Going further than Fairtrade

15 February 2010

Flying into a country you’ve never been to before in the evening is a bit disconcerting.  In the darkness there is no real idea of the surroundings – you get from airport to hotel having seen flashing glimpses of people, stalls, traffic – but no sense of the terrain covered or where you are. 

through the window of the water taxi

Through the window of the water taxi

Arriving in Sierra Leone is particularly disorienting. The airport is divided from Freetown by the ‘world’s biggest natural harbour’ and the options for getting across are water taxi, hovercraft or helicopter.  Having been warned against the helicopter (there have been some recent deaths) I made for the water taxi – and was transported down a rough track in total darkness to the shore, where you are asked to don large life jackets – and then onto the boat – rather like one of the smaller pleasure boats that takes tourists along the Thames. And off you go – in total darkness – bouncing along for half an hour – and realising you’re lucky the weather is good today.

Next morning in the light one gathers a whole new set of first impressions. I’m in Sierra Leone to meet an association of cocoa farmers – Kpeya Agricultural Enterprise (KAE) – first established in 1996 – during the civil war that devastated the country for 10 years.  Working with Twin (the NGO behind Divine, Cafedirect and Liberation Nuts), and other NGOs, KAE aimed to create a cooperative of farmers, collectively managing their own business and exporting their own cocoa. This is possible in Sierra Leone as the economy is entirely liberalised (unlike Ghana) – but KAE is up against many competitor traders – most of whom do not have the farmers’ best interests at heart – so a big challenge to compete successfully and make it work.

Twin’s man in West Africa, Seth Gogoe and I set off early in the morning for Kenema – about 4-5 hours east of Freetown. The most striking thing about the journey – once we escape the gridlock in Freetown – is the excellent new roads – recently laid by Chinese contractors.  With little traffic and a beautiful clear day – it’s a pleasure to just stare out of the window and take in the scenery – lush tropical greenery and small roadside towns and villages.  I’m travelling to meet the team that runs KAE and some of the farmer members – and find out more about the challenges they face.

It’s a special trip for Divine.  Kuapa Kokoo – the cooperative in Ghana that owns 45% of Divine – has been sharing its experience and skills with KAE to help them develop their structure and processes, and also, importantly to show them how to improve significantly the quality of their cocoa.  As a result KAE has been Fairtrade certified, and Kuapa Kokoo gave Divine the go ahead to buy KAE’s first containers of Fairtrade cocoa.

The story of KAE is important for a number of reasons.  It is yet another demonstration of how an ownership model of fairer trade allows more benefits for more farmers. Because Kuapa has other income streams from Divine (2% turnover for producer support and development, + 45% of distributible profits) they are in a position to help other farmers get established and sell their first Fairtrade cocoa to Divine. It is also a salutory reminder that creating a working collective of farmers – in incredibly challenging conditions – takes a long time, and the absolute dedication and commitment of the farmers making it happen. It is the work of organisations like Twin, and the farmer-owned companies Twin has helped set up, on the ground in countries where farmers have historically been expoited and marginilised, that is at the heart of developing a fairer trade system. It is these pioneers who are demonstrating that trade systems can be fairer still – and continuing to challenge all those businesses who shirk from properly sharing their wealth with those who are fundamental to creating it.

My next blog will be about meeting KAE and its inspirational manager….

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London plans for Fairtrade Fortnight

14 January 2010

posted by Sophi

Despite the inclement weather, people from all across London met last night in City Hall to share their plans for Fairtrade Fortnight 2010, themed The Big Swap. Lots of lovely resources, posters , leaflets and cute stickers are available from the Fairtrade Foundation . The focus this year is on trying to get the big tea companies to swap to Fairtrade . Traidcraft has got together with the Women’s Institute to create a natty campaign pack called ‘The Big Brew’

Everything stops for Fairtrade tea - and Sam Stern's Divine chocolate fridge cake!

Cafédirect and Divine both have sampling packs you can request if you want to run your own event, and delicious recipes you can download, for the perfect Fairtrade tea party. 

A wonderful range of events are being organised, from Mad Hatter’s Tea parties to Strictly Fairtrade Dances, events in shops, libraries, cafes and churches , and an impressive range of events for children, schools and teachers, something for everyone. We also had a session on our fabulous new website so that everyone can now confidently blog about what is going on in their area.

