Just a year ago, we never imagined that The Fair Traders Cooperative would be chosen as a GLOBAL ADVOCATE – from dozens of applicants in Yorkshire.
Why 2012? To help to kick-start the campaign to get Yorkshire designated as the world’s first Fairtrade Region
What is the Award? To recognize a small number of individuals or groups based in, or with strong links to Yorkshire. Each award winner must be making a significant contribution towards making the world a fairer place.
In our submission, we wrote:
“Just imagine five hundred ordinary people, like you and me. Making a real difference to the lives of children and communities all around the world – and a difference to our lives too.
This is what happened when five hundred people, (many from Yorkshire, but some from far away places) were inspired to form a community co-operative. Launched in June 2010, The Fair Traders Cooperative (www.thefairtraderscooperative.co.uk) was made possible by each member buying at least one £20 share. Each and every person wanted to try and do their bit to make the world a fairer place – through promoting Fair trade and buying truly ethical goods.
We sought small producers, especially co-operatives – from Afghanistan, Bolivia, Colombia, Nepal and many other countries – whose lives we could support, by partnering with them, and selling their goods. We also have some local products that have a positive impact on our own community.
Buying products like these means that children around the world get a better deal.
• Drinking Grumpy Mule Guatemala Pocola coffee means children now attend school – with money supporting teachers, buildings and resources. And the coffee is grown in a way that protects the local environment.
• Each product has its own amazing story.
• Each product and supplier is assessed by the members and star rated (5 is best!) – to make sure it has a positive social and economic impact, is environmentally sound, and is produced in a transparent way.
Many members give their time as volunteers – working in the shop, helping with the website, assessing the products, taking assemblies in schools, etc
We, The Fair Traders Cooperative –
• Run campaigns, like the Rice Challenge– for every 90 kg of Kilombero rice sold, the child of a Malawian farmer can go to High School for a year.
• Hold events – learning from Fairtrade producers, promoting Fairtrade fashion, holding Eco-friendly art exhibitions
• Sell goods online and in the Holmfirth shop – for the home and the garden – clothes, toys, food and drink, gifts, stationery…and lots more.
• Share ideas and skills – online and through sessions at the shop
You can -
• Get your school or college or Youth Group to join, as a Corporate member
• Share ideas and learn more from our website and blogs
• Buy goods that you know are making peoples’ lives better, caring for the environment and helping communities grow
• Start your own ‘Young Co-operative’ to make and sell Fairtrade products”
Our submission took the eye of the judges, and as a reward, Mark Lewis (Chief Officer) and Kathryn Sheard (volunteer) were grilled by Hannah Dalyrmple from Leeds DEC! We soon felt we were in with a chance,
The DEC focused on two areas –
• Our work with schools and education partners, especially the opportunities for Young Cooperatives to work with us – to develop and sell Fair trade goods.
• The Just Trading Rice Challenge we ran in 2011. For every 90 kg of rice a farmer in Malawi sells, he can send a son/daughter to High school for a year. We found the image of 90 kg of rice on one side of the scales catapulting a young person to school in Malawi really inspired people! We sold over 400kg of rice.
GLOBAL ADVOCATE AWARD WINNERS:
• Bankside Primary School
• Hilary Benn
• Joseph Ndanema
• Liam Spencer
• Lindley Infant School (Kirklees)
• Nahid Rasool
• Not Just Us Youth Enterprise
• St Mary’s Menston
• The Fair Traders Cooperative (Kirklees)
We are delighted to have been chosen as one of only nine winners of the Yorkshire Global Advocate Award. So, thank you – to each and every one of the 540 members of The Fair Traders Cooperative for making this possible.
Leeds DEC has produced a ‘Global Advocate Exhibition Pack’ priced £14.99. This includes a DVD featuring the Award winners, case studies and classroom activities.
For further information contact:
Hannah Dalrymple, Leeds Development Education Centre Hannah@leedsdec.org.uk
A Thandi wine tasting evening on Monday, 27 February in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, was a sell-out and a great success. It was held in the stone-arched caverns of The Fair Traders Cooperative. Vernon Henn, Managing Director of South African Thandi wines, led the wine tasting, and talked with great passion about the development of this first agricultural Black Empowerment Project.
