Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Garstang celebrated 10 years as the world’s first Fairtrade Town by Bruce Crowther

On Saturday 24th April the people of Garstang, Lancashire celebrated 10 years as the world’s first Fairtrade Town. This small market town with a population of just 5,000 has given rise to a grassroots movement made up of 480 Fairtrade Towns in the UK and a total of over 800 in 19 countries worldwide, including cities such as London, Paris, Rome Copenhagen and San Francisco. Over 100 guests attended what was a truly international celebration with over 50 congratulatory messages from the nearby Fairtrade city of Lancaster to the largest Fairtrade City of London; from Jersey to Japan looking East and Belgium to Brazil looking West.

Unfortunately the volcanic ash cloud filling the UK airspace left some British people stranded abroad and prevented most international well wishers from attending the event. But no volcano could dampen the fiery spirit of Ms. Shoko Akashi who is leading the campaign to make Kumamoto the first Fair Trade Town in not only Japan, but the whole Asian continent. Shoko braved the airport chaos and arrived in Garstang the day before the event. She was to read out messages from the campaign group, Mayor and local authority of Kumamoto and then perform the traditional Japanese dance ‘Sakura Sakura’ about the springtime cherry blossom. But again disaster struck as all her luggage, including ceremonial Kimono was left behind in Helsinki. Nothing would stop Shoko however and by some small miracle a Japanese dance group staying in the same hotel was able to come to the rescue. With a new ‘cherry blossom’ Kimono the dance could go on. International links were also made via webcam with Media, the first Fair Trade Town in the US and Garstang’s community link and Fairtrade cocoa farming village of New Koforidua in Ghana.

Another highlight of the evening was the launch by Ian Agnew of the Lorna Young Foundation of the new directly-traded Mzuzu coffee from Malawi, that will first be sold in Garstang’s One World Shop the Mustard Seed. The Director of the Fairtrade Foundation Harriet Lamb CBE was full of praise for Garstang’s pioneers and delivered a highly motivational and inspiring speech. Former Chair of the Garstang Fairtrade Steering Group Elaine Gisbourne said, “I was deeply moved by Harriet Lamb's address; it will stay with me for a very long time to come”. Following her speech Harriet Lamb cut the Fairtrade chocolate cake made by budding chef and 14 year old Fairtrade supporter Anna Crowther before giving a toast to Fairtrade Towns, using Co-op Fairtrade bubby of course.

Guests were also treated to a 15 minute slide show giving the history of the Garstang Fairtrade Town campaign as well as many stalls and displays from local Fairtrade traders together with Ubuntu Fairtrade cola and the Cooperative Group.

by Bruce Crowther, UK Fairtrade Towns Advisor and founder of Fair Trade Towns.

Monday, 26 April 2010

10th anniversary of Fairtrade Garstang by Harriet Lamb

If you haven’t ever visited Garstang, in Lancashire, I would put it on your to do list now. The countryside is beautiful, the town interesting, the people friendly and the Garstang Blue cheese is worth a visit alone. But for Fairtrade fans, Garstang is a legend and yesterday I joined them to celebrate ten years since they declared themselves the World’s First Fairtrade Town – a  momentus milestone in the Fairtrade movement.

Today that movement spans the globe. There are now an astonishing 802 Fairtrade Towns across 19 countries and it's growing by the day. Arriving with me is Ms. Shoko Akashi who is leading the campaign to make Kumamoto the first Fairtrade Town in Japan (and indeed Asia) and later in the evening we link up live with Media, the first Fairtrade town in the USA and with New Koforidua in Ghana. But first Bruce Crowther, the passionate man behind the movement, takes us on a guided tour of his home town. One thing is for sure: you cannot miss Fairtrade in Garstang.

Strung across the High Street, a banner declares its Fairtrade credentials; there are road signs and history boards and Ghanaian flags flutter outside the town council offices. LBT Motors is the place to get your car fixed – and they have a sign letting you know that they drink Fairtrade tea and coffee. Pipers Restaurant will serve you Fairtrade wine with your gourmet meal. Across the road at the pub, they’ve got Fairtrade coffee too, or you can pop round to the Coffee Pot, picking up all the Divine chocolate money can buy at Market Place News on the way.

