25 years of Twin – the NGO that has done more than any other to make Fair Trade a reality


Blackford Banda and Brywell Sikelo weeding groundnuts in Malawi

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. 

Coffee pulping in Haiti

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.

Enrique Arguello, coffee producer, Huatusco, Mexico

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.

Willington Wamayaye, General Manager Gumutindo/Twin Trustee meeting Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, September 2010.

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)


4 Responses to 25 years of Twin – the NGO that has done more than any other to make Fair Trade a reality

  1. […] Twin Trading is not well known in the U.S., but it should be. Since 1985,  it has done more than any  agency to make fair trade real for ordinary farmers around the world. Starting with importing the first fair trade coffee to the UK to creating CafeDirect to helping found Kuapa Kokoo to launching Divine Chocolate, it has been a powerful force in support of fairtrade world wide. Check out this nice tribute on the Divine Chocolate Blog. […]

  2. Becca Rowland says:

    I’d been campaigning for years before finding out much about Twin but the more I do find out the more amazed I am at what they have quietly achieved.

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