In 2003 Thandi became the first ever Fairtrade certified wine brand in the world!
Established in 1995, with the help of the Paul Cluver family, the farmers battled to cultivate the land that was then covered in blue gum and pine trees. Vernon’s story charted the progress of the 250 producer families – from the euphoria and high levels of expectation surrounding the release of Nelson Mandela – to a gradual realisation of the slow rate of change within South Africa. The farms are unusual, in that the farm worker families own 55% of the wine company, and between 55% and 100% of the three farm vineyards.
When you buy this wine, the Fairtrade Premium is used to raise the living standards of the farming community, and to develop educational facilities for both the farm workers and their children. Many have never had the opportunity to attend school. The money from the Fairtrade Premium has also been used to fund the building of a medical facility and nurse training, and to improve transport for children and the elderly.
With vineyards at Stellenbosch, Elgin and Botrivier, the current production is 600 tons. The sun looks to always shine in stunningly beautiful countryside, and in fact, one of the challenges is to protect the grapes from the most intense heat.
The reality for many South Africans is that they have no access to participate in the formal economy. Thandi has bucked the trend and created a sustainable model based on partnership and mentoring.
The Fair Traders Cooperative is now stocking online and in its Holmfirth shop – a range of Thandi wines – so you can both enjoy the fantastic wine and also know that you are contributing to the well-being and future success of the South African farmers and their families.
TAKE A STEP with a Thandi Fairtrade wine. Enjoy the fantastic wine and also know that you are contributing to the lives of the South African farmers and their families.
As Lebanon becomes the 64th producer country on the Fairtrade map, the Fairtrade mark gives much needed export opportunties to a grape owners cooperative with 250 members.
Let us know if you would like to see Fairtrade Lebanon products at The Fair Traders Cooperative.
We have joined Linda McAvan’s (MEP and founder and Chair of the European Parliament Fair Trade Group) Fairtrade Fortnight campaign to highlight consumer products which carry the Fairtrade mark but perhaps do not immediately come to mind when asked to name a Fairtrade product. Fairtrade Gold was awarded the accreditation just over a year ago, and here we catch up on ’Fairtrade Gold – 1 year on’.
During Fairtrade Fortnight (27th Feb – 11th March 2012 ) the theme of which this year is Take A Step, The Fairtraders Cooperative will be rounding up all the best blogs and news stories and bringing them to you via our WordPress blog.
The first is a big thumbs up for George Adam, Scottish MP, who led a Fairtrade debate in the Scottish parliament
As part of The Fair Traders Co-operative’s build up for Fairtrade Fortnight this year, we are promoting sales of Fairtrade footballs from Pakistan. We want to get as many people as possible talking about Fairtrade Fortnight, and so we are encouraging sales of our Fairtrade Fun Footballs (£7.50, or £6.00 to FTC members) so that people can take part in our Fairtrade Keepy Uppy Challenge – how long can you keep up the Fairtrade
We’ve chosen this particular promotion because the theme for Fairtrade Fortnight this year is ‘take a step for Fairtrade’, so encouraging people to step up to a Fairtrade football challenge seems a fitting campaign. It also gives us an opportunity to highlight the positive difference that buying a Fairtrade football makes to the people involved in producing the balls – from those harvesting the rubber, to those hand stitching the footballs. Our supplier, Fair Corp, has written up for their website some of the stories of the people who make our Fairtrade footballs, and we have reproduced these below. These stories show how much better workers’ lives are as a result of working for Fairtrade, rather than the traditional sports ball trade. The Fair Traders Co-operative’s Education Group of volunteers has adapted these stories into a format appropriate for schools to use as a teaching resource – please get in touch for more information. Find out more about how you can get involved in The Fair Traders Co-operative’s Fairtrade Keepy Uppy Challenge here.
