Fairtrade (March 2018)

Dear Friends,  

As Lent began this year, having planned and started our mixed menu of activities for the season– a package of both good news and challenge dropped through the Church Office door.

Let me explain.
It’s Fairtrade fortnight from the 26th February to 11th March and the package contained both stories of how Fairtrade has made a huge difference to the lives of some of the poorest farmers and food producers in the world AND the challenge to stand alongside them, as part of the Fairtrade balance in the world as we shop, in making sure that change continues.

We are hearing a lot at the moment, in news headlines and international negotiations, about trade / free trade / tariffs / exchange rates / access to markets … etc and etc ! This is the negotiation that can go on amongst the wealthier peoples and nations of our world as they seek to protect and grow their economy in the competitive world market place. But for those at the very end of the wealth / poverty scale the story is very different and the things they are able to negotiate in terms of trade and income and fair price are very different and far less favourable.

‘Fairtrade’ has been a movement for change for many years now. It is the determination to work with some of the poorest farmers, producers and communities to support their ability to negotiate a fair deal in the market place and make enough in return to be able to work their way out of poverty. And the good news is that Fairtrade works. It makes a real difference to people’s lives.

This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight package brings us some good news … with headlines from farmers and their families about how life has changed.

These are some of the things they say : -

“I’d always dreamt of going to school. I’m here thanks to Fairtrade cocoa. Grown by my mum. Bought by you.”

“We were paid so little we couldn’t afford food. Life is getting better, thanks to Fairtrade coffee. Grown by me. Bought by you.”

“We are the first generation to be born in a hospital, thanks to Fairtrade cotton. Grown by our parents. Bought by you.”  

“This is our new home. We no longer have to share with seven other families, thanks to Fairtrade bananas. Grown by me. Bought by you.”

I’m sure you’ll agree that these changes, brought about by supporting farmers and producers and finding ways for them to gain a fair price for their produce, are very good news.

But there is, of course, always more to do.

The same package of stories also reminds us that still : -

The average cocoa farmer in Ghana earns just 64p a day.
The average sugar famer in Tanzania earns less than 76p a day.
The average coffee farmer in Ethiopia earns just £1.68 a day.
A banana worker in Dominican Republic earns less than £4 a day.

The headline for Fairtrade fortnight this year is : -

“Fairtrade opens doors … come on in.”

And there’s the challenge to us. Nowadays the structures that make it possible for change to come for the poorest through Fairtrade are well established. And even in mainstream supermarkets we can find fairly traded products easily and readily available to us. But they can only make a difference for more and more people, lifting them out of poverty, if we, choose Fairtrade products when we shop.

Nowadays we are becoming so much more aware of the choices we make around the things we buy and consume. Whether it’s about the quality of the food we buy, the amount of plastic it’s wrapped in, the impact on the environment or the effects on our health. In that mix of questions we ask ourselves when we shop let’s remember that we can make a difference to people’s lives and ensure they are given to tools to climb out of poverty too – as we shop for simple everyday food.

Let’s not forget that we are part of the Fairtrade story. We have the power to choose and can make a difference. This is good news …. and a challenge.