Thursday, 25 March 2010

Tackling child labour in the cocoa industry

Harriet Lamb, Director of the Fairtrade Foundation, shares her thoughts on Panorama's Chocolate - The Bitter Truth. 

How shocking is it that in 2010 there are still families so poor that kids are trafficked to work on cocoa farms? That farmers in West Africa don’t get enough for their cocoa to make ends meet. That is a scandal. It still makes my blood boil. And it’s just plain sad to see the kids shown on last night’s BBC Panorama – The Bitter Truth. It is to bring an end such injustices that so many people across the world – from visionary leaders among cocoa farmers in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire through to members of the public in the UK – have taken Fairtrade to heart. Exactly because Fairtrade will not walk away from these real and deep-rooted problems. Rather, we have a system to deal with them. Only through Fairtrade, can you know that the cocoa comes from a group of farmers, who have committed to organise democratically and to meet a range of rigorous standards including a promise stamp out child labour, and in exchange they get a fair price and premium.

Sometimes, it is true, that individual farmers fall down on the standards. But the Fairtrade system means the farmers’ coops themselves and the Fairtrade auditors are checking. And on the odd occasion that we find any children who are trafficked or forced to work – then care of those children must be our first concern. After that, we take action to sort out the problem, and prevent it happening in the future. And to invest in positive moves to build a different future for the children.

At the start of the programme, the presenter promised to tell viewers what Fairtrade really means. Well – if he had wanted to do that, he should have told you that what Fairtrade means above all else, is not only the rigour of standards but also the promise of a better deal for the farmers which enables them to make poverty history for themselves. And time and time again the farmers are deciding to invest that extra premium in the education of their kids. Among the farmers of Kavokiva in Cote d’Ivoire, a utterly shocking nine out of ten farmers are illiterate. So guess what? They’ve invested the Fairtrade premium into education – adult education classes, especially for women but also into scholarships so kids can go to school and even building make-shift schools in areas where there are none. I salute the leaders among the cocoa farmers who are tackling these problems for the long term. Kavokiva agreed a Charter against child labour years ago, and have a programme of raising awareness among the farmers about why forced child labour cannot be tolerated.

Panorama is shocking and sad viewing. But if you want your spirits lifted, just read the farmers’ responses to the programme and hear what they are doing, day in and day out, to tackle the problems. Until last year, most Fairtrade cocoa groups in West Africa could only sell one in ten bags of cocoa on Fairtrade terms – so that really limited what they could do. Now, thanks to major commitments by Cadbury Dairy Milk and Kit Kat, those groups can sell serious volumes on Fairtrade terms. And that will make a serious difference.

Fairtrade never guaranteed a perfect rose-tinted world. We do guarantee a fair price and premium to the farmers’ groups – that badly needed extra resource to start tackling problems like child labour. We do guarantee clear and rigorous standards. We do guarantee that we will check against those standards and take action if we find problems. Who can say fairer than that?

Read a statement by Fairtrade Foundation following the BBC Panorama Report.

Share your comments about the broadcast here.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

My first Fairtrade Fortnight as a volunteer by Marzia Manconi

Marzia Manconi volunteers for the Fairtrade Foundation's Fairtrade Towns campaign. Here's a blog she's written about her first Fairtrade Fortnight...

What an amazing couple of weeks! I am still coming to terms with the fact that my first ever Fairtrade Fortnight has come to an end and I can’t wait for the next one! I had the most enjoyable time campaigning alongside my fellow ‘Fairtraders’ in an attempt to increase the awareness of Fairtrade across the country. These intense two weeks have represented a great opportunity to be catapulted from the day-to-day buzz of office life into the wide range of events organised in London, the largest Fairtrade City in the world, to celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight.

For me, it was great fun as well as a massive learning experience. I marched up and down central London dressed up as a Tea Lady, I took part in the amazing ‘Strictly Fairtrade Tea Dance’ event in Spitalfields and I volunteered at a Fairtrade stall during the ‘Fairtrade Chai: an Islamic Perspective’ event in Whitechapel. More than anything else, it was incredibly inspiring to get the chance to meet, speak to and attend the presentations of the Fairtrade producers who travelled all the way from their countries to the UK to report on the impact that Fairtrade has within their communities.

This Fairtrade Fortnight has been an incredible success and I genuinely feel that a massive ‘thank you’ should be given to all the Fairtrade campaigners around the country. Over the course of the year, they give up part of their free time to promote the principles and values of Fairtrade. They represent the main reasons why we have so many Fairtrade Towns, Schools, Universities and Faith Groups all over the UK.