The Khan Family – a New Addition to a Fairtrade Family
Outside Sialkot, Pakistan, there is a small village called Gaper where a large Banyan tree provides welcome shade from the sweltering heat. The lush, paddy fields surrounding the village are home to numerous tropical birds and water buffalo, which wallow in the mud pools. Gaper is a very poor village; the road is extremely rutted and the few buildings are single-story brick dwellings that house large families. We met the Khan family who had just been joined by a new arrival of a healthy baby boy a few days before. His Mother, Mushulcut, is holding her new baby who was delivered at a good hospital in Sialkot where she stayed 24 hours after giving birth. The hospital fees and all necessary health care were paid entirely by the Fairtrade welfare scheme, “I am very thankful that the hospital was paid for,” she said, “without this we would be in debt. My last baby was also delivered with the help of the welfare scheme, she was a girl. Now we have a boy we have called him ‘Morcadus’ which means ‘The Holy’.” Mushulcut’s husband, Selferaz, was also keen to explain how helpful the Fairtrade scheme has been, “we are a Fair Trade family,” he smiles.
Rezwan Waris – Micro-credits for Maximum Ethics
When Rezwan does his ironing he overlooks the busy side street outside in Pasrur, a historic town close to Sialkot, Pakistan. “Daoud Ahmed’s Laundry Shop” announces a beautifully drawn sign on the shop window. Next to Rezwan, white, light blue, grey and beige kurtas and pyjamas, the long shirts and wide cotton trousers men in Pakistan traditionally wear, are neatly folded and stacked high on the shelf. His brother Mohammad is a football stitcher at Talon, which made 23-year old Rezwan eligible to receive a RS 30,000 loan from the Talon Fair Trade Workers Welfare Society to set up his laundry business. The most expensive investment was the large washing machine and spin drier, which his mother, Shadah, operates at home just a few minutes walk away from the shop. Six suits or twelve pieces of laundry can go through the 15 minute washing cycle at a time and are then dried on the roof of the house. Since Daoud Ahmed’s Laundry opened in December 2006, business has been going well. Depending on the fabric type Rezwan charges between RS 25 and RS 30 for washing and ironing a set of kurta / pyjamas – and the average male in Pasrur gets through three to four sets per week. After paying the rent and other expenses like detergents, Rezwan earns between RS 200 and RS 250 per day, which equals a Fair Trade football stitching wage and provides a reliable, continuous income for himself and support for his parents and siblings.
Sameena Nyaz – Decent Healthcare through Ethical Projects
Sameena Nyaz is 18 years old, single, and lives in a village called Chagelen near Sialkot, the world capital of football production in Pakistan. Her father runs the snack shop in the football stitching centre 200 meters away, which was built by Talon Sports, the first Fairtrade football supplier. Sameena goes there to stitch footballs and it is due to Fairtrade that this local centre is available. Most football stitching used to be done in the home but this was phased out by the big companies in an attempt to eradicate child labour. This had a hugely negative impact on families as companies moved the work into big factory units in order to prevent child labour but they effectively locked out women who could not afford to be away from home for the whole day. After home-based stitching stopped, the local stitching centre was one of the first where women could continue such work. Sameena is one of eleven siblings; she has seven sisters and four brothers, two of the older siblings also stitch balls. Stitching wages are low, only Fairtrade buyers pay enough to enable the three children to provide their family with all the basic necessities. Sameena never had the chance to attend school; instead she has been contributing to the family income from an early age, and has now been stitching for over three years. The family has a small hut and a kitchen garden, in which everyone helps out contributing to their everyday lifestyle. Not long before this photo was taken Sameena had to have a thyroid operation – the bandage on her neck is still there. All costs were paid for by the Fair Trade Welfare Society – the health care scheme made possible by the Fairtrade premium that is paid on every Fairtrade ball that is made.
