Friday, 26 February 2010

On the fourth day of Fortnight, my true love said to me... by Harriet Lamb

...let me make you a cup of Fairtrade tea!

Yes - all the focus was on tea today. A gang of campaigning 'tea ladies' danced their way round London, with an inflatable giant tea cup in tow. They looked fantastic in their pink and blue pinnies and head scarves made in India from Fairtrade cotton by committed company, Bishopston Trading. I also danced along, together with Mr Henriksen from Chamraj tea estate in South India, and we ended up popping in on Sarah Brown at No 10 where Maggie Darling joined in the fun too. Check out the photo on the web. Sarah, who was very welcoming said: ‘The beauty of Fairtrade is that if we all do a little, then together we do a lot. We’re a nation of tea drinkers, so just imagine what we could achieve if we all put fairness first in our choice of cuppa. Here at Downing Street we now have Fairtrade status and all our guests and staff enjoy Fairtrade tea and coffee, and we have Fairtrade chocolate, fruit and biscuits too.”

With so much stuff already Fairtrade, Sarah is struggling to think what to swap. I suggested some Fairtrade lotions or soaps – or a tea-towel made with Fairtrade cotton. There must be lots of washing up to do after hosting all those dignitaries. Sarah’s been so supportive. In the autumn, she hosted a party to celebrate 15 years of the FAIRTRADE Mark. Being 15 years old, we were going to have a teenage rave but the neighbours at No 11 said it would disturb their work – anyone would think they were running the economy. But it was a lovely teaparty with campaigners from across the country and 15 year olds and people from the very first companies to get behind Fairtrade. 

So anyway, back to this Fairtrade Fortnight. Mr Henriksen, who a week ago had never left India, was over the moon to have met the PM's wife outside No 10: 'It's just magic!' he exclaimed grinning from ear to ear. Just before, he'd managed to squeeze in a visit to the Head Office of Marks & Spencer. All the tea in their shops is Fairtrade, including some of Mr Henriksen’s so he'd been telling them about all they've done with the premium. He's most proud of the pension scheme for retired workers, who he says face a tough life and for whom the pension can be literally a life-saver. Laughing, he tells of the old lady who explained: 'Before I had nothing and none of my four children wanted me to live with them. Now I have a pension, they're all fighting over me'.

At present, they're only selling 10% of their tea on Fairtrade terms and with that they've managed to achieve so much - not only the pension but also education and health programmes to name just a few. But this means there’s only enough to pay each pensioner for 10 years and Mr Henriksen reckons that if they could only sell 22% of their tea for Fairtrade prices, then they could extend the pension for life and complete many more schemes like buying more computers for the secondary school – pension, on health and education That's why we're calling on Britain to swap their cuppa to Fairtrade. The more we buy, the more the farmers can sell.

Mr Henriksen has been blown away by discovering how much campaigning effort goes into raising awareness and sales of Fairtrade. It's a theme echoed in an email I get from Anup Singh in North India, who works for our global body, Fairtrade Labelling Organisations and whom I met last year. Inspired by all he's read about the campaigners in the UK, he wrote:

'Sometimes when the going gets tough it really helps to know that there are other people across the globe fighting the same battle and this gets you going with a new energy... This is one part of Fairtrade that people like me remain mostly unaware of.  We keep so much occupied in our battle to support producers' access to Fairtrade that we never get to think that other half of the battle could be equally or more challenging.  I salute the spirit of Fairtrade.  Your unending energy to keep fighting such battles for Fairtrade further invigorates my commitment to ensure that producers do benefit from the fruits of your labour.'

Lovely words of inspiration for Fairtrade campaigners everywhere. He has a great idea - for a common platform where 'Fairtrade torch bearers' from all around the world could share ideas. let's hope we can make it happen.'

The swap-o-meter is rising steadily. Still - there's a way to go. So we’re encouraging everyone to spread the swap. Just 800,000 swaps to go!

The future of Fairtrade and tea at No 10 by Emma Huntly

Emma Huntly is the Marketing Manager at the Fairtrade Foundation.

