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Fair Measure

Fairtrade Assembly. To show how fair trade is a better way of doing business for everyone.

by An Assembly from Traidcraft (Traidcraft Fortnight: 3-16 March 2003)

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)

Aims

To show how trying to make a living through selling coffee is tough for poor farmers in developing countries and how fair trade is a better way of doing business for everyone.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need:
    A small acting area.
    1 jar or packet of coffee.
    1 narrator.
    8 actors: 3 farmers (NB 70% of farming in developing countries is done by women), 3 coffee buyers, 1 fair trader, and 1 to play 'Time'.
    10 large bags (garden refuse bags are ideal) stuffed with paper (or 10 large cardboard cut-out sack shapes), labelled 'Coffee'.
    1 large cardboard placard labelled 'Time'.
    9 boxes: 3 large boxes labelled 'beans', 'sugar' and 'soap'; 3 medium and 3 small boxes all labelled in the same way. (Make sure the difference in size is really obvious.)
  • Get the 3 coffee buyers and the fair trader to stand at one side with the boxes of beans, sugar and soap nearby. Get the farmers to stand on the other side with the coffee bags. Get 'Time' to sit to one side with the placard hidden from view.
  • You can find out more about using drama in assemblies in our resources section.

Assembly

  1. Hold up the jar/packet of coffee. Ask the children how many of them have something similar at home. Who enjoys drinking coffee? Where does it come from? Where does it grow?

  2. Explain that after oil, coffee is the world's most valuable commodity (product) and a lot of rich, international companies are involved in the coffee trade. But the farmers, who grow the coffee, and their families are mostly very poor. How? Here's a story which may help us understand.

    Here are some farmers in Uganda who grow coffee on part of their land. Every day they have to work hard to produce enough coffee to sell.

    The farmers mime working in fields, picking and packing coffee. Each of them then picks up one of the full bags of 'coffee'.

    Every month they take their coffee to the market in town to buy the things they need. There, they meet the buyers who buy the coffee from them. What the farmers earn from selling their coffee will decide how much they have to spend on the things they need.

    The farmers walk around the acting area. As they do so the 3 buyers step forward. The farmers come to a stop in front of the buyers. The buyers pick up the largest boxes of beans, sugar and soap and exchange them for the farmers' bags of coffee. The buyers step back and the farmers return to their original side of the acting area.

    Then the farmers return to their villages to work in the fields to get coffee for the next trip to market.

    Time passes by…one week, two weeks, three weeks ...

    'Time' holds up the placard and walks across to the other side of the acting area. The farmers mime work, pick up a sack of coffee each and walk to market, as before. The buyers again step forward, but this time they only have the medium-sized boxes with them.

    But this time, when the farmers arrive at the market, the buyers say: 'Three bags! Is that all you have? Three bags won't get you very much. Prices have gone up since you were here last. Everything costs at least twice as much!'

    The farmers argue (farmers mime arguing with buyers) that if the price of the things they need has gone up, then the price of coffee must have gone up too.

    But the buyers say: 'No, there's too much coffee being produced in the world at the moment and the price of coffee has gone down.'

    The farmers hand over their sacks of coffee, and receive the medium-sized boxes from the buyers. All return to the sides of the acting area.

    The farmers go home. What are they to do? They only have coffee to sell, so they work harder than ever to gather enough to pay for what they need.

    The farmers mime work as before but faster and for longer.

    And time passes…one week, two weeks, three weeks…

    'Time' and the placard cross from one side of the acting area to the other.

    Thanks to their hard work, the farmers have managed to gather more coffee than last month.

    The farmers pick up the remaining four sacks of coffee and set off for market, as before. They are joined by the buyers, who are now carrying the smallest of the boxes.

    But when they get to the market, the buyers say: 'Four sacks! Is that all you have? Four bags won't get you very much. Prices have gone up since you were here last. The price of oil has gone up all over the world, and transport costs have doubled, and everything costs more…'

    The farmers argue again but exchange their four sacks of coffee for the three small boxes.

    The farmers return home in despair. What can they buy if they earn less and less from their coffee? What are they to do? How will they live and feed their families?

    The fair trader, carrying one of the large boxes, walks over to the farmers.

    But things are not all bad. Some companies are dealing fairly with the farmers. They agree a price for the coffee with the farmers in advance and both sides stick to that agreement. They work with the farmers to help them improve the quality and the amount of coffee beans they get from their coffee bushes. These companies also give the farmers more say in the trading process and will often make payment in advance or help the farmers to borrow money. All this means the farmers can plan for the future and make choices for their families and their communities. This is called fair trade.

    The fair trader and the farmers all shake hands and put their arms around each other's shoulders (or some other suitable gesture of solidarity and support).

Time for reflection

Dear God
Thank you that you have given us a sense of justice and fairness.
Help us to think about being as fair as possible in everything we do.
Amen.

Song/music

'Brother, let me be your servant' (Scripture in Song)
'When I needed a neighbour' (Come and Praise, 65)

Publication date: March 2003   (Vol.5 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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