Kitman – Fair Trade Projects Provide Safe Water for Local Community
Kitman, who is 67 years old, is still working full-time as a rubber tapper on the Frocester Plantation in Sri Lanka. By local standards, Kitman is a successful man; all of his seven sons have found work in the capital Colombo, which is two hours away by bus. The eldest is in charge of a small business, two have become tailors, two work as drivers and two are employed as shop assistants. One of his daughters is a teacher and the other works as a rubber tapper on the same plantation as her father. Kitman has managed to improve the basic accommodation provided by the plantation with the family’s combined savings, to the extent that the basic structure of what once was called battery housing is hardly noticeable. The house at present is occupied by nine people; Kitman and his wife, three of his daughters-in-law and two grandchildren, as well as his daughters. Previously, the house had one major drawback – there was no running water. This has to be fetched from an open well, 100 yards across the village road. According to the medical officer of the plantation, many people in the area suffer from dysentery and other water-borne diseases as a result from the lack of a safe water supply. This is where Fair Corp’s new Fairtrade rubber project came in. In an agreement with the plantation owners, Fair Corp’s sourcing partner ordered rubber for its ETHLETIC products and paid a Fairtrade premium of 0.50 EUR per KG of rubber. Subsequently, the management and the workers established a Fair Trade Welfare Society and jointly decided how this money should be spent. One project on which the money was spent was the installation of a pump and a piping system, so that 20 households around the well will each get a tap in front of their homes, including Kitman’s household. The other major Fairtrade project agreed was the restoration of a common room for the workers, a canteen area and a unit with sanitary toilets. A place where workers, mostly women, can change into their working clothes and keep food safely was also agreed. All of these projects were paid for by Fairtrade premiums; hopefully there will be many more to come that will improve the living and working conditions of workers, their families and the community.
Shymala – Fairtrade Funding for Higher Education
Shymala works in the latex factory of New Ambadi rubber estate. She is a trade union leader, not just representing the workers of the plantation, but also the rubber workers in the whole district. Additionally, Shymala is a member of the joint body which started when Fair Corp’s sourcing partners began buying rubber under Fairtrade conditions. Fair Corp’s sourcing partners are the only company in the world who pay a Fairtrade premium for latex, this is then processed into components for footballs and other sports balls in Pakistan providing an ethical way of supporting local communities. The joint body has regular meetings and keeps a minute book recording all relevant information. After many discussions, the joint body decided to save the Fairtrade premiums and start a fund to pay for higher education for the children of the plantation workers. Even though in principle education in India is free, sadly, only children who can afford to go to private schools have a chance of getting a decent job after their education. The joint body has told Fair Corp’s sourcing partners that it needs to buy at least ninety tons of rubber in order to feed the fund with enough money to start paying out stipends. Shymala hopes that her granddaughter will be one of the first to benefit from this scheme. She hopes she will train as a nurse, therefore giving something back to the local community. The three year course costs approximately £2750 in fees, which she could never afford out of her salary. The second benefit of Fair Corp buying rubber is that it has paid for New Ambadis registration with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) scheme for responsible forest management, helping to make rubber production more sustainable.
Take a step for fairtrade during Fairtrade Fortnight and beyond. Buy a fairtrade football here.
Earlier this year The Fair Traders Co-operative launched a Fair Trade Christmas Cake Kit which contained the key ingredients to make half a dozen Fair Trade Christmas cakes. As we all tuck in to a generous slice of the traditional cake over the festive period, it is worth reminding ourselves of the provenance of its key ingredients, because, as with all our products, each ingredient tell its own story. For example, our Christmas cake is helping Afghan grape farmers and their families rebuild their lives after more than 20 years of fighting.
Where the free market has failed these raisin farmers, our amazing suppliers, Tropical Wholefoods, have been working for over five years, against the odds, in a war zone, to develop the first Fair Trade product to come out of Afghanistan.
The Shomali Plain, Parwan province is known as Kabul’s Garden and is ideal for the cultivation of grapes, earning the farmers there a reputation in the 1960s and 70s for producing and exporting some of the best raisins in the world. However, during the Soviet era, civil war and Taliban regime, there was heavy fighting in the region. The low-lying grape vines provided perfect cover for fighters and therefore many of them were destroyed and the entire area was heavily mined.
Firstly ,Tropical Wholefoods helped the grape farmers form the Parwan Raisin Producer Cooperative, which has, in turn, helped them get better prices for equipment, seedlings, and materials.
Next, they provided training and equipment to help them resume production. This included grafting and pruning techniques, provision of trellis poles, and drying mats to keep them clean.
They linked the farmers with a raisin processor who could wash and clean the product for export.
Then, they worked with the farmers to improve their yield by over 100% and improve the quality by reducing waste and mould damage.