I woke up this morning to my phone beeping nonstop, 'you're in the Metro!' 'ooh, pink really is your colour'. My friends were referring to a picture of Sarah Brown and a gaggle of us dressed up as tea ladies, in the newspapers this morning. The caption read ‘Sarah Brown took a break yesterday outside No 10 to meet a group of tea ladies who were urging people to swap their favourite cuppa for a Fairtrade cuppa’.

Brilliant news, I thought, even though I was woken earlier than I wanted to be, we are really getting the message out there. Let’s hope us dressed up as old school tea ladies will remind people to think about the people that pick the tea they are drinking.

Later on in the evening, (having taken out the hair curlers) I went to an event in St George the Martyr Church on Borough High Street. I accompanied Mr Hendrickson from Chamraj tea estate, through the monsoon rain to talk by Paul Chandler the head honcho at Fairtrade pioneer company, Traidcraft.

The event was titled The Future of Fairtrade and was a thoughtful journey from Traidcraft’s early days importing Handicrafts from Bangladesh to some of the challenges operating in a market place where Fairtrade is becoming more mainstream. Yes, he said, Fairtrade has come a long way with sales reaching nearly £800 million in 2009 but that’s still a tiny proportion of what it could and should be. And needs to be to continue to offer hope for the future to disadvantaged producers, who are now facing the challenges of unfair trade rules, and climate change.

It an evening off for Mr Henriksen, so I thought it would be really interesting for him to meet some campaigners. The people that have been tirelessly working away to promote Fairtrade products to create the market we have today, were an amazing, 72% of people recognise the FAIRTRADE Mark. But it wasn’t much of an evening off, the second speaker had fallen through so Mr Henriksen, stepped in and spoke of what Chamraj tea estate has achieved in the 15 years they have been selling Fairtrade teas. It’s impressive. They have set up a pension scheme for workers, invested in health and education. He talked about how in India, old age is a curse and how the older generation are seen as a burden on their families. But he said one pensioner from the estate he met recently told him, her children were fighting over who she would live with because her pension could contribute to the family income. This is what the estate has achieved selling 10% of their tea under Fairtrade terms.

But Mr Henriksensaid they need more money to invest in the pension scheme, and want to continue to offer education and health to the wider community. Just imagine, he said, what we could do if we sold 100% of our tea as Fairtrade. It’s very simple, we just need to swap our cuppa for a Fairtrade cuppa.

Who knows one day, we could even have Mr Henriksen’s tea, sold in a packet with the FAIRTRADE Mark to some of the growing Indian middle class. Could be part of the future of Fairtrade?

On the road for Fairtrade Fortnight - Part 2 by Krishnan Sainathan

Krishnan Sainathan is the Fairtrade cotton project manager for Agrocel Industries Ltd, India. He's currently in the UK for a producer tour to meet with students, shop managers and the general public.

Day three -

We went to the Wear Alpaca Farm to discuss the differences and similarities in production of cotton and Alpaca Wool. They were filming for a DVD which is being produced for the local area. They filmed a discussion between me and Katherine (the owner of the farm) about Fairtrade cotton and Alpaca wool. We explored the possibilities of blending cotton with Alpaca wool to make the availability more widespread at a good price. I was then interviewed separately about Fairtrade and Agrocel.

For the entire days the involvement of Mrs Lauren, Mr Liam and Miss Jenny in organising and coordinating made the day a success and got Fairtrade Fortnight off to a bang!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Invasion of the tea ladies by Tony Wright

Fairtrade Foundation Digital Marketing Officer Tony Wright reports on a busy day for the Fairtrade tea ladies...

It was an early start for The Big Swap's Fairtrade tea ladies this morning as everyone gathered together, dressed in their favourite pinnies, turbans and hair curlers, to set the message of Fairtrade Fortnight flowing through the streets of London.

Morning commuters watched on in amusement as a giant inflatable mug, a sea of floral dresses and passionate Swap Your Cuppa chants passed them by in a conga line that crossed Westminster Bridge, lapped Parliament Square and took over Trafalgar for a Strictly Fairtrade Tea Dance.

