Talk to most parents in any developing country and ask them what they want for their kids and you usually get the same answers; a square meal a day, shelter, education, and help when they fall sick.
In most countries these things all cost money; there is no unemployment pay, adequate education or healthcare provision so many children go without these things that we take for granted. To meet their basic needs people need steady work and enough net income to cover these costs. Ethical suppliers ensure their workers receive such a ‘living wage’ and do their utmost to build long term commitments thus creating an ongoing demand. Many help their suppliers improve quality and design and create new products thereby increasing their market potential. Fairtrade also ensures a premium on top of the minimum price to support community development in a way that is decided by that community. This often includes healthcare related items such as clean drinking water supplies, health education, or clinics.
Aid certainly provides essential emergency help and one off improvements but in the long term trade is the best way for poor communities to access the most basic affordable healthcare.
But could it be that in buying ethical and Fairtrade products consumers may also be improving their own health? The UK Government recently announced that they would measure the county’s ‘success’ not just by GDP but by ‘subjective wellbeing’. Whilst there may be some political moving of goalposts taking place here as we cannot hit the net, it is a timely reminder of the old adage that money alone cannot buy happiness. The New Economics Foundation has come up with a five point plan for individual contentment:
• Connect-with family ,friends, and neighbours; taking time to develop relationships
• Be active
• Take notice-be curious about your community and the world around you
• Keep learning
• Give- do something positive for someone else
Increased contentment usually leads to less stress and better health.
So there you have it. Since involvement in Fairtrade and trade justice can tick a lot of the above boxes; If you want to feel better despite VAT increases, unemployment, the recession, etc, etc then buy Fairtrade and join the Fair Traders Co-operative!
The Holme Valley Fairtrade Support Group and the Fair Traders Cooperative are aiming to raise funds to support friends and Fair Traders members in the hurricane-hit Caribbean island of St Vincent.
Banana-growers and their communities in St Vincent, whose homes and livelihoods have been devastated by the recent hurricane, chose to invest a total of almost £1,500 in the Fair Traders Cooperative earlier this year, after one farmer was invited to visit Holmfirth and other UK towns by the Fairtrade Foundation as part of Fairtrade Fortnight. Nioka Abbott has been a banana farmer for over 23 years, and is the secretary of the St Vincent National Fairtrade Committee and chair of her local Fairtrade farmers’ group. It was during her visit to the UK in February of this year that she was introduced to Helen Robinson, a founder director of The Fair Traders Cooperative. A friendship developed which continued by email after Nioka had returned to St Vincent, and having heard about the development of the FTC from Helen, Nioka and her colleagues in the local Fair Trade famers’ organisation made the decision to invest in the shop and become a co-operative member of the FTC. Another local Fair Trade group in St Vincent and some members of the local community also bought shares.
Staff and directors of the Fair Traders Cooperative were both delighted and humbled by such an investment in the shop being made by a producer community based thousands of miles away. “It came as such a lovely surprise,” said Peter Beetlestone, another founder Director of the Fair Traders Cooperative. “We really didn’t expect that the types of groups this shop is designed to support would be providing support to us, but the St Vincent banana farmers’ contribution is a real boost to funds and a wonderful reminder of the co-operative values that underpin what we are trying to do here.” Just months after this investment had been made, however, hurricane Tomas swept through the Caribbean, devastating homes, communities and crops. Thankfully, no-one lost their life to the storm, but thousands of pounds worth of damage has been caused, and it is still unclear whether or not the damaged banana crops – the major source of the community’s livelihood – can be salvaged.
The Holme Valley Fairtrade Support group and the Fair Traders Cooperative want to support the affected communities in St Vincent in rebuilding their lives, and so a number of events have been organised to raise funds. As well as collecting donations at the recent Fair Trade Fashion Show, the Holme Valley Fairtrade Support Group is planning a Tropical Tea Party and The Fair Traders Cooperative will host a music evening during January, so that people in Holmfirth can show their support and donate funds for the people of St Vincent. “The banana farmers and their community are our friends,” said Helen Robinson. “They chose to invest their hard-earned funds in our shop so that we could support the livelihoods of others – we don’t even sell bananas. Now we have an opportunity to return their kindness and hopefully make a real difference to the quality of their lives whilst they recover from the effects of the hurricane.”
In addition to the planned fundraising events, a special ‘Christmas Wishes Tree’ has been put up in the community room at the Fair Traders Cooperative. People are encouraged to make a donation for the communities of St Vincent, write their ‘Christmas wish for the world’ on a star and hang it on the tree. Hopefully, our wishes – and our donations – will make a difference.