fairtrade fortnightFairtrade Fortnight 2018

Fairtrade Fortnight 2018 kicked off on Monday!  Over the two weeks there’ll be a huge number of events designed to promote and encourage the use of Fairtrade products such as chocolate (yum), cotton, fruit, spices, tea, coffee and many many more.  But what is Fairtrade and why does it matter?

What is Fairtrade?

You’ve probably heard of Fairtrade. It’s been around in various forms for many years with the goal of making sure that the people who produce things for us are treated as they should be. Everyone likes a bargain but unfortunately the drive for cheaper and cheaper products has meant that the people at the beginning of the chain, the farmers, the pickers, the miners or the garment makers, aren’t being paid enough to live. Sometimes they are ‘bonded labour’ which is not far from slavery. Sometimes they are even children. We are so disconnected from the people who make things for us that it is easy to forget that they are real people going about their day-to-day lives with similar personalities and ups and downs to us.

Fairtrade is NOT Charity

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Three lady spinners who create fabrics for Where Does It Come From?

Many people have this misconception and shy away from Fairtrade, believing it’s about giving away their hard earned cash to someone else. This is not the case. Fairtrade is the opposite of charity.  Fairtrade is about ensuring that the people who make and grow our products are receiving the correct payment for their goods. You just have to think a little bit to realise that for every cheap product we buy the shop will take their cut, the wholesaler will take their cut and the freight company will take their cut, so that the person right at the beginning is left with very little. There’s something crazy about a farmer who grows food for us not being able afford to feed his or her own family. But this is the truth. If you don’t like charity then Fairtrade is more likely to be for you as it is rewarding the producers for their hard work rather than forcing them to live on hand outs.

Producers are People Too

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Patrick Kaberia with Jo from Where Does It Come From?

It is much easier to ignore the issue if you don’t have any idea of who actually made your products. The majority of people don’t want to think of their food being farmed by starving families, their clothes being sewn by slave labour or the cocoa for their children’s’ Easter Eggs being harvested by young children armed with machetes. Building a connection, so that we affirm to ourselves that these are people with lives and rights too, is what the Fairtrade movement does. A couple of years ago as part of Fairtrade Fortnight we met with Patrick Kaberia, a Fairtrade tea farmer from Kenya. Patrick explained that he sells only 3% of his tea using the Fairtrade model, the remaining 97% being bought using standard market methods. However the premium gained from only that 3% has enabled them to build a maternity hospital – literally a life saver for the women who were giving birth without medical care.

At Where Does It Come From? we strongly believe that the more you know about the people who make your product, the stronger the bond you will have with it and the less likely you will be to waste it – this is why we provide garment stories for all our clothes.

So How Do You Buy Fairtrade?

fairtrade fortnightWell the simplest answer is to look for the Fairtrade Mark on your products. You can buy anything from bananas and chocolate to tea and coffee if you are looking for foodstuffs, and you can also buy gold, cotton and flowers with the Fairtrade Mark. If you see the Mark then respect it – it’s been hard won!

If something is claiming to be Fairtrade but doesn’t yet have the mark then look for membership of an organisation such as BAFTS (British Association of Fair Trade Shops and Suppiers) or an international accreditation – it may be that the organisation is still working towards formal UK certification or that they just can’t afford it.   If the retailers can tell you about the people who have produced what you are buying, then that human connection exists.

Patrick the Kenyan tea farmer told us that a penny in the UK is practically worthless and just left on the street if dropped. However if everyone paid just a penny more for their box of tea bags the difference to the farmers would be life changing.  So join us for Fairtrade Fortnight 2018 and be part of that change.