Whilst the masses danced and promoted the swap to Fairtrade tea in the shadow of Nelson, a breakaway group along with tea producer Mr. Henricksen from the Chamraj Tea Estate in India, took to No.10 Downing Street for a brief chin-wag with Sarah Brown.

Bystanders were passed pieces of Fairtrade chocolate, The Big Swap stickers and leaflets and chatted with the Fairtrade Tea Ladies about why you should swap to Fairtrade products and how it gives producers in the developing world a fairer deal.

Find out more about why you should Swap Your Cuppa and join Fairtrade Foundation fans on Facebook to see more photos from today.

Remember to register your swap to Fairtrade and then why not sit down for a brew to read our new tea report on rebalancing the power in the tea supply chain.

On the road for Fairtrade Fortnight by Krishnan Sainathan

Krishnan Sainathan is the Fairtrade cotton project manager for Agrocel Industries Ltd, India. He's currently in the UK for a producer tour to meet with students, shop managers and the general public.

Day one -

The first day of the Fairtrade Fortnight started with the declaration of the Hadrian’s Wall Corridor as a Fairtrade Zone. This occasion was marked by the presence of a Roman Soldier, Hadrian’s Wall Steering Group and other Fairtrade supporters in Cumbria. The presentation of the Hadrian’s Wall Corridor as a Fairtrade Zone certificate was made by me to Mrs Lauren in the presence of the group who attended and was highly applauded. I was the guest of honour and was very much pleased to be in the historical place and was crowned the first Indian Roman Soldier. Thanks to the Fairtrade Foundation for sending me to this 2000 years old historical place to mingle with Fairtrade supporters.

Day two -

We started the day at Brampton Primary School which has now been a Fairtrade School for 3 years.  We were greeted with the Indian Namaste symbol of folding hands by the Fairtrade committee of students. All of us were introduced to the different classes and shown some of the work they had been doing on Fairtrade and the projects about India. Since they are celebrating the 5th birthday of Brampton as a Fairtrade Town and the school were celebrating their 3rd birthday as a Fairtrade School a special assembly was arranged.

The film presentation on Fairtrade products made by the students is worth watching. The commitment to the Fairtrade movement by the school management is highly appreciable and the knowledge on Fairtrade implemented in their education system is amazing. Special thanks to Mrs Jo Friel and Rev Sue Wilkins for the arrangements and celebrating this Fortnight in the school. An excellent Fairtrade cake, complete with icing in the shape of the Fairtrade Mark, was made by Linda and Milly (cut by me and the Mayor of Brampton). Undoubtedly the involvement of the other teachers in this school (whom I don’t know their names - sorry for that) are making a grand success of Fairtrade, not only in the school, but also in the minds of the children. My best wishes to the children and the residents of Brampton and I hope you all continue to by Fairtrade.  

We then travelled to High Heskett Primary School which has been a Fairtrade school for 2 years. The Fairtrade committee presented at an assembly about the work they have been doing to support Fairtrade.

The knowledge about Fairtrade from the students is really admirable. The meaning is rightly understood by the students and being followed very well. We also found lots of Fairtrade products in the kitchen. The involvement of the school classroom teacher (Jen) and the Headmistress (Margaret) is making the school stronger from the beginning. The involvement of the younger children greeting us with their work about Fairtrade and the Fairtrade Mark was wonderful. I had a discussion with the Fairtrade/Eco Group about Fairtrade and how they can take their campaign further in the future. The involvement of this group and the questions asked about the farmers were fantastic.

In both the schools Agrocel can supply them their uniform made out of Fairtrade cotton.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Fairtrade Fortnight: Doing nothing is no longer an option by Harriet Lamb

 Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation, shares her thoughts as Fairtrade Fortnight gathers pace.

Day three of Fairtrade Fortnight. Breaking news on the swap-o-meter: baboons are going bananas for Fairtrade! Baboons in Knowsley Safari Park will be swapping their regular bananas for Fairtrade bananas which have been donated by Knowsley school children. A selection of children will 'feed' the baboons the bananas in a special feeding event. What a great idea.