If you want to know more about what is happening in your borough , or you want to set up an event go to www.fairtradelondon.org.uk


Fairtrade anniversary tea at 10 Downing Street

15 October 2009
Sophi Tranchell with Brad Hill of The Co-operative taking tea at Downing Street

Sophi Tranchell with Brad Hill of The Co-operative taking tea at Downing Street

Posted by Sophi:

What a delightful way to start the week! Tea in Downing Street to celebrate 15 years of the Fairtrade Mark.  A wonderful collection of everyday heroes who have made Fairtrade what it is today.  From Justino Peck from the Toledo Cocoa Growers in Belize, whose story has inspired consumers like Bruce Crowther who made Garstang the first Fairtrade town in the world, spawning a social movement across the western world.  There were three 15-year-old campaigners and people from Fairtrade Towns and Cities across UK, and of course Harriet Lamb, the head of the Foundation and lots of her lovely team. 

Sarah Brown hosted the event and announced that 10 Downing Street was now officially Fairtrade, a commitment that meant that when they host international dignitaries for events like G20  they will be introduced to the best of Fairtrade. In her speech she acknowledged role of Fairtrade companies like Divine and Cafédirect and described the impact on millions of smallscale farmers across the world.

There was tea, coffee, sandwiches, fruit skewers and a magnificent chocolate cake, but it was the selection of people that really made the event, a roll call for Fairtrade.  Representatives from founders’ organisations like Paul from Christian Aid which has a network of committed and active supporters, Deborah from the WDM which has continued to expose the causes of global poverty, Paul from Traidcraft whose network of Fairtraders continue to sell Fairtrade goods tirelessly through rain and snow, Kevin from CAFOD, Tammy for the Women Institute.  Louise from Comic Relief which has brought pzazz, celebrity endorsement and money to the party, Brad Hill who helped us get that first Co-op Divine bar on the shelf in 2000 and was part of Co-op brave move to be the first retailer in Britain to convert a whole category to Fairtrade; Chocolate in 2002, followed by coffee in 2003.  DFID who supported the establishment of Divine with a loan guarantee and have continued in their unstinting support Fairtrade though out the last ten years.  Harry Hill was strutting his stuff, he visited Ghana early on to promote Fairtrade banana, and has now leant his name to Liberation the Fairtrade Nut Company you can try Harry Nuts in Sainsburys

An finally the Innovators who were creative enough to think of a different way of doing business and were brave enough to take the leap; Martin Metyard from the Co-op, Andy Good from Equal Exchange, a fair trade workers co-op whose latest products include Palestinian olive oil available through Sainsbury, and Robin Murray from Twin which founded Cafédirect, Divine and more recently Liberation.

With a capacity of 50 you are never going to include everyone but congratulations to Sarah Brown and the Foundation for a impressive turnout and Happy 15th  Birthday!


Good night at the WEBA Awards

26 June 2009

Attended Triodos Women in Ethical Business Awards – 4th Year – in St Lukes on Old Street.  Wonderful collection of dynamic women running inspiring businesses doing an extraordinary range of things.  Fantastic canapés from Passion Organic (Maria Clancy). Impressive goodie bag.  Welcoming hospitality from all lovely people from Triodos pioneering bank.

Anne MacCaig of Cafedirect won Best Ethical Business, and made a lovely speech thanking the 250,000 farmers, and 38 staff, without which she wouldn’t be there accepting the award.  Heather Gardner of Zaytoun– Palestinian Olive Oil – won the award voted for by Times Readers (both Fairtrade).  We talked to Juliet Davenport from Good Energy – the first winner of the award – they are going from strength to strength.    Also talked Jamie from Ethical Property Company and Kate Welch from Acumen in NE, +  Jenny Silverthorne-Wright from Plush. Sam and her partner from Ethics Girls were there too.

Susi Lennox and her partner won one of the awards they are from Yes – pure intimacy (organic intimate lubricants) they were extraordinary!

The Times Sponsored the awards.  Parminder Bahra gave the readers award he is the Poverty and Development Correspondent.  Lovely man who feels he has a big opportunity and responsibility to make the job work.

Divine being given out at the end, lots of people came up to Dulcie and I to say haw much they loved the chocolate.

Another inspiring evening – hope for the future.

Posted by Sophi