Personally, this experience has furthered my belief in the saying that ‘knowledge means power’. This is why we must keep campaigning to sensitise the general public on trade justice and persuade them to switch to Fairtrade. This gives them the power to make the difference for disadvantaged communities in developing countries and gives these communities the power to socio-economic self-determination.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

A long and winding Richard Anstead

Fairtrade Foundation's Head of Product Management Richard Anstead has blogged from Nicaragua where he attended a meeting of Fairtrade certified coffee producers.

A the end of the second week of Fairtrade Fortnight and whilst in Nicaragua I witnessed firsthand the start of the long road coffee beans have to take if they are to make it into our cup of Fairtrade coffee!

I spent Friday as the guest of Prodecoop Cooperative Union in Estelli and travelled up into the mountains to see one of Prodecoop’s members groups - the Cooperativa Heros y Martires de Cantagallo.

We arrived in time to see the co-op’s board handing out backpacks, books and pens to children from the local primary school that had in part be paid for by the premium from Fairtrade coffee sales. About 850 people live in the community around the coop and are all either directly or indirectly dependent on its success for their livelihoods. Apart from maintaining the roads to make transporting the coffee to market easier, improving education is the biggest priority for the use of the Fairtrade premium by the co-op.

We had already driven for three hours on dirt roads to get to the community and still had a further half hour drive on some of the worst roads I have travelled on to get to the co-op’s ‘wet mill’ which was half way down the mountainside and set in a deep valley – where there is access to water.

Although the picking season is over at this altitude just now (around 1400M) we were able to see where the co-op mills its cherries, filters the water before recycling it for further use, dries the beans and also where they are growing new coffee plants in their nursery.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Your Fairtrade swap still counts

Fairtrade Fortnight is finished for another year, and what a two weeks it has been. We’ve seen tea ladies dancing their way to Downing Street, human tea bags hurling themselves into the sea, tea dances in their hundreds and baboons swapping their usual bananas for Fairtrade ones. Even Paolo Nutini got in on the swapping, switching his usual band for The Big Ghana Band. The nation’s swapping added up to over 800,000 by Sunday evening, including swaps from schools, workplaces and companies.

We’re busy totting up all the swaps and we’re so close to our target of one million and one Fairtrade swaps. We’re sure there’s loads more swaps out there just waiting to be added to the swap-o-meter, so don’t forget to register them. It’s not too late to join in and make them count towards the target, each one proving that the UK supports a better deal for developing world producers

Monday, 8 March 2010

Hannah Harris in Moshi, Week 7

Wearing the shoes of another

I have watched with interest as a sudden flurry of blogs has appeared on this site over the last 2 weeks. All the activity and events taking place over Fairtrade Fortnight. I was sad to miss the excitement, but also found the time useful. Viewing things from a different angle.

Turning the grand old age of 30, I took the opportunity of going on a weekend away, where I suddenly experienced what most tourists must feel. Inflated costs, just because you are on safari! Now I have been here for 7 weeks, I know how much a soda should cost. Although frustrating to be charged more, I suddenly realised that this must be how producers feel when they know they are not being given the right money for their crop. A lesson in wearing the shoes of another.

My shoes need to be cleaned, the rains have started and the roads are muddy.

The new AFN website is going well. A producer search facility is a big part, basic facts and figures to promote African producers and make it easier for traders to get in contact with producers directly. Pole Pole (slowly, slowly) we are getting some completed profiles sent back with some good case studies on them. Inspiring to read. This week I am going to see coffee farmers at work. KNCU are pretty innovative on these things and not only are they setting up a coffee shop, but they also have a Fairtrade coffee tourism tour. Will keep you posted...

Sunday, 7 March 2010

On the Fairtrade Fortnight producer tour by Fran Morton

Fran Morton is the Fairtrade Foundation's Mark team administrative officer. Here, she blogs from her journeys on the Fairtrade Fortnight 2010 producer tour...

On Saturday morning, I woke up in a very cosy room in a house in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. It is the last 2 days of the producer tour and I am here with Diana, a Pineapple and mango producer from Ghana. Our hosts are May and John and they are spoiling us with kindness! May and John are both very active in their community and run from one event to another to support local charities and international campaigns, including Fairtrade and it’s a pleasure to  be staying with them. Myself and Diana spend a relaxing morning baking a pineapple upside down cake, ready for a Fairtrade Funday that May is organising tomorrow in Gainsborough. The recipe tells me to peel and slice the pineapple but I have no idea were to start... Diana comes to the rescue! Of course, we’re using a Fairtrade pineapple from Ghana and May has bought many other Fairtrade ingredients to make the cake with.

We drive to Spalding to be greeted by a team of Fairtrade campaigners that have arranged a Fairtrade Fortnight event at the local church. Diana gives a brilliant talk – telling us all about pineapples and how they grow and then telling us about all the projects that have taken place in her community thanks to the Fairtrade premium that they have received by selling some of their pineapples through the Fairtrade system. The projects include building a maternity ward and Kindergarten as well as part-subsidising meals for farm workers at the pineapple farm. After the talk, there are numerous goodies to taste all including the important ingredient: Fairtrade pineapple. The local Fairtrade steering group have made pineapple tarts, cakes, smoothies and much more so that visitors can sample the Fairtrade pineapple. We then return to Gainsborough (the scenic way and stop off at Lincoln cathedral on our way home). May is still busy preparing for the Funday tomorrow!