Lastly, the farmers are paid on time and at a Fair Trade price that is 30% over the current market price; and they are guaranteed a reliable customer year after year, provided we all buy these Fair Trade raisins. The first shipment of 40 tonnes was made last year.
Other ingredients from Tropical Wholefoods in our special Christmas Cake Kit include Fair Trade dried mangoes from a 2800 strong co-operative in Burkinho Faso. Drying mangoes provides local women with valuable paid income during the 5 month mango season from April through to August, enabling them to eat well, get their children educated and to buy medicine when needed.
There are also Fair Trade solar dried apricots from northern Pakistan. Drying prevents gluts, and the Fair Trade premium has provided materials and books to schools, irrigation upgrades, a new playground, water tanks, a generator, sewing machines, and school fees for the poorest students.
Our Fair Trade cinnamon is organically cultivated and comes from smallholder farmers in Sri Lanka. The fair trade premium has provided these poor rural communities with drinking water, education facilities, and agricultural tools.
Macadamia nuts are sourced from the NESMAC co-operative in the Ntchisi region of Malawi. A fair price and secure demand provide a vital lifeline for poor smallholder farmers in a community badly affected by climate change and AIDS.
Finally, the all important Christmas spirit! The sugar cane from which our rum is distilled is grown organically around Arroyos y Esteros, 60 miles north of Asuncion the capital of Paraguay helping the low paid sugarcane farmers, of whom there are about 1,000 in the area. The cane is milled and distilled locally further benefiting the economy. Their co-operative gives them strength to negotiate with large companies and market their products. Energy intensive milling and distilling is all powered by hydro electricity. The Rum is transported down river by barge to Buenos Aires; it is then shipped by sea to the UK for completion in a small London based distillery. The glass used for our bottles has a 70% recycled glass content. Organic cultivation avoids the health risks of pesticides and organic varieties of sugar are said to have a cell structure and biological make up that is excellent for making super smooth rums-so enjoy the rest of the bottle!
So there it is, a cake with a story, which we hope you will share with your friends, family, neighbours and colleagues over the festive season in the knowledge that you will be helping make a real difference to our supplier communities.
The current economic crisis has led a growing number of people to question the suitability of the capitalist system and even our Western democracy to cope with the big issues that confront us today: youth unemployment, climate change and the lack of sustainable new technologies to re-start economic growth. Many of us have already been affected by the accompanying social unrest, reduction in disposable incomes, stress and lifestyle issues, and changes to the environment.
Public services and charitable funding are being cut, and despite the lessons from the banking sector, more and more of us find ourselves dependent on a few dominant, profit driven, global companies for many of the essential things we need such as food, energy, and communications. They offer us choice (as long as we go to their ‘shop’) and often low prices. Often bigger and more powerful than governments, they distort the market in their favour by promising our political representatives jobs and investment, using offshore tax havens, stifling new competition, and more. What government facing re-election in three or four years can risk raising the energy, health, transport, or environmental taxes to the sustainable level that some of these companies should pay to reflect their negative long term impacts on society – both here and in the developing nations? The net result is they continue to grow and, directly or indirectly, crush or buy off anyone who threatens their oligopoly.
Any observer of history can see that this discounting of real costs and risks in the pursuit of endless growth is unsustainable – as proved the case with the banks. The longer it continues, the more painful the inevitable adjustment will be. A co-operative economy offers a genuine proven alternative. In 1844, similar exploitation was going on in the then dominant UK textile industry. Factory workers were often paid in ‘truck money’ – money issued by the mill owner, which could only be spent in his own shops where prices were as high as they could get away with (some might say a bit like loyalty points awarded by some retailers today). In response some consumers got together, each put in what they could afford, and started their own shop. They all had a vote to be sure of a fair deal that put their community first and they jointly decided how to use any financial surpluses. Thus began the co-operative movement and it developed the Values and Principles that co-operatives continue to work to today.
