As an International Development master’s student and a community activist with Portsmouth Labour, Fairtrade is something I’ve taken an increasingly keen interest in. It was wonderful to co-host this virtual event alongside other community groups on over Fairtrade Fortnight!
As many of you are no doubt aware, the Fairtrade Foundation is an organisation which works to empower disadvantaged farmers and workers in developing countries by tackling injustice in international trade. By promoting and licensing the Fairtrade Mark and ensuring farmers are paid fair prices by multinational corporations for the commodities that we rely on in our everyday favourite products and staple goods, Fairtrade ensures that all farmers earn a living income, and agricultural workers earn a living wage. Fairtrade works with farmers and workers in more than 300 industries across Africa, Asia and South America, working with nearly 1.7million farmers and workers producing coffee, cocoa, banana, flowers, tea, and sugar and gold.
The Fairtrade Foundation’s vision is ‘a world in which all producers can enjoy secure and sustainable livelihoods, fulfil their potential and decide on their future.’
Their mission is ‘to connect disadvantaged farmers and workers with consumers, promote fairer trading conditions and empower farmers and workers to combat poverty, strengthen their position and take more control over their lives.’
Some people may wonder why an organisation like Fairtrade Foundation is necessary. By design, the main goal of a corporation is profit maximisation, meaning the impact of their operations on individuals, communities or the environment is not necessarily considered. As a result, Western multinational corporations pay farmers in developing countries such a low price for their produce that sometimes it is not worth the cost of processing, packing, insuring and shipping.
For example, in the Ivory Coast the multimillion-dollar cocoa industry pays the farmers so little, they cannot afford to pay adult workers – fuelling child slavery and conflict.
Likewise, in the coffee industry, whilst the likes of Nescafe, Starbucks and other giants see their profits soar wildly, the African coffee farmers on which they have built their success are forced to live in abject poverty (Patel, 2007, pp. 10-11).
Paid mere pennies per kilogram, by the time the coffee reaches Nescafe;s coffee-processing facility in West London, it is worth nearly 200 times the cost of a kilo in Uganda (Patel, 2007, p.10). In order to survive, coffee farmers are frequently forced to sell their land and work as labourers on their own farm (Patel, 2007, pp. 6-7). Even more tragically, thousands resort to suicide (Patel, 2007, pp. 6-7).
Thankfully, as consumers we are becoming much more conscientious and less “anaesthetised by convenience” (Patel, 2007, p.10). More and more when we shop we are looking for ethical products that treat people fairly, treat our planet respectfully and cause no harm to animals.
When purchasing Fairtrade products, we can be confident that we are not only investing in the farmer or worker who helped to harvest that product, but also projects on the ground that help to improve life for the community. For example, the Fairtrade Foundation invests in on the ground ‘Premium Projects’ such as health and sanitation facilities, school facilities and bursaries, and resource centres and community shops. Fairtrade also works to protect the environment and promote environmentally friendly farming methods, ensuring they are setting standards in sustainability too.
Alongside this, Fairtrade lobbies government, raises awareness and set standards such as the Fairtrade Minimum Price.
For this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight, the organisation is focusing on climate change, as the climate crisis disproportionately affects farmers in developing countries, with increased drought, floods, famine, hurricanes and diseases ravaging crops. Choose the World You Want festival includes virtual art events, talks, music, activities for schools and more! https://www.fairtrade.org.uk/choose-the-world-you-want-festival/
Don’t forget to come along to Hampshire Fairtrade Network’s virtual event on 1st March, with Head of Fairtrade’s Campaigns, Adam Gardener. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/climate-fairtrade-and-you-tickets-140578583327
As a city we can proudly say that we are a Fairtrade city, a status that Hampshire Fairtrade Network helped to secure for Portsmouth in 2004. There are lots of ways we can continue to support Fairtrade as consumers, businesses, schools, organisations and communities, and it ‘s so important that we do so – now more than ever.