Sunday arrives and it’s been a freezing night but the sky is clear and it looks like the sun will be shining! Myself and Diana arrive at the Fairtrade Funday and its turned into a glorious day. The turn-out is amazing – There’s lots of children and their families and plenty for them to do:  cakes to try, a Fairtrade fruit trail, a skate park and much more! What a great end to a fabulous producer tour!

Friday, 5 March 2010

Going swap-tastic at the Fairtrade Foundation by Emma Huntly

Emma Huntly is the Marketing Manager at the Fairtrade Foundation.

It’s the last working day of Fairtrade Fortnight and staff at the Fairtrade Foundation had a final chance to swap their favourite Fairtrade products this afternoon. It’s been an incredible two weeks, staff have been everywhere, tea dancing with brazil nut gathers in Dundee, accompanying producers to packed out village halls, accosting commuters at London Bridge while dressed as tea ladies, or talking to design students about Fairtrade cotton.

Our Mad Hatter’s Big Swap tea party was a chance to chat to other colleagues and find out their Fortnight highlights.

The swapping itself was animated and excited. I swapped my Barts spices organic black pepper corn grinder (from small holder farmers in Sri Lanka) with a colleagues’ lavender Fairtrade soap (containing Fairtrade olive oil from Palestine, and shea butter from Burkina Faso) . Others swapped wine, Fairtrade cotton socks, Harry’s nuts, and of course, (it’s Friday) lots of yummy Fairtrade chocolate!

No Friday afternoon get together is complete without cake, and a selection of busy bees had made everything from Fairtrade chocolate cake to scones with Fairtrade raisins to share. Within seconds Alison’s glorious profiteroles were demolished and a clear winner emerged. Hats off (or should I say mad hatters hats off!) to Alison. On hats, us Fairtraders love a chance to dressing up. Annette’s hand fashioned spectacular made from a recycled poster was a hands down winner! But James got 10 out 10 for effort, creating a Fairtrade Mark out of chocolate icing!

If you haven’t yet swapped, there’s still a chance to register yours at

The Belgians come to town by James Picken

Fairtrade Foundation's Supporter Marketing Manager James Picken blogs about his day out in London showing Fairtrade Belgium colleagues Fairtrade Fortnight in action...

It’s 08:56 in the morning on Friday 5th March and Fairtrade Belgium’s train pulls into the Eurostar terminal at St Pancras exactly on time. Ben and I meet them at a prearranged meeting point – an impressively well Fairtrade Fortnight branded outlet of Starbucks. Laurent and Stephane are bowled over by the fantastic Starbucks POS materials and other co-branding.

So as not to waste any time we immediately get subterranean on the Piccadilly line and head to Tesco’s flagship Earl’s Court store. Oddly we find ourselves in the wine section first off. Having checked out (but not sampled) a few Fairtrade reds we then suss out the Easter egg isle. Ben can’t resist but my himself a Fairtrade Maya Gold Easter egg! “It’s not for me, it’s for someone else!” he exclaims. We believe you, Ben.

Working our way around the Fairtrade bus stop banners in the store we clock up tea, coffee and an especially good Fairtrade chocolate section. With Tesco’s Finest organic Fairtrade chocolate on special offer at £1 per bar Laurent and Stephane fill a basket full of the stuff.

Onwards to Sainsbury’s on Cromwell Road and we’re welcomed by a sign reading ‘Thank you for helping us become the biggest retailer of Fairtrade products’ – all Fairtrade branded of course. Bus stop banners are all over the place for tea, coffee, sugar, wine as well as the usual Sainsbury’s range of other Fairtrade products. Stephane and Laurent stock up again on as many different products as possible, however this time to make room in their bags we were forced to eat some of the chocolate we picked up at Tesco’s. It’s a hard life sometimes.

Meandering our way through the Kensington Ferraris, Bentleys and Range Rovers we arrive at Whole Foods – an absolute stonker of a store. Not cheap but it’s ethical credentials are out there for all to see with window displays inviting customers to ‘Meet our producers’. Inside there are various forms of POS, leaflets and other info. Fair Vodka was widely available, but we were very disappointed to have missed out on the Fairtrade Fortnight Cocktail Master Class which had gone on the previous evening.

Down in the basement there were Fairtrade products all over the place, producer stories and a dedicated, manned Fairtrade chocolate tasting station from Maestrani chocolate, which had apparently been sponsored by the Maestrani importer in the UK. The representative was very well informed and had been through briefing sessions on Fairtrade and the Fair Trade movement. Very impressive indeed.