There are now nearly 5000 independent co-operatives in the UK owned by more than 12.9 million members. It has become a global movement and is growing rapidly as consumer trust of global corporations and governments diminishes, and there is increasing recognition of co-operation as a vital ingredient in economic development. The advent of the internet and social media is a big boost for the movement allowing quicker and more effective co-operation amongst diverse groups and enabling the participation of far flung communities with a common need – The Phone Co-op and The Co-operative Energy ventures being good examples.
Can the co-operative approach help the Holme Valley face up to the coming cut backs and build a better community for the future? Well it already is in a small way, and the success of other co-operatives nearby illustrates the tremendous scope for our community to work together, to address some of the key problems we face:
Experience has shown that small businesses are vital to job creation. Local, sustainable start ups providing products and services for the needs of today’s consumers offer training and opportunity, and ensure that a fair proportion of any wealth created remains in the region. Compare that with another new supermarket – a few shelf-stackers yes, but management, services, drivers, maintenance, and other skilled opportunities will go elsewhere.
New co-operatives, which already employ significant numbers in a local context, have started in the Holme and Colne valleys in sectors as diverse as baking, pig farming, Fairtrade retailing, fruit and vegetables retailing, and organic box schemes. Local co-operative members collaborating with the Transition Town movement and other local organisations and business have identified opportunities in education, manufacturing, agriculture, recycling, health and social care, tourism, and renewable energy. Most of these projects involve volunteers with money, experience, or specialised skills taking responsibility and working together in solidarity with younger people, contributing energy, imagination, and flair. Other co-operatives elsewhere are already operating successfully in these areas and are ready and willing to help. Consultancy, legal and financial support is available through the co-operative movement structures.
Climate change and poverty
Small local growers and retailers working together in our area offer fresher food, reduced food miles, lower pesticide and fertiliser use, and less local traffic. Demand is exceeding supply providing opportunities for new growers. Co-operative members have expertise and contacts in green buildings, renewable energy, and recycling schemes that could provide local employment and a quicker, more cost effective way to reduce carbon output than the mega projects touted by multinationals.
The Fairtrade supporter can buy an increasing proportion of their needs from suppliers who can demonstrate a positive social, environmental and economic impact on poor communities. Direct links have been established with these communities and local businesses, schools, NGOs and colleges, leading to collaboration on new fashion and food brands designed, marketed and packaged locally from upcycled or fairtrade ingredients. Aura Que handbags, Oromo coffee and Not Just Rice are examples, all empowering local people to make a difference whilst providing scope for local jobs and fair employment in developing world communities.
Stress and lifestyle issues
Cutbacks in health, social services, and government supported charities, mean we will increasingly have to look after vulnerable members of the community ourselves. Even The Royal College of Nursing warned recently that we may soon have to take personal responsibility for feeding our elderly relatives in hospital. Housing, foster care, palliative care, child care, homecare, and other social and health care co-operatives are operating throughout the UK providing a vital lifeline for communities and volunteering, job and training opportunities. Carers and cared for are treated as equals and have a democratic voice in the running of the service. Such volunteering can help individuals deal with isolation, depression, and unemployment as well as keeping care local.
Political apathy and short termism
There are no short term, easy answers to the problems we face. Tax cuts, debt fuelled spending, enterprise zones, etc so hotly debated by our politicians are increasingly irrelevant in the face of seismic changes in the world economy and environment. Effective local leadership is needed to create a climate where the huge collective talent that exists in our community is encouraged to work together for mutual benefit.
Bottom-up democracy is alive and well in the co-operative movement. Members hold boards to account, decide how to use any financial surpluses, and approve key decisions. They will tend to be active voters and support political candidates who are open, honest, and caring, and deliver for their local community. With over 2000 members of independent co-operatives in Holmfirth alone they have the potential to make their voices heard.
In conclusion, co-operatives are not a panacea, but anyone, be they old, young, unemployed, business leaders, civil servants, asylum seekers, politicians, etc, etc; wanting to do something positive to improve our community, can support and get involved with their local co-operative. Members are their lifeblood and they will welcome expressions of interest from individuals or organisations who wish to join, volunteer their help, start their own co-operative, or explore a partnership opportunity. Combining the talents and energy of our local community with the national and international networks of the co-operative movement offers real hope for the future.
