No other organisation has done more or gone further in developing fair trade in action than Twin (the NGO behind Divine Chocolate, Cafedirect and Liberation/Harry’s Nuts) which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
Twin is a true pioneer both in terms of constantly developing new and better ways of ensuring smallholder farmers can help themselves achieve sustainability and the potential for growth, and introducing the farmer-owned business model into the UK market which brings added value and benefits well beyond those delivered by Fairtrade certification. Divine Chocolate is delicious proof that a business where the largest shareholder is a producer cooperative, can thrive in one of the world’s most competitive food markets. Twin must take much of the credit for this achievement, and the fact that it has amassed the best and broadest expertise in enabling more equitable and sustainable trade routes for farmers , working in countries all around the southern hemisphere – across Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Twin is the unsung hero of the fair trade movement – for without the progress made on the ground by Twin, and the achievements of the companies they helped create in convincing supermarkets to stock their products, and proving consumers would go out of their way to buy them, the Fairtrade market would not be the size it is today.As the organisation marks 25 years at their AGM in Abergavenny this week, alongside the major conference on Food Sustainability Twin has coordinated with Fair Trade Wales, it is addressing major challenges for the future.
At the AGM they have heard from member farmers from Peru, Mexico, El Salvador, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Ghana and Kerala. In each country farmers face specific challenges but climate change and the worldwide economic crisis are having an impact on all of them.
It is very hard to set up and maintain farmers’ associations, but Twin has excelled at advising and liaising with farmers on organisation development, as well as economic, social and environmental sustainability, and has a large, diverse and committed family of farmer partners as a result. The stark realities of the current world situation regarding food sustainability and security has prompted further exciting innovation to help farmers adapt to the very daunting circumstances in which they find themselves.
Twin may be a relatively small organisation but it is far ahead of the game in knowledge, networks and experience of working with and listening to farmers. The sustainability initiatives recently established by multinationals may have the benefit of excellent funding but they not only lack Twin’s specialist skills, but also the mission to deliver both the new farming methods, empowerment and the resulting financial benefits, directly into the hands of the farmers.
(Note: Twin was established by a visionary team with backgrounds in the Co-operative movement, international development and commodity trading, with the aim of working with producers, particularly smallholders, to help them establish associations, improve the quality of their crops, get access to Fairtrade markets, and gain more influence in their trading relationships)