At this point it was time for me to head back to the office to fit some work in before the Fairtrade ingredients cake bake off. Our Belgian cousins couldn’t resist but turn up for the bake-off taste testing so fortunately we were able to bid farewell to them properly, ensuring their stomachs were lined with our homemade concoctions. The diet starts Monday, I promise.

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!

Red Cafe meets in Matagalpa, Nicaragua by Richard Anstead

Fairtrade Foundation's Head of Product Management Richard Anstead has blogged from Nicaragua where he attended a meeting of Fairtrade certified coffee producers.

In this second week of Fairtrade Fortnight I have been fortunate enough to ‘swap’ a week in the UK for a week in hot and sunny Nicaragua!

Here I am representing the Coffee team in the UK and the Fairtrade Foundation at an annual meeting of the Red Cafe.

The Red Cafe represents Fairtrade Certified Smallholder Coffee Producers from all over Central and Southern America and has been meeting this week to discuss ways of growing sales of Fairtrade coffee and increasing the impact of Fairtrade across its members. We have had two days of meeting in Matagalpa and a further day spent in the field visiting coffee growers.

It has been an inspiring meeting with people attending from Nicaragua, Guatemala, Colombia, Mexico, USA, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, UK and from Kenya!

It has been clear that Fairtrade is having a positive impact amongst these producers and the support and input from everyone at the meeting will help both deepen the impact for existing producers as well as make it more accessible for other producers who want to enter the Fairtrade market.

The strongest message I will take back to the UK though is that Fairtrade’s strength and future is being defined by some of the most inspiring and passionate women and men from across producing countries who want to use every opportunity they can to trade their way out of poverty.

Watch out for another blog at the weekend when I will be sharing news from some of the coffee growers here in Nicaragua.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Strictly Fairtrade Tea Dancing – Cymru Style by James Picken

Fairtrade Foundation's Supporter Marketing Manager James Picken blogs on his time in Cardiff to mark Fairtrade Fortnight 2010: The Big Swap

Day six of my first Fairtrade Fortnight and the marathon takes us to Wales – the self proclaimed ‘first Fairtrade Nation’. The evening before, Wales had lost their Six Nations rugby match against France at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, however the defeat was quickly forgotten and the Welsh spirit rose again with enthusiasm for the Cardiff Strictly Fairtrade Tea Dance.

I rocked up at 8 am and the magnificent Fair Trade Wales team were already in full swing with the set-up. I was immediately set my allocated tasks – balloon blowing up, poster putting up, attaching Fairtrade roses to the stage pylons and stocking all the info stations with materials and freebees. Once this was done the Foundation reps (Cheryl, Nilufar, Heidi and me) were dispatched to the nearby pedestrian precinct to hand out flyers and lure the unsuspecting public to our event with the promise of free chocolate. For some reason flyering is so much easier when free chocolate is involved....

The first dance commenced at about 11 o clock with a local Salsa group. They wooed the shoppers and an enthusiastic audience quickly gathered around the stage, ready for us chocolate-wielding swap registerers to make our move. This was followed by equally popular street dancing, Indian dancing and rounded off with Ballroom dancing. The wide range appealed to all different age groups.

In total we gave out over 3,000 Kit Kats, Dairy Milk bars and Divine sampling chocolates as well as Fairtrade tea bags. All we asked in return was for them to fill out a Big Swap card with their name, email address and products they’re going to swap – a pretty good deal I reckon. Many in the crowd wondered why we were giving out Kit Kats and Dairy Milk bars not knowing that they were Fairtrade certified products, which gave the perfect opportunity to explain what those chocolate bars going Fairtrade meant to the livelihoods of thousands of cocoa farmers – loads more Fairtrade converts hopefully!

When offering ‘a cuppa on us’ as we handed out Fairtrade tea bags, a few of the older generation thought we were offering to make them a cup of tea there and then and asked for milk and sugar. Most weren’t too put out when we explained that they’d have to make their own tea at home and free chocolate and cakes where enough to focus them again.

Towards the end of the event the manager of the local Starbucks came over to chat to us and expressed what an incredible success Fairtrade Fortnight was for them too. “We’ve never had so many people asking for ‘coffee – the Fairtrade one please’. We then had to explain to them that all our coffee is Fairtrade....” she said. Clearly lots of new people being educated and hopefully converted/swapped to Fairtrade.

All in all the event was a great success and we got massive exposure to Welsh consumers. It was also a great opportunity for us as Foundation staff to bond with Fair Trade Wales. Lots of good relationships were forged with the local campaigns team and we are all looking forward to seeing them again soon.

Looking forward to the coffee liqueur tasting evening at the Lancaster hotel on Thursday evening – see you there!