I know who else will love this news – the banana farmers in the Windward Islands. I got an email yesterday expressing their ‘fervent support’ for Fairtrade Fortnight. Julius Polius  is the very dignified President of WINFA, the farmers organization. He’s a calm man, and a thinker who was over last week to speak at a conference Sainsbury’s held on Fairtrade. He’s always ready for the next challenge, always thinking what more the farmers need to do, how they can innovate or improve. He wrote:  ‘Without Fairtrade, there would perhaps not be a banana industry in the Windward Islands today. Fairtrade has made a difference in the lives of many and has significantly contributed to the overall economic stability of the islands. The small banana farmers’, he wrote, ‘sincerely appreciate the work of the Fairtrade Foundation in enabling them to take more control over their business and their lives.’

It’s enough to make you go out and swap, swap, swap, swap… Tomorrow, in particular, we’re calling on Britain to swap their cuppa. So now we’re all getting ready for Thursday’s exciting invasion of the tea ladies. Via a conga line over London Bridge and a tea dance in Trafalgar Square, the tea ladies are even going to descend on No 10 Downing Street and have a nice cuppa with Sarah Brown. I’ll find out what the Brown household are swapping and report back tomorrow. Then at the weekend, six local groups in Birmingham, Cardiff, Dundee, Liverpool, London and Newcastle are holding Strictly Fairtrade Tea Dances. Better brush up on your dancing skills.

We’ve also brought out a new report explaining why farmers and workers need Fairtrade so much – Stirring Up the Tea Trade. Forget the kettle, this report will make your blood boil. Get this – tea workers in Malawi can get as little as 70 cents a day. In 2010. Two years ago, I met a tea smallholder in Malawi. She had five kids of her own and had adopted five HIV/AIDS orphans – humbling generosity. When she told me how little she got paid for her tea, I asked her how she managed. She was very tall, thin and dignified and she looked me straight in the eye and said: ‘Sometimes I can’t manage. Sometimes, although what I want most in life is for my kids to learn to read and write, I have to take them out of school in order to use the money to put food on the table. Or sometimes, I skip my main meal at night in order to pay the school fees.’ Every time I think of that, it makes me spitting mad that anyone in 2010 should have to choose between putting their kids in school and eating at night – just so we can have really cheap tea. So cheap in fact that producers are now receiving only around half of what they did 30 years ago.

That’s why the tea producers are calling on us to increase sales of Fairtrade tea. Dushantha arrived in our office yesterday, having just flown in from Sri Lanka. He’s from Maskeliya tea group who sell only 3% of their tea on Fairtrade terms. So he’s keen to encourage Britain to swap to Fairtrade because the producers will only get more benefits, if we buy more Fairtrade. Today only one in ten cups of tea in Britain are Fairtrade – we’ve got to get that number up. It makes such a difference. By the way, that woman I met in Malawi is now selling her tea as Fairtrade. You can enjoy in it Sainsbury’s Red Label tea. Now the group has substantial amounts of premium which they are investing in a range of major schemes for the benefit of their community.
More good news just in, hot off the press. According to TNS/Kantar Worldpanel data, 90% of households bought a Fairtrade product last year. That means 22 million households bought Fairtrade  – so that’s more than 3 million more than in 2008 (18.3m)! Amazing. So last year, Fairtrade sales grew by at least 12%. This is despite the recession. Today Pascal Lamy, with his WTO hat on, was talking at the European Policy Centre. He said:  ‘World trade has also been a casualty of this crisis, contracting in volume terms by around 12 per cent in 2009 — the sharpest decline since the end of the Second World War. The main explanation for this freefall in trade has been the simultaneous reduction in aggregate demand across all major world economies. The drying up of trade finance during this period has also been a contributing factor. To a much lesser degree, trade has been adversely affected by some instances of increased tariffs and domestic subsidies, new non-tariff measures and more anti-dumping actions.’

