We have probably all seen some Fairtrade products on the supermarket shelves, but do you actually know what Fairtrade involves and whether it is worth choosing an item that is Fairtrade over something that isn’t?
Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in developing countries. Producers of Fairtrade products also receive a Fairtrade premium – a sum of money paid on top of the Fairtrade price which is invested in projects in their communities. Projects funded typically support education and healthcare, farm improvements to increase yield and quality, or processing facilities to increase income.
The Co-operative was the first major retailer to champion Fairtrade and have since led the way on bringing Fairtrade products to market. They have also converted many of the Co-operative’s own-brand products to 100% Fairtrade; like chocolate, tea and coffee.
In March the Co-op sent blogger Amanda Barnes to the Bosman family Vineyard in South Africa to experience the difference Fairtrade makes, firsthand. This vineyard has been a supplier of The Co-operative’s Fairtrade wine since 2011, and the premiums they have received have funded a number of things, including:
- A fully operational pre-school
- A new school bus enabling students to get to school
- A new library and community centre
- Computer training, literacy and scholarship programmes including three classrooms and a computer training centre
- A Counselling room and Drug Rehabilitation programme
- A Health clinic
Watching the videos of Amanda’s trip show what a difference Fairtrade has made and is continuing to make to these people’s lives. It is not just about the workers; it is about their children, their family and also about building up the entire community.
Amanda spoke to some workers at the health centre and they talked about how before they had the clinic, patients who came in for a test such as a urine test or even an HIV test would have to go behind a tree for a bit of privacy as there was nowhere completely private for them to have the test done. Can you even imagine that? The things that we take for granted are something so wonderful for them that is making a huge difference to their lives and it makes you want to help by buying Fairtrade doesn’t it?
Fairtrade money in this area has also allowed children to do Karate after school which helps to keep them away from activities like drugs as well as sex abuse; which are problems there. A school bus allows children to get to school safely and on time. There is now a pre-school which means the children can start to learn key skills which they wouldn’t otherwise have until they are six or seven (the age children start school here). All of these things that have been funded by Fairtrade premiums are helping to improve and shape the community here and give these people better lives.
For the workers Fairtrade means that they are more involved in the business and can choose how to spend their Fairtrade premium. The Adama Workers Trust allows the employees to own a part of the business. It gives them a sense of pride and higher self-esteem and they have more aspiration to work because they are involved in all aspects of it and they are treated more fairly than they would be working elsewhere. They are given regular breaks, have plenty of water available and can use toilets brought to them in the vineyards. It makes a big difference to them and to their families.
When you choose to buy a product with the Fairtrade Mark you are supporting the farmers and workers to improve their lives and their communities. The Fairtrade mark means that the ingredients in the product have been produced by small-scale farmer organisations or plantations that meet the Fairtrade social, economic and environmental standards. These standards include protection of the workers’ rights and the environment, payment of Fairtrade minimum price and the additional premium to invest in business or community projects.
Personally I didn’t really know an awful lot about Fairtrade and what it actually meant before researching for this post. I recognised the Fairtrade Mark but I had no idea of exactly what it involved or how much of a difference it could make. Now that I know what it involves and the huge difference it can make to people’s lives and the communities involved, I will make an effort to lookout for the mark and to buy Fairtrade where possible.
Fairtrade products are sold in every Co-operative Food store across the British Isles and are usually only a few pence more than other similar products (sometimes they no more expensive), so it’s an easy switch to make to help change people’s futures and to know that the workers involved in creating the product have been paid fairly.
You can watch the videos from Amanda’s trip to South Africa here: A Fairtrade Adventure
This is a collaborative post.