Friday, 5 March 2010

On the road for Fairtrade Fortnight by Anna Bullock

Fairtrade Foundation Marketing and Promotions Officer Anna Bullock has spent several days traveling around the UK with tea producer Vinay Devaiah for Fairtrade Fortnight's The Big Swap...

I've just come back from a great few days on tour with tea producer Vinay Devaiah from South India. We travelled to Reading and Slough (both Fairtrade Towns) to tell the crowds there all about the benefits that Fairtrade is bringing to the 422 workers on Vinay’s tea estate (Thiashola in the Nilgiri region of Tamil Nadu).

After an early morning school assembly at Leighton Park School we chatted to a class of 13-14 year olds. Kids really do ask intelligent questions! One of the best was 'Why do the workers not just get given higher wages from the Fairtrade premium they get from selling their tea as Fairtrade?' Well, the standards set by Fairtrade say that the Fairtrade premium can only be invested in things that bring social, economic or environmental improvements for the community; it cannot be given out as cash, thereby ensuring long term sustainability and development. As Vinay told them (from the old Chinese proverb): ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’. We then had a great presentation and Q&A session at Reading University (a Fairtrade University), followed by a radio interview for Reading Community Radio. Tune in if you live in Reading!

Hearing first-hand the benefits that Fairtrade brings really does drive home the message that we cannot afford not to support Fairtrade. For the little difference that we have to make to our shopping habits, the impact brought to a whole community is incredible: from the Fairtrade premium that the Thiashola tea estate has received for selling their tea as Fairtrade over the last two  years the workers have managed to pay for a doctor to come to a clinic on the estate every other day rather than having to travel 3.5 hours each way to the nearest hospital; they have also provided scholarships for 40 students to go to university (when otherwise they would not have afforded the fees to do so); and they are currently investigating a hydroelectric power project where they will utilise a waterfall on the estate to provide one bulb of electricity for each worker’s home on the estate (they currently experience power cuts for a number of months per year, which means the children have no light with which to study and do their homework after school).

If helping school kids do their homework and enabling them to go on to a better future doesn’t give you incentive enough to swap to Fairtrade then I don’t know what will! Get swapping!

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed reading this. I have met many growers but not a tea producer. Visit to school and questions asked, excellent. So Reading University is a Fairtrade one, I thought so, my son went there and is a committed supporter! from Angela Feaviour