So overall trade has declined, one reason why farmers need Fairtrade more than ever. And meanwhile, Fairtrade sales have gone on rising, in the UK by 12% as it happens. Surely a message in there to companies: that the future is fair. As PriceWaterhouseCoopers concluded in a 2008 report, entitled Sustainability: Are consumers buying it?,  sustainability is like the internet – all companies will adopt it in the end – so the clever ones will adopt it early and benefit from that. As they concluded:  ‘Doing nothing is no longer an option’. 

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Day two and we're top of the tweets! by Harriet Lamb

Fairtrade Foundation's Harriet Lamb continues her Fairtrade Fortnight 2010 blog with news of The Big Swap launch event and a rise in Fairtrade sales of at least 12%

Fairtrade Fortnight got off to a flying start yesterday. Fairtrade was top topic of UK tweets yesterday and today – despite some hot competition from the BAFTA awards.

Lots of press, loads of Fairtrade signs all over the High Street from fashion stores to coffee shops, independents to supermarkets. Everyone’s gone swapping-mad. In Oxfam you can swap a bag of donated goods and you’ll get Cafedirect tea for free! At the event to launch Fortnight last night, all the guests had a riot swapping products. I swapped some Palestinian olive oil for a banana – and then swapped the banana for a Gossypium tea-towel. Then I swapped some of the spanking new Bulldog moisturizer for men, for some of Harry’s Nuts. But I think the best swap was from Douglas Alexander MP, the International Development Minister, who had the very first Fairtrade coffee from Congo which was so new that it was still in a brown paper bag from the farmers. The grant from the Department for International Development will help us work more with farmers from such countries in conflict such as Cote d’Ivoire or Sierra Leone. It was inspiring stuff - and a good laugh. Especially when someone asked if they could swap their husband...

The numbers are rising on the swap-o-meter but still way to go – so please go on and register your swap. It’s great having a peek at who is swapping what.

The Fairtrade movement can also celebrate rising sales last year. We announced yesterday that sales in 2009 rose by at least 12% to an estimated retail value of over £800 million. Not bad for the worst recession in living memory. I was with an independent analyst this morning, haggard with reporting on companies struggling through these tough times, and he was blown away that Fairtrade with its ruthless focus on tackling poverty and injustice in trade, was going from strength to strength.  That ever rising sales graph is a living, breathing testimony to all Fairtrade supporters. 

We also released some new TNS/Kantar Worldpanel data which revealed that last year 9 in 10 households bought Fairtrade – and they bought more regularly. Amazing.

In my blog yesterday, I mentioned the Winter Olympics. Continuing the theme:  if you’re short of inspiration, just watch Ghana’s only competitor in the winter Olympics,  35 year old Kwame Nkrumah Acheampong who learnt to ski 6 years ago at the Milton Keynes snowdome, and will be in the men’s slalom on Saturday.  At his first world cup he finished last; next time, two people finished behind him. ‘I was so proud of that,’ he said, ‘because they both came from countries with snow!’ And then he said:  ‘It's never too late to live the dream.’

And this is our dream: that there will be a time when we tip the balance in favour of farmers and workers. So let’s keep swapping…… just 800,000 to go to meet our target of a million and one.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Our Fairtrade producers have arrived…. by Sarah Jewell

Fairtrade Foundation Campaigns Manager Sarah Jewell blogs on the arrival of producers for the Fairtrade Fortnight Producer Tour

Every Fairtrade Fortnight we invite Fairtrade producers over to tour the country speaking about their experience of Fairtrade and what it means to their families and communities.

We can promise them fun Fairtrade events in many of our wonderful Fairtrade towns and villages, we can wine and dine them on Fairtrade products, but unfortunately we can’t promise our guests (this year from India, Ghana and St Vincent) sunny dry weather!

Not that that seemed to bother them and it was a privilege to welcome Diana, from Bomarts Fairtrade pineapples, Ghana; Nioka, a Fairtrade banana farmer from the Windward Islands; Sainathan, Fairtrade cotton project manager from Agrocel India; Vinay from Thiashola Tea Estate, India, and Mr Henricksen from Chamraj Tea Estate, India.

