Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fair's fair for everyone

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, if we are feeling the pinch, you can bet someone who grows crops on a smallholding several thousand miles away is being hit far harder.

The next two weeks are set aside as Fairtrade Fortnight, but buying coffee, bananas or tea with the Fairtrade mark isn't just about 'doing your bit' and feeling good about buying 'the right thing'.

There's a bigger picture, too.

The Fairtrade Foundation points out that the smallholders like Conrad James, pictured above, from St Lucia, could actually teach the rest of the world a thing or two about solving the food crisis and tackling poverty.

In villages like Conrad's, smallholders are often at the centre of community action and feeling. It's a very different scenario to bigger farms, where low-quality crops are sold straight from the field to impersonal middlemen and on to the West for a criminally low price.

In smaller-scale Fairtrade cooperatives, from Caribbean banana producers to Rwandan coffee growers, local people have more secure jobs and, if the crop (eg coffee) starts being processed on-site, the chance to learn different skills.

Small-scale cooperatives are also known for being innovative farmers. They want to know how to do things better, make things taste better. They have a vested interest in constantly researching new ways to improve productivity, such as making organic compost, or to add value, such as roasting coffee beans using traditional techniques.

Small organic farms have the power to turn around the economic fortunes of a village or an area, which then slowly spreads to more children going to school and more small businesses and shops springing up.

It's a model of economic revival that, with the right support, could have a worldwide knock-on effect. And these smallholders aren't small fry: some 450 million farming households cultivate two hectares or less, and with their families they make up a third of the world's population.

They count, and what they stand for counts, too.

Buying thoughfully benefits everyone, including ourselves. And it doesn't stop at bananas.

That's why I love the stuff at www.ecohip.org.

Steve and Gabrielle, the couple behind the site, have thought carefully about what they select: everything there, from shampoos to tea, is from small companies that care, too.

They are organic, eco-friendly and as close to nature as you can get.

Shame they don't sell bananas, too...

Photograph: Simon Rawles/Fairtrade
Visit www.fairtrade.org.uk for more on Fairtrade Fortnight


natural horticultural oil said...

I support and appreciate fair trade. When I made coffee this morning, I noticed the label of the coffee stated "30% fair trade" in very small font.Does this mean that the standard for being able to label something fair trade is 30% of the ingredients?I guess it's better than 0%, but misleading

ecohip said...

Agree 30% better than nothing. Its worth finding out what they are doing