We drop into the Co-op and have a chat with Betty, the hard-working store manager who has put her weight behind Fairtrade from day one. There’s certainly an impressive display of Fairtrade goods in store: ‘It’s popular’ she says. ‘Otherwise we couldn’t stock it’. And there’s no doubt that throughout the country, the Co-op have been staunch supporters of the Fairtrade Towns movement.

The genius of that movement is that it gives everyone the tools to get involved, and simple steps to take in their local community. Everyone can talk to their Town Council or school, and everyone can offer Fairtrade whether they are a major employer or the local hairdresser. And so Fairtrade is being taken up by an ever growing group of people who become as it were part-owners of the idea – feeling every bump along the way, struggling to overcome hitches, celebrating all successes. And the growing sales of Fairtrade in Britain is absolutely down to the growing Fairtrade movement now topping 480 Towns, 400 Fairtrade schools, 6000 faith groups and 118 universities.

Certainly Saturday night was a time to celebrate with some Co-op Fairtrade bubbly and with messages of support from nearby Lancaster to London, Jersey to Japan in the East and Belgium to Brazil in the West, not to mention our own Prime Minister who salutes Bruce as one of his Everyday Heros. Bruce always said that what they had done in Garstang only mattered if the idea could spread. And spread it has. Like wildfire across the country. And now the world. And everything is still to play for.

And all this started by one man who is still a working vet, operating on cats in the day while fielding calls from Ghana to Germany out of hours. Really it shouldn’t happen to a Fairtrade Vet.

Thinking of animals:  On 18th April, a horse called Fair Trade won its maiden race at Newbury, ridden by Jimmy Fortune. Now three years old, from the stallion Trade Fair, the horse has a bright future. I don’t want to encourage gambling, but I know for one that I am going to be backing the winning horse, called Fair Trade.

Find out more about Fairtrade Garstang and Fairtrade Towns

The Fairtrade Garstang cake was baked by budding 14 year old chef Anna Crowther.

All photographs © John Sargent of the Haworth Fairtrade Town campaign.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Visiting Rwanda by Harriet Lamb #2

Visiting the Maraba farmers with me was Mark Price, the bubbly boss of Waitrose, nick-named the ‘chubby grocer’. He was impressed, saying: ‘Visiting growers in Rwanda reinforced my view that through Fairtrade there is a more morally just way of sourcing from developing countries. I was struck by the Maraba cooperative’s pride in producing excellent quality coffee – so the Fairtrade premiums can drive a virtuous circle. Fairtrade is now a proven model to raise the most disadvantaged out of poverty and I hope that one day all developing world commodities will be traded in this way’.

It was a similar story when together with the Starbucks team, I visited with the farmers of the Dukunde Kawa cooperative. They told us how they used to sell their coffee to the first middle-men who came round their villages at harvest time until they discovered that they were ‘being robbed’. So they organised themselves and started selling as a group. Then they realised, that if they washed the coffee themselves (the first stage of coffee processing) they could make more money. Today, many years later, they have a major washing station, have invested in schools and health clinics and bought wonderful special bikes with a long carrying section at the back on which farmers carry the huge bags of beans sometimes miles from their hilly farms to the collection points.

We asked the women farmers about their dreams for the future. One woman was hoping for a cow, to give milk to her children and so she could sell the rest. Another woman suggested that Starbucks launch a Woman’s Coffee. As she said, women do all the work on the coffee but get none of the rewards. The Starbucks team clocked the idea. So who knows? We may be able to enjoy that too one day. Certainly, there’s no shortage of ideas for future developments in Rwanda. As even the President of Rwanda, His Excellency Paul Kagame, said: ‘Fairtrade offers new opportunities for small-scale producers in Rwanda, and we have made great achievements in this respect, especially in the coffee industry. As a country where most people depend on agriculture, we must figure out how to move faster in this direction, in order to positively impact the economic well-bring of rural communities.’

Visiting Rwanda by Harriet Lamb

At the Foundation, still full from all the Fairtrade Easter eggs we’ve enjoyed, news is still pouring in from companies and campaigners about the biggest and best ever Fairtrade Fortnight. Our producer partners who went up and down the country talking about Fairtrade were blown away – they couldn’t believe what ordinary people are doing to raise awareness and sales of Fairtrade. And what a nation of swap-a-holics... Not just a million and one swaps to Fairtrade were made but a whopping 1,062,220!