On arrival they jumped straight into meetings with companies, both those already selling Fairtrade products and those keen to swap some of their product ranges to Fairtrade.

After a busy week of events helping with the build up to Fairtrade Fortnight, they had a well deserved day off to see the sights of London.

The day started with rain, but all our guest Fairtrade producers were so excited to absorb London’s world famous landmarks that the weather was of no consequence, especially when Big Ben came into view, and nothing could dampen their enthusiasm for meeting the Queen at Madam Tussauds.

Today (the first day of Fairtrade Fortnight) they all went off to different parts of the country to stay with Fairtrade campaigners and to tell their Fairtrade stories at events in schools, faith groups, village halls and universities. It will be a busy two weeks for them and in day one alone we are already receiving great reports about who they’ve been meeting – Sainathan met a Roman just this morning while speaking at the declaration event of Hadrian’s wall heritage site as a ‘Fairtrade Zone’.

Stay tuned for more Fairtrade tales from the road and visit our events calendar to find out about the nearest producer talk to you.

Fairtrade Fortnight's here! by Harriet Lamb

Fairtrade Foundation's Harriet Lamb blogs on the first day of Fairtrade Fortnight 2010 - The Big Swap

I love snuggling in to watch the Winter Olympics with the swirling skaters and slimline blurs shooting down snowy mountains. It reminds me of the 2002 Winter Olympics when my children were staying with Granny in a Somerset village. When I went to join them I was amazed to find the whole Somerset village in a buzz about.... the women's curling, of all things. I was perplexed. Until I joined the next excited gathering around the screen. For these were not super-athletes with the bodies of muscular tea-trays. Here were ordinary Scottish women - bankclerks and hairdressers and teachers - with bumpy bodies like the rest of us, going for gold. And winning.

Fairtrade has just that appeal. If you want to play your part in tackling poverty, you don’t need to be a trade wonk or have a Phd in international economics. You just have to get into swapping. Swap to Fairtrade tea or T-shirts, ice-cream or face-cream, coffee or cashews, pineapple or Palestinian olive oil. And you will be opening doors for more farmers to sell more of their crops on fair terms.

And they sure do need Fairtrade now more than ever. Because if these are tough times for us in Britain, they are desperate times for many farmers and workers squeezed by falling order books just as the prices of food and fuel are high. Workers on flower farms in Kenya told me they spent half their income on food and the price of maize had gone from 40 shillings to kilo to 80 shillings. That’s why they need Fairtrade – to have enough for today, and to build a better tomorrow.

But they can only sell more as Fairtrade, if you and me buy more. So that‘s why this Fairtrade Fortnight we’re running The Big Swap – aiming for one million and one swaps. All you have to do is swap from your usual product to Fairtrade, and register on our wacky swap-o-meter. When I last looked, it seems people have been swapping to a lot of cakes!! Lot of sweet-tooths among Fairtrade fans out there, clearly. But you could swap your five a day fruit to Fairtrade too if you’re feeling more healthy.

I’m swapping to Palestinian olive oil because I’m a salad addict and it’s so yummy drizzled on lettuce and rocket with tomatoes. And because, although we work with many farmers in very tough places, the Palestinian olive farmers must have the toughest time, even being searched going to their fields and sometimes finding their beloved trees uprooted….. And I’m definitely swapping to more clothes made with Fairtrade cotton. I’ve got a snuggy pair of tights made with Fairtrade cotton for cycling through this endless winter and some more cotton socks. To sock it to poverty.

