‘Break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed’ Isaiah 58:6 (The Message).