Posted by: sarahwakefield | August 14, 2011

Why Fairtrade was my first love. Part One – How I discovered Fairtrade

One invariable question, no matter how interesting your life at that present moment is, at dinner parties, having coffee or impromptu bumping intos, is “so what are your plans for the coming year?”. For myself and many of my friends this has been a question of dread as, given the current job market, it may not be the next best thing with amazing salary and reputation. Indeed, aiming for an internship with a good reputation and no pay is the main target for many graduates at the moment.

So to offset this question, before I was lucky enough to land myself a job, I talked to some helpful friends who suggested thinking about the broad themes which I would want from my ideal position in the future. For a while, I thought this might involve higher education as, having spent a year and much brain power getting to grips with the new, rather bizarre policies round Universities I felt I had a level of understanding about where Universities could do better.

However, then I thought back to what I really cared about at 15 when I didn’t care

about jobs or status, it was all about doing what I loved, which seemed to be a better starting point than panic about needing employment. At the age of 15 I had been inspired by a student helper in my church youth group to think about what I could do, as a school student in Durham, to have a positive impact on the world around me. After bashing the idea round with my parents and friends I decided that I could promote Fairtrade, so I set up a Fairtrade group in school, wrote to various charities and got lots of free literature and stickers. This group met every Thursday lunch time in Room 12 and learnt about Fairtrade, with this video being a particular hit:

I even caused a stir with one teacher by putting up anti-G8 posters up round school, apparently it was too political (though the print outs of the Millennium Development Goals stayed up).

Eventually our plans turned into a 7 hour live music event in the foyer of the Gala Theatre Durham, we raised about £300 and got in the local press by getting the CEO of Traidcraft and the leader of Durham City Council to speak.

The energy and excitement of the volunteers and the interest of those who came was a fantastic experience and has been mirrored in many events I’ve been part of since, especially with the UMSU Make Trade Fair Society.

Two of the guarantees to the producer make buying and promoting the Fairtrade logo so appealing are:

  1. “The Fairtrade minimum price defines the lowest possible price that a buyer of Fairtrade products must pay the producer. The minimum price is set based on a consultative process with Fairtrade producers and traders and guarantees that producers receive a price which covers the cost of sustainable production. When the market price is higher than the Fairtrade minimum price, the market price is payable.” 1

2. “Money paid on top of the Fairtrade minimum price [the Fairtrade premium] that is invested in social, environmental and economic developmental projects, decided upon democratically by a committee of producers within the organisation or of workers on a plantation.” 2

In my next two blogs I’ll look firstly at what these guarantees really mean and secondly common criticisms which I have encountered, especially at university, with economics students…!

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