Blog post by Mark Lewis
Although I am a member of the co-operatives listed below, the views expressed above are entirely personal and should not be taken as reflecting the opinion of any particular Society.
The Co-operative Group email@example.com
The Fair Traders Co-operative firstname.lastname@example.org
Wooldale Co-operative Society email@example.com
Watch this amazing animated short film by Accrington based Huckleberry Films which uses archive and animated footage to bring the story of the Rochdale pioneers to life and how their beginnings encouraged a global movement which incoporates over a billion members. Watch the New Pioneers film here.
Just over a year ago I visited Nepal with local fashion designer and friend Laura Queening. Laura set up the fair trade fashion label Aura Que in 2008. L-AuraQue-ening. Get it?
I’ve known Laura since school but I knew very little of her business trips to Asia other than that they involved her being abroad for three months and returning with a good tan. When I showed an interest in travelling out to see her, with free accommodation and Laura’s local knowledge thrown into the deal, I decided that a trip to Kathmandu to find out more was in order! Whilst there, I biked round the suburbs of Kathmandu visiting different suppliers and learnt more about how the Aura Que business operates. It became clear how the sketches Laura had been working on during bus and plane journeys transformed themselves, like pieces of a jigsaw, into the finished product.
Following her experience teaching English in a Nepali village, Laura chose to set up business in Nepal to support fair employment for local people, and it was clear on my visit that Aura Que’s ethical priority is the people involved. The bags are manufactured at the Nepali Leprosy Trust (NLT) where I met many of the workers. Leprosy is a stigmatised disease associated with poverty, meaning those impaired or disabled by leprosy tend to be among the poorest of the poor. The NLT provides employment and opportunities for those affected.
Doing business in Nepal isn’t always straightforward. On my visit we were initially unable to enter the country for three days due to a national strike which shut all businesses and blocked all roads. For me, three days at a border hotel in northern India was a bit frustrating, but if you’re running an international fashion business with meetings, deadlines and stock orders, such a set back has far greater consequences. While we were stuck in a hotel waiting for the border to open, I asked Laura if this kind of thing annoyed her. “It’s just a part of working in Nepal” she said, and she’s right. Strikes are just one additional obstacle that Laura has overcome in setting up a successful fair trade fashion label outside the UK. Shipping stock, ensuring quality levels are maintained and sourcing materials ethically in a culturally different environment has, as Laura put it to me, ‘kept her on her toes’.
The NLT’s manufacture is the final part of the production process. The materials themselves are sourced from small suppliers and individuals. Take the bag below for example
This is where it comes from… Leather – The leather is from buffalo like those we passed on the bus as we travelled through the lowlands of southern Nepal. We carried some with us on our journey overland from Delhi – from the tannery to the NLT…it was heavy. Banana fibre – What looks like wool on the front of the bag is actually banana fibre pruned from the root of the banana tree. I visited the place where they dye this fibre – a small dye plant at the back of a building. The issue Laura was having at the time was making sure they got the dye colours exactly right. It took Laura’s best Nepali, but she got there! Brass fittings – Brass fittings are made by hand by a local man, Mr Rizal, whom I met. He was sitting outside his family’s house in a little self-constructed workshop area moulding the metal with his hammer when we arrived.
Laura puts together high quality fashion products while maintaining a direct and personal link with the people involved in every aspect of each bag’s production. I was fortunate enough to get to meet the people that are being supported by Aura Que, but to find out about more without making the trip to Asia, take a look at the website http://www.auraque.com / or pop into The Fair Traders Co-operativethe Fairtrade shop where Aura Que bags are on display. You can also buy Aura Que bags online via The Fair Traders Co-operative at www.thefairtraderscooperative.co.uk.
Thank you to member Nick Batty for this post.
The Holmfirth Food and Drink Festival is back, and for the second year running The Fair Traders Cooperative took part, with Fairtrade themed activities happening across the whole weekend. This ranged from food tasting to craft sessions and drumming, a talk by Just Trading Scotland’s John Riches to cooking demonstrations, and of course, The Fair Traders Cooperative’s rice challenge!
