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Fairtrade Supporters Conference 2013

The Fairtrade Supporters Conference, held in London at the weekend, was a wake up call. With inspirational words from James Mwai from Fairtrade Africa and Renwick Rose from WINFA, we were left in no doubt that we are being challenged to stand taller, shout louder, and be stronger.

 

Fairtrade is one of the ways that can, and does, change the world. Fairtrade is the only ethical labelling organisation that is co-owned and co-directed by farmers. Fairtrade guarantees a fair deal for producers. Its primary purpose is to increase and improve producer impact, and currently reaches 1.3 million farmers and workers.

 

Renwick Rose warned supporters that “Success can lead to complacency. We have to keep going, be brave, and take on wider battles. We have to remember that the bulk of trade is still unfair.”

 

And he is right. Fairtrade currently touches only 1% of trade globally. Half of the world’s hungry are farmers. This is not good enough. It really is time to wake up and smell the coffee. To get angry. To get animated. To take action.

 

Listening to Renwick made it clear: We need to widen our field of activities and fight the injustice in international trade. Fundamental to improving livelihoods is unlocking the power involved in trade negotiations; allowing farmers to sign contracts, manage funds, be involved in the decision making process. This is HUGE. It needs to be implemented and it needs to be sustained.

 

At least 30%-40% of produce needs to be traded on Fairtrade terms to secure livelihoods. Companies have to develop long term relationships. We need to break through corporate psyche, and do more to push the boundaries to enable Fairtrade to continue to be part of the solution. Mike Gidney, the CEO of The Fairtrade Foundation, stressed the need to alter the balance of power; “There are 25 million coffee farmers, yet 4 traders control 40% of the coffee trade; selling to millions of consumers. We need to innovate to drive producer impact; it is time to get edgy.”

 

Fairtrade Africa currently works with over 700,000 producers in 300 member organisations. All of whom are challenged and inspired to access the global market with Fairtrade produce. These farmers need reciprocal energy and demand for goods from consumers; from Fairtrade supporters in the UK.

 

Fairtrade changes lives. Fairtrade premiums build schools and give access to education for girls; transforming communities. Fairtrade premiums allow training in decision making to allow democratic debates; transforming communities. The implications of these little steps of change are profound.

 

James Mwai made it clear:  “We need to increase volume for these farmers. We need to improve market access. We must rise to the challenge. Together we can make this what it needs to become. Great Fairtrade.”

 

As Fairtrade Fortnight 2014 approaches, the actions we need to take to continue to support the campaign will be clear. Get ready to Stick with Foncho.

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