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Fair Trade

To delve into the now fashionable habit of buying Fairtrade produce and why it can actually benefit us as consumers as well as those who produce it for us.

by Vicky Scott

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To delve into the now fashionable habit of buying Fairtrade produce and why it can actually benefit us as consumers as well as those who produce it for us.

Preparation and materials

  • Display in some form the official Fairtrade Foundation logo. World Fair Trade Day is held on the second Saturday in May.
  • You might like to have readers for the criteria of Fairtrade in point 2.
  • The song ‘Take the Stand’ by brAnd on their Album Our Way was written to raise the issue of fair trade. You can listen to this at http://81.93.136.130/brAnd%20-%20Take%20The%20Stand.mp3
  • Bring some Fairtrade products to show the children, and perhaps hand out some free chocolate or bananas.

Assembly

  1. The Fairtrade Foundation was established to highlight issues such as justice and human rights. World Fair Trade Day (9 May 2009) is a chance to further educate people in the West about how and where the contents of their weekly shop come from.
  2. The term ‘fair trade’ is self-explanatory: any product that is marked by the official logo is certified as having been grown, harvested and sold in a fair manner. The Fairtrade charity has a long and detailed list of criteria which farmers must adhere to in order to be able to produce under the Fairtrade label and receive their subsequent support. Some of the demands made of the farmers are as follows (taken from http://www.fairtrade.net/standards.html):

    (1)  The workers must receive pay that is either in line with or exceeds the regional average for their type of work.

    (2)  Women are also ensured equal opportunities in the workplace, with equal pay.

    (3)  At no time can any worker be enslaved and no children are permitted to work for Fairtrade farmers.

    (4)  Farmers have to prove that they will promote the social and economic development of their workers, including allowing access to education for all children of their full-time workers.

    (5)  All workers have a legally binding work contract, with specific job descriptions, thus having greater job security.

    (6)  All workers are offered free and regular health care while at work.

    (7)  Workers who deal with hazardous chemicals must be provided with protective clothing and training.

    (8)  Workers who harvest crops after they have been sprayed are only permitted to enter the fields when all of the foliage is dry. Moreover, aerial spraying is only permitted for fungicide application.

    (9)  Nothing with the Fairtrade label is genetically modified.
  3. Some of these points, such as women receiving equal pay and opportunities, and children not being permitted to work, may seem obvious. However, in much of the world today farming and food production is dominated by underpaid, vulnerable people, who are so desperate to earn some money that they are forced to accept jobs at a young age and for a minute amount of money.
  4. This is why the Fairtrade Foundation has stepped in and set up a fairer mode of farming and production. They ask the farmers to follow their rules (as seen above) in exchange for better rates of pay for their produce, as well as a ‘social premium’. This generally means that people like us in the UK who buy Fairtrade produce are charged at a higher rate for the item, but at least this extra money is ensuring a decent standard of life for farm workers and their children in poorer parts of the world.
  5. Surprisingly there is a benefit for us who buy items that have been fairly traded; as well as the obvious ‘feel-good factor’ of paying that bit extra for the item that has been produced fairly, we are actually quite likely to be preserving our health and the environment. A Fairtrade farmer has commented on how the planet has benefited from him and others like him reducing the use of chemicals.

    For instance, most non-Fairtrade bananas derive from the West Wind Islands of the Caribbean and they are often bigger than fairly farmed ones. However, this is at the expense of their workers. To ensure a large and good-looking crop of bananas the farmers spray their crops constantly with chemicals. These chemical sink into the skins and then into the fruit. Thus, when the attractive large banana is consumed by us unknowing westerners, we are consuming untold amount of chemicals.

    Even more alarming is the fact that harvesting occurs while the chemicals are being sprayed from above. These chemicals scar the workers with large blisters, but they also can make the men infertile and thus unable to have a family. Pregnant women who treat the blue plastic which wraps the bananas with pesticides have been known to give birth to children with birth defects and even leukaemia (information from http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2005/mar/13/foodanddrink.globalisation).
  6. Thankfully, large stores such as Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have recently stopped buying the farmed bananas and sell only Fairtrade ones. However, others like Tesco stock only a small supply of pre-wrapped Fairtrade bananas.
  7. Jesus taught that it is vitally important for us to care for one another and for our planet. Choosing fairly traded products can be our way of valuing fellow human beings and caring for our world (see Matthew 5.42; 19.20; Luke 3.11; 6.20; also Proverbs 22.9).

Time for reflection

It is important to receive value for money, especially at such a time as this with the recession. However, are some of our cheaper value items at the expense of someone’s health or a child’s education in another part of the world?

If we have the option to buy Fairtrade items at a slightly more expensive rate than the usual branded ones, isn’t it worth considering cutting back elsewhere and ensuring that more and more companies reduce their profit margins and instead take better care of the farmers, workers and producers of their items?

By us all choosing to stop buying non-Fairtrade bananas we’ll send a clear message to the buyers and farmers that their old way of doing things is no longer acceptable!

Quite often we do things in the West without even being aware of our faults. Ignorance has been a valid excuse until recently. However, now with advancing technology and globalization we are being made aware of how others in poor countries are being treated to satisfy our needs in wealthier countries.

Let’s keep Fair Trade fashionable!

Prayer

We give thanks for the Fair Trade movement, and for all that it achieves throughