Go further for Fairtrade

by Malcolm Clark

“Go further.”  That’s what we’re being asked to do for Fairtrade in 2013. For a people who wandered the desert for 40 years and now are very much spread across the globe, fulfilling such an ask should be second nature.  And – this time – distance itself should not be a factor.  There are now over 4,500 Fairtrade products on sale in the UK, a good chunk of them available in a high street or cafe near you, and many others just a mouse click away.  You’ll find the Fairtrade Mark on one in three bananas, 10% of tea and coffee, and some of the most well known chocolate bars.  IMG_2744From flowers to fashion, and wine to wedding rings, an ever-increasing number of products bear the instantly recognisable Fairtrade Mark – the guarantee of fair prices, decent working conditions and an investment in the livelihoods and communities of the 1.24 million farmers and workers behind the products.

Yet “go further” is not just about us making an individual commitment to put one (or an extra) Fairtrade item into our weekly shopping baskets; as good a step as that is.  It’s not even – for supporters and activists like myself – just about whatever educational and creative activities and mad/fun things we can think of to raise awareness of the issues and encourage people to buy and use more Fairtrade products; though again that’s all a very important part of the mix.   It is also about us taking greater collective action – as a school, a workplace, a Synagogue, a borough, a community – both to source more sustainably and to ensure that our voices are heard by those with power as well as those behind the till.

Bananas in the Sukkah (c) Libby Hipkins 2012

Bananas in the Sukkah (c) Libby Hipkins 2012

To really go further, we have to go deeper …. and take a more fundamental look at the global food system.  Small-holder farmers produce 70% of the world’s food but are currently half the world’s hungry people.  Many are trapped in a cycle of poverty, exacerbated by decades of price volatility, under-investment in agriculture, and now global inflationary prices for food and farm inputs and the impact of climate change

The Fairtrade movement has already made a good start in going further: with Fairtrade premiums increasingly used to build mills and processing facilities for farmers to gain a larger share of the profits than by just selling the raw commodities; with greater focus on supporting farmers in previously war-torn countries like Afghanistan, Congo, Sierra Leone and Lebanon; and with more initiatives which are prioritising women’s involvement and empowerment, pioneered by the likes of the Gumutindo coffee co-operative in Uganda.

And now for Fairtrade Fortnight (25 Feb-10 March), the Fairtrade Foundation has launched a new campaign calling on David Cameron to go further and champion a better deal for the world’s smallholder farmers at this year’s G8 meeting.  Adding your name to that petition at http://step.fairtrade.org.uk may seem a small step, but is actually a powerful way to go beyond the current.

The Jewish community has already shown that it wants to go further too – both in its support of Fairtrade, and in actively backing the wider ‘enough food for everyone if’ campaign.  Now this Fairtrade Fortnight Wimbledon, already a Fairtrade Synagogue and using Fairtrade tea, coffee and sugar throughout the year, is showing that it wants to go further.  On Saturday 9 March the sermon will be dedicated to Fairtrade, and there will be a special Fairtrade Kiddush following the service.  On Sunday 10 March, between 10.00am and 12.45pm, there will be a Fairtrade Foodstall at the Heder, with free samples to taste. The PTA will be also serving a range of Fairtrade teas.

You can find out more ways of going further for Fairtrade in the special Jewish Action Guide, available to download online, or by post from JHub, tel: 0207 443 5142.  Also, check out what your local Fairtrade group is doing at www.fairtradelondon.org.uk. And, of course, try your hand at combining Fairtrade (plus locally sourced) ingredients into some tasty recipes. www.fairtrade.org.uk/products/recipes.aspx

Malcolm Clark is co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign http://www.childrensfood.org.uk, and was until recently campaign co-ordinator for Fairtrade London http://www.fairtradelondon.org.uk.  He is a member of Wimbledon Synagogue.

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