Over the next two weeks of Fairtrade Fortnight, I know it’s going to be manically busy. It’s going mad already in the office – phones ringing with everything from producers finding their visas haven’t come through to journalists keen to write about the fact that Fairtrade sales are holding up despite the recession. The two weeks will also be so inspiring – to have the chance to hear from so many producer partners about the difference Fairtrade makes, and the challenges they face. And it’s also so inspiring to see what Fairtrade supporters have organised all round the country. There’s fashion shows and tea parties and everything in between. I went to a great meeting last month in Keswick – there too was Jamie Reed MP who blogged after saying he’d never seen such a focused group of people. Their anger about poverty, he wrote, was only matched by their optimism that they could help tackle it. Inspiring stuff. We’re kicking off on Monday with the launch event in central London – watch this space for more on that, and check out our website for events near you. But obviously, leave time to watch the Olympic curling!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Fairtrade Fortnight Eve by Tony Wright

Fairtrade Foundation's Digital Marketing Officer Tony Wright blogs in anticipation of his first Fairtrade Fortnight

For most of my first few months working at the Fairtrade Foundation, the focus has been on preparing for Fairtrade Fortnight. Now but one sleep away, the excitement's definitely high. The Big Swap's about to commence and two action packed weeks of the nation celebrating and swapping to Fairtrade certified products will soon be underway.

The past week was a busy one, packed with great Big Swap stories including the new range of Fairtrade products by Bulldog, the sweet news that Compass Group are to use 100% Fairtrade Sugar and Ben & Jerry's pledge to convert their full global range to 100% Fairtrade from 2013. After a sighting of Fairtrade certified Banana flavoured beer at London's Borough market yesterday and a routine trip to the supermarket today where I found Fairtrade nut burgers for the first time, I'm eager to see what other Big Swap announcements might be made in the next 14 days that will improve trading structures and practices in favour of producers in the developing world.

As it's my first Fairtrade Fortnight, I'll be crawling through the hundreds of events listed on The Big Swap website's event calendar to see the Fairtrade movement in action around the country. I can't wait for the Strictly Fairtrade Tea Dance in London's Spitalfields Market, the Invasion Of The Tea Ladies in Westminster and then my trips to Bedfordshire for a Fairtrade flavoured jazz evening before a cat walk showcasing frocks of a fairer sort in Bristol.

Managing the jam packed events calendar has revealed to me the extent to which people in the UK are supporting and promoting Fairtrade. From Mad Hatter tea parties to wine tasting, talks and debate events, it's really inspiring that so many people are putting their free time into efforts to inform those not aware, about the benefits of swapping typical items on the weekly shopping list to Fairtrade certified equivalents. Passers by at schools, community halls, high street stands and markets all around the UK are about to learn of the very wide range of products you can buy, stamped with a Fairtrade label that represents a fairer deal for producers in the South.

Make sure you visit and register what products you'll be swapping, punch in your town on the events calendar to fill your calendar with Big Swap events and have an informative and fun Fairtrade Fortnight.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

It's time to get swapping!

Help us reach our target of one million and one swaps to Fairtrade certified products. Visit to register your swap and download web banners, widgets and use our Twibbon in the Get Involved section to help us spread the word and make The Big Swap our biggest Fairtrade Fortnight yet!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Hannah Harris in Mombasa

How does Fairtrade help create sustainable businesses?

Well, actually at the moment I am in a Nairobi hotel on my way back to Moshi from Mombasa. Stopping off at a Sainsbury’s conference, just to make it a full week of conferences.

Mombasa was really interesting. Reps from African Fairtrade coffee producers were there (as well as CLAC, FLO GPM, Transfair USA, Oxfam & Twin). Lots of discussions about the benefits and challenges of Fairtrade and how the producers could work together to form a coffee network in the AFN. Too much was covered to even summarise in a blog, but the main themes were around market access (most just don’t sell enough as Fairtrade), the need for improving quality and building up sustainable businesses that are able to market, and trade direct. Market information was a key need, so I made lots of notes on this and have lots of ideas on how to make an AFN website promote producers via profiles and case studies. It was good to run these ideas past the producers as well, and bombard them with all my questions and warn them that more will come!

