Another fantastic Fairtrade Fortnight has come and gone, and what a fortnight it’s been. Despite the challenge of hosting a nationwide campaign during an international lockdown, this year’s agenda has been one of the most packed yet – with a range of virtual events every day, opportunities to meet producers, live cook-a-longs, competitions and more.

You can catch up on the events here. We’ve written about some of our highlights from the week:

Meet the Producers: Palestinian Crafts

We went on a fascinating virtual tour of Hadeel craft workshop for deaf workers in Gaza City, Palestine. The craft workers we met were all trained at the unit and communicated by sign language. They led through carpentry, sewing and embroidery, weaving, painting and ceramics production. We saw how intricate the handcrafting of each product is and the level of skills required, whether it’s the complex design of the embroidered cushions, or the beauty of the paint on the lids of wooden boxes.

You can buy these gorgeous crafts from Hadeel UK.

The effects of climate change on banana farmers

We heard from Marike de Peña, Managing Director of a smallholder banana co-operative called Banelino in the Dominican Republic. Marike explained about the devastating impacts of climate change on smallholder farmers. She told us that climate events are happening more frequently, so many producers have no chance to recover.  The climate crisis also increases cost of production and the risk of disease, which has been exuberated by Covid-19. This means that they can’t guarantee food as they don’t have a stable income.

Marike explained how the Fairtrade Premium provides a safety net, but this is not a long term solution. Producers need to be able to build up savings without having to resort to using their Fairtrade Premium. While Fairtrade is successful, it’s still small, so consumers need to increase awareness of what Fairtrade can do to achieve fairer distribution of value in the supply chain and put an end to price wars.

Ghanaian music evening

We attended a jubilant music evening with Richard Wiafe, who works for the Golden Exotics Fairtrade Fruit Project in Accra, Ghana. His studies in human rights and fair trade are being funded by the Fairtrade premium from his work. Golden Exotics achieved Fairtrade status in 2012. 60% of the company’s exports of bananas to Europe are sold under Fairtrade – but the rest can’t be sold under Fairtrade as there’s not enough demand.

The evening was interspersed with conversations and videos showing the project and how Fairtrade helps the community. Through the Fairtrade Premium, Golden Exotics have established a community canteen; supported their local school with learning materials, subsidised school fees and a well equipped science lab; set up a vocational centre to help students who have been forced to drop out of school early; and arranged a bus to transport workers from their homes to the farm.

The music had a West African flavour and the lyrics were very much motivated by Richard’s passion for his work and all that Fairtrade means to him and his community.

Meet the women who grow your cocoa

The event hosted by Divine Chocolate introduced us to Fairtrade cocoa farmers Agyin and Alice. Agyin and Alice grew up in families belonging to the Kuapa Kokoo Fairtrade Cooperative which was set up in 1993 with support from Divine Chocolate.

Alice has farmed under Fairtrade for just three years and is now producing two bags of beans from her four acre farm. She is illiterate, as are many of her generation, so through her farm she can now improve her prospects. She has nine children and explained that Fairtrade has helped her and other women support their children.

Through Fairtrade, the Cooperative are working hard to address the climate crisis – from planting trees, to protecting the local wildlife, to using biological pest control rather than harmful chemicals.

The impact of climate change

The overwhelming message from Fairtrade Fortnight was that the climate crisis as loss of livelihoods in developing countries go hand in hand.

We need to acknowledge the root causes of climate change, both at a systems level and in our day-to day lives.

On a high level, politics hasn’t caught up with science – it’s not addressing the fact that there’s an enormous crisis, particularly in the production and distribution of food, which is adding to climate change. Agriculture is the biggest use of land, water and emissions, and the government need to put forward policies which address this.

Furthermore, Brexit has resulted in damaging trade deals and increased the cost of importing in to the UK. For example, a 9 and a half pence per kilo tariff has been placed on the imports of bananas from Ghana, which has had a devastating impact on their livelihoods. The U.K. Government has signed a trade deal with Ghana but it is dragging its heels and this trade deal is not yet written into the law.

Reparations need to be made, both financially and environmentally, to restore justice to the system. Habitats and ecosystems need to be restored and regenerative processes of farming adopted. We need to recognise the historic patterns of land dispossessions, which privilege big corporations and businesses, and the land needs to be redistributed.

This is a pivotal year in terms of global action to address climate change. COP26 is being hosted in Glasgow, there is a G-7 meeting in June, and the UN Food System Summit is being held in New York in September.

How to choose the world you want!

As consumers, we have a voice which can influence policy makers. We’re participating in this economy so we must claim responsibility. How we spend our money speaks volumes. We can make a difference buy choosing fairly traded goods, supporting local and organic produce, cutting down on meat and dairy, and ditching plastic.

We need to work to raise awareness of the root causes of climate change and poverty, and to ensure that consumers are educated about the impact of their buying habits.

The good news is that, since lockdown, consumer buying habits show that people are becoming more conscientious about their shopping habits. There is a growing awareness of how connected we are globally. This is the first year that the growth of Fairtrade sales has beaten the growth of average grocery sales – and the pattern is similar across the board.

Let’s keep the trend going and choose the world we want to see.

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