Among the companies, the Top of the Swaps included Traidcraft and Starbucks who swapped mountains of free brownies made with Fairtrade chocolate to go with their Fairtrade coffees. I popped into a local store and was so excited to see the lovely new single-origin Fairtrade coffee from Rwanda, launched during Fairtrade Fortnight. I bought a bag of the heavenly scented beans to enjoy at home. It brings back so many memories of when I visited the farmers in Rwanda last year – once with Starbucks and first with the dedicated quality coffee company, Union Hand Roasted.

Before going, I watched the film ‘Hotel Rwanda’. My daughter kept checking: was I crying? Or hiding my eyes from the horrors of man’s inhumanity to man during the 1994 genocide, the anniversary of which was marked last week? Instead, she was amazed that I had a stupid soppy little smile on my face. No-one watching that film can fail to be humbled and inspired by its true story of how hotel manager, Paul Rusesabagina, saves over 1,000 refugees from the murdering mobs, showing endless ingenuity and a deep well of common humanity. That really is having the courage of your convictions.

Today, in that small country, with its lush rolling hills and rich red earth, it is equally hard not be to humbled and inspired by how its people – from senior civil servants to coffee farmers – are now pulling together with remarkable focus and ingenuity, to tackle the poverty that blights lives and feeds so many conflicts, to regenerate their economy and rebuild society.

I visited Maraba village, a bustling market, busy bank and a choice of hairdressing ‘Salons’ are all lively testimony to the economic revival stimulated by the villagers’ coffee cooperative. Ten years ago, this village was recorded as among the country’s poorest with people literally dying of hunger; their coffee was sold as the aptly named ‘cafĂ© ordinaire’, fetching less than ordinary prices. Today, the Maraba villagers are commanding handsome premiums for their speciality coffee which has won prizes for the best coffee in Africa. Ten years ago, Angelique’s family sold raw coffee berries to passing middlemen; today, in a white coat, she is the first generation of cuppers in the cooperative’s own cupping laboratory, constantly testing their coffee’s quality, feeding back to the farmers, improving constantly. Today, they even roast and sell their own coffee locally in Rwanda, and export to, among others, Union Hand Roasted who sell Rwanda Maraba Fairtrade coffee in our UK shops shelves. The farmers are rightly full of pride for all they have achieved, excited showing their visitors everything from the Californian worms they have put to work on their compost in an experiment to the little kinder garden they have built for the community... With such farmers, Fairtrade is building an architecture of hope.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Promoting Fairtrade on my bike - Hannah Harris in Moshi

Trying to keep pace with the Masaai just wasn’t working so I have purchased a bike. I like to think this is the Fairtrade green, however, in Moshi the colour is better known to represent the mobile company Zantel. Everyone has therefore suggested I get a Zantel t-shirt and start doing marketing for them. I'm not so sure, please send me a Fairtrade t-shirt instead!

However, the bike might not get much use for a while since the rains have now started and when I say rain, I mean it REALLY rains. Bucket loads. I bought some wellington boots from the Farmers Association, so when I am not promoting Zantel, I look like a farmer. The rains are definitely a good thing for farmers, travelling on the roads out of town you can see everyone busily planting.

The visit to the KNCU Fairtrade coffee tourism tour a few weeks ago was enlightening. A real diversification project in action. KNCU has 67 primary societies in total. 7 of which have a tourism project. I visited a village up the slopes of the mountain called Uru Msuni. 3 primary societies benefit from this particular project which started in 2005. They have a campsite, a restaurant, a coffee tour as well as other guided walks. 70% of the income from the tourism project goes directly to a community development fund which is farmer owned. The rest is used to run the tourism office at KNCU level.

It is well advertised in Moshi, you can’t miss it and as a result lots of tourists do visit. Something I found very encouraging is that according to our guide, all the tourists ask about Fairtrade and want to know why they can’t buy Fairtrade KNCU coffee here in Moshi. The guides also wanted us to help them understand more about Fairtrade so that they could advise tourists better. The AFN is aiming to work on value addition so that coffee and other products can indeed be labelled in Africa, bringing even more benefits to farmers.