This year The Fair Traders Cooperative chose to theme their part in Holmfirth Food and Drink Festival around rice, launching the rice challenge at the beginning of September. The aim of this campaign is to ‘eat people out of poverty’ by selling at least 90kg of fair trade rice from Malawi during September, and another 90kg over the festival weekend. In doing this, for every 90kg sold at The Fair Traders Cooperative for a fair price, a farmer in Malawi earns sufficient income to send one child to high school.
As Holmfirth Food and Drink Festival kicked off, a pile of rice 90 bags high could be seen stacked up on the Holme Valley Fairtrade Support Group stall. Having sold the 90th kilogramme bag of rice well before Holmfirth Food and Drink Festival had even begun, staff and volunteers of The Fair Traders Cooperative and Holme Valley Fairtrade Support Group were eager to get stuck into selling the next 90kg, and by lunch time the heap had halved! Accompanying the rice pile on the fair trade stall was delicious coffee tasting from ethical coffee companies Oromo and Bolling Coffee, which supplies the well known Grumpy Mule fair trade coffee range.
Leaving the Holme Valley Fairtrade Support Group stall, giant orange and silver footprints led from Holmfirth’s market hall, along Huddersfield Road to The Fair Traders Cooperative shop. Here we were treated to a very interesting talk by John Riches from Just Trading Scotland. Just Trading Scotland is a non-profit company which imports the Kilombero rice on which the rice challenge is focused. John told listeners all about the rice farmers and the different fair trade makes to their lives, and explained the many difficulties involved in getting fairly traded rice milled, cleaned and exported from a land-locked country such as Malawi. This talk reinforced the importance of buying fairly traded instead of your every day rice, and made clear the difficulties rice farmers face in getting a fair price for their produce in Malawi. A key way of escaping the problem of rural poverty, we were told, is through education, which underlines the importance for these farmers of selling enough of their rice to pay for an education for their children. After listening to the presentation, Anna Watson of The Fair Traders Cooperative said, “How great it would be if we could achieve this amount over just one weekend!”
The next event on The Fair Traders Cooperative list was a cooking demonstration in the main market hall. Every seat in the hall was filled, and the walls of the room lined with spectators, as viewers were taken through the steps of how to cook ‘Feel Good Malawi Chicken’, presented by The Fair Traders Cooperative’s Mark and Maggie. Not only did we learn how to make a fantastic peanut chicken stew using Fairtrade ingredients, but we found out lots about the products used during the demonstration. This included Zaytoun Palestinian olive oil, Steenbergs spices, Liberation peanut butter, & you guessed it….. Kilombero Fairtrade rice from Malawi! The audience was also able to taste this fantastic stew and rice combo as the demonstration came to an end, sampling the rice involved in the rice challenge. Audience member Nick Batty told us that “This rice is very tasty! I will definitely be after my bag of rice now – not only is it delicious, but I get to do my good deed for the day. I might even cook this stew with it!” This recipe can be found on The Fair Traders Cooperative website (click here) for all to try out with their own bag of Malawi rice.
At the end of the first day, The Fair Traders Cooperative was well on target to achieve their goal for the weekend, having sold 84kg of the Fairtrade Kilombero rice from Malawi by 5pm on Saturday. This meant that only 6 of the 1kg bags had to be sold on Sunday to reach the target.
On the second day of Holmfirth Food and Drink Festival, guests of The Fair Traders Cooperative were entertained by The Holmfirth Drummers, with exciting beats and rhythms to dance and shake to in the Upper Bridge Quarter Gardens, opposite the shop. Accompanying this, onlookers were encouraged to recycle by making their own musical instruments from plastic containers and bottle tops at the junk modelling craft table nearby. Meanwhile, inside at The Fair Traders Cooperative celebrations were taking place, as by 1pm the target was not only reached, but exceeded by 2 whole bags! The Fair Traders Cooperative had achieved their target, helped by all the supporters who had purchased just one bag of rice across the festival weekend.
But it doesn’t stop there, The Fair Traders Cooperative is aiming to send a THIRD child school in Malawi, and they are already nearly there! So get down to The Fair Traders Cooperative, or buy your bag online at http://www.thefairtraderscoopertive.co.uk to be part of this fantastic campaign!
Posted by: Sophie Bebb