Fairtrade campaign: the devotion of a small nation

When you do your weekly shopping, do you consider the ethics behind the product you buy? Do you go for what you enjoy the most? Or is price the driving factor for what goes in your trolley?

The recent supermarket price war has seen chains competing to offer the lowest prices.  As one store cuts the cost, another slashes its prices even further.  At first, this may seem ideal. But behind this trend is a dark and unethical supply chain.

Over the past 10 years the UK retail price of loose bananas, Britain’s favourite fruit, has almost halved.  Meanwhile the cost of production has doubled.  So who bares the brunt of this loss?

You may have guessed it’s not the supermarket but the producers.

In November, the Fairtrade Foundation launched a campaign to encourage British supermarket chains Asda and Tesco to source more Fairtrade bananas.  It was revealed both supermarkets source less than 10 per cent of their bananas on Fairtrade terms.

As a result, farmers working in developing countries are confined to an endless poverty cycle.

The reality of Laos’s banana field children

Corner Table spoke to Bigvanh, 19, from the Phongsali province of northern Laos.  His parents and younger brother and sister work in a banana field.

“Nobody likes to work there because it’s a really hard job,” he explained.  “But they have no choice because there are no schools so they can’t have a better job.

“Children usually start working there at 12 years old.  They start at 7am and finish around 7pm.  The bosses always shout at them to work harder and faster.

“My father earns 750 kip (0.06p) per banana tree.”

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Bigvanh explained each worker is given 2,000 trees to look after per year.  This means planting the seeds and taking care of the tree until it produces bananas which are ripe enough to be picked.

The whole family helps out and with 2,000 trees at a rate of 0.06p per tree, this makes an annual income of £120 for a family of five.  But sometimes they are not paid the agreed amount.

“Sometimes the boss doesn’t pay my father the right amount.  I don’t know why,” he said.

Having grown up without education and the eldest of three children, Bigvanh moved to a city at the age of 15 to live in a temple.  Converting to another religion and only being able to go home once every two years due to the distance, this was the price to pay for an escape from the laborious trade of his village.  The temple provides him with free education and he hopes this sacrifice will earn him a well-paid job to be able to support his family.

The Fairtrade label ensures farmers in developing countries are paid a stable price which covers production costs, meaning that if supermarkets lower their selling price, the farmer will still receive the agreed wage.  There is also an additional Fairtrade Premium, allowing farmers to invest in a project within the community.

Wales became world’s first Fairtade nation

In June 2008 Wales became the world’s first Fairtrade nation.  Fairtrade Wales carried out a two-year campaign, funded by the Welsh Assembly Government, to ensure the criteria was met to receive the official status.

 

 

The journey began with Ammanford becoming Wales’ first Fairtrade town in 2002.  Phil Broadhurst of the Ammanford Fairtrade group said: “I was at a meeting about making Swansea a Fairtrade city when I realised Ammanford had more or less achieved it already.

“It’s about the number of shops and cafés providing Fairtrade products.  We set up a campaign, community groups got involved and the local council supported us.”

Now the Church in Wales is aiming to become the world’s first Fairtrade province, an accreditation set by the Fairtrade Foundation. They have until April 2015 to prove 70 per cent of churches in Wales offer only Fairtrade food and drinks.

“Instead of raising money, we are displaying solidarity with people all over the world.  We are using money for something fair, something we believe in,” said Revd Carol Wardman, Bishops’ Adviser for Church and Society.

Celebrating the fight against global injustice

On December 4 an awards ceremony was held at the National Assembly for Wales to recognise the work of organisations and individuals who contribute to tackling poverty in 13 African nations.

One person who played a key part in making Wales a Fairtrade nation and who won a partnership award is Martha Musonza Holman. Originally from Zimbabwe, Martha now lives in Abergavenny and is the founder of independent charity, Love Zimbabwe.

“Wales has a positive attitude towards Fairtrade, and Fairtrade Wales does amazing work,” she said. “I go back to my village in Zimbabwe every year and have seen the difference the social premium has made.  Fairtrade provides sustainable jobs, hope and income.”

Presenting this year’s awards, First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones said: “I am deeply proud of what we have achieved through our Wales Africa Community Links programme. None of this would have been possible without the tireless work of the organisations and individuals who have been involved.

“These awards recognise the lengths they have gone to improve the lives of people in both Sub Saharan Africa and Wales. This was a chance for us to come together and celebrate the success that they have built over the past six years and re-affirm our commitment to fighting global injustice and poverty.”

 

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