Harriet Lamb, Chief Executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, was the chief guest at ‘A Fair Feast’ in the Assembly Room of the St Helier Town Hall on 21 September. Courtesy of the Fairtrade Jersey Island Group, Phil Soulsby and Lydia Grammer were invited to represent Guernsey and participate in a fascinating evening. A buffet with a variety of local produce, along with Fairtrade wine and chocolate, was enjoyed before Harriet spoke about the history, recent events and current progress of Fairtrade. Around 100 people attended this celebration event including the Chief Minister and Dr Lee Durrell, Patron of Fairtrade Jersey Island Group.
Harriet started by explaining how, early in her life, she had been inspired to want to make a difference by Gerald Durrell, and how an early desire to work with animals and conservation had changed into a desire to work with people and enable them to become more sustainable, aiding conservation. The evening had a theme of Fairtrade or Local – if you can’t choose one, choose the other. Harriet described the issues as being two sides of the same coin, part of a current drive to reunite consumers with producers, focusing on the ethics of production and sustainability, enabling more and better understanding of the origins of foods, ultimately, leading to consumers making informed choices about how and where their foods and basic commodities are produced. She particularly pointed out that there would seldom be a conflict in the choice between Fairtrade and Local Produce as very few of the mainstream Fairtrade products are actually grown or produced in the UK or Europe.
She went on to describe some of the less obvious benefits of bringing workers into Fairtrade production; a group of women who formerly sold Shea Butter Nuts to the first buyer for a very poor price, are now processing the nuts into Shea Butter which is being used in a variety of fair-trade marked beauty products. As a result of the extra money, the women are able to care better for their families and they have used the Fairtrade premium to buy material to make new school uniforms for all the children in the village. They hope to go as far as building a school closer to their village to improve and extend the attendance of children, as the current school is a very long walk. As a result of all their contributions to the family and community, the women’s sense of self worth and pride in their work has grown enormously. The community now sees a positive future in Shea Butter nuts rather than just a subsistence living, which causes the younger people to leave the farms in search of work in the cities.
In answer to a question, Harriet explained that the UK is currently the world’s largest consumer of Fairtrade goods, annually buying about two thirds of the world production. The USA, however, is growing quickly and it is hoped, because it is a much bigger market, that they will soon overtake the UK and bring substantial additional volume to the Fairtrade producers. In discussions of new developments, it was revealed that for the first time Fairtrade products are to go on sale in the countries of their production – initially Fairtrade Kenyan Coffee and Fairtrade South African Wine will be sold into their domestic markets – further increasing the value added for the producers.
Harriet closed by congratulating Jersey on the 5th anniversary of the award of Fairtrade status and thanking the Jersey supporters for all their hard work. She further pointed out that the whole Fairtrade movement is a great example of grassroots consumer pressure altering the way big corporations behave, and that a great deal of credit is due to the campaigning of ordinary people to get a better deal for farmers.
Dr Lee Durrell formally thanked Harriet Lamb for her presentation and the evening concluded with the award of certificates to new Fairtrade supporters and a book signing. Harriet was kind enough to sign a copy of her book “The Banana Wars” with an inscription to Fairtrade Guernsey.
Our thanks particularly go to Ed le Quesne, Jim Plumley and Tony Allchurch for kindness and hospitality during the event.
Fair Trade Phil