I then went on to the Sainsbury’s supplier conference. Participants were mainly traders rather than growers, although a few Fairtrade producer groups were there, but most were management from hired labour set ups. It was an interesting comparison hearing trader views of Fairtrade versus the producers views heard in Mombasa. I think Sainsbury’s idea of holding the conference was a brilliant one and I think more forums that bring together the whole supply chain would be hugely beneficial e.g. lots of misunderstandings were clarified and lots more insight into the way retailers work was given to suppliers, which can only be a good thing.
 At quite literally the final hour in the Mombasa meeting, producers elected a few leaders to keep the process of dialogue between all Fairtrade coffee producers in Africa moving – we all celebrated with a cold Kenyan Tusker beer – Michael enjoyed his whilst still working, he just doesn’t stop (see photo) - much needed refreshment from the heat of the Kenyan coast - it’s cold in London though, I hear?!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Brain-storming Madness! by Richard Gray

Richmond upon Thames Fairtrade group member Richard Gray writes about their forthcoming Mad hatter's Fairtrade Tea Party for Fairtrade Fortnight 2010

It was back in October 2009 - when the Richmond upon Thames Volunteer group brain-stormed Fairtrade Fortnight - that the madness set in! A crazy cocktail of tea, Johnny Depp, art, a re-working of Lewis Carroll’s classic and kids having fun whilst learning about Fairtrade and the Mad Hatter’s Fairtrade Tea Party was born.

From talking with other London boroughs, I think Richmond’s quite fortunate; we have a core of motivated volunteers with a good mix of skills and contacts. From the October meeting, we went away and hatched various ideas. We approached potential sponsors mindful of the fact that we needed a company with an available budget and a brand that was at least borough-wide and probably nation-wide. We talked with other partners; we charmed, cajoled, persuaded, purloined, begged, borrowed and managed to get together a theme and promotion that comprised…

• A schools’ art competition for age ranges 5 to 16

• A total of £700 in sponsorship to support this and other projects – £Starbucks the main contributor)

• Prizes of Waitrose/J Lewis vouchers, cinema tokens and a great big chocolate cake from a celebrity chef

• Support from Richmond Council in marketing and awareness-building

• Food and drink goodies from Starbucks, Waitrose, Divine Chocolate and local wholesaler Go Jumbo

• A big party venue courtesy of the Council

• An actor to play the Mad Hatter

• Support from local media, retailers and others in the business community with loads of posters and a BIG banner

To get to this level of organisation, the group has met frequently with 8 am coffee (Fairtrade of course) sessions as well as monthly meetings. With only a couple of weeks to go, we’ve met most of our objectives.

We all know that it can be tough ‘cold-calling’ potential supporters to blag funding and help; we know now how workers in call-centres must feel! But it’s been worthwhile. It looks like we’ll get a great turn-out on the 26th February when the Tea Party goes really mad and, hopefully, we can all look forward to a bit of sanity afterwards.

What’s been the biggest lesson? Start organising Fairtrade Fortnight several months earlier!

And our biggest asset is supporting each other, enjoying what we’re doing; the team spirit really works well; soon after the 26th, we’ll all be celebrating (I hope) with lots of Fairtrade wine!

York House, Richmond Road, Twickenham, London. 26th February 2010.

Fairtrade Fortnight 2010 - The Big Swap

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Hannah Harris in Moshi #2

“Over time they [producer networks] will take their place as key actors in the system rather than simply beneficiaries of it” (Making the Difference, FLO strategy)

I have been preparing thoughts for Mombasa next week. It makes such a difference sitting somewhere else. The emails and conversations that I have in the office are far different from the ones I had in London. Still being copied in on emails from Fairtrade Foundation (keep them coming) makes for very interesting comparisons. Physically being somewhere else completely changes your perspective on things.

So much activity taking place in the markets and at FLO to keep building Fairtrade. The vision for producers to stop being just beneficiaries to active participants, is a good and much needed one. It is harder here though, with very few staff (picture of Michael and Sanga at lunch), the AFN has to work much harder to stay actively involved. The networks that the AFN is building up have this journey to empowerment as their focus. Mombasa should be good.

I am sitting today with blisters on my feet. I walked the 5 or so km to work (took an hour) trying to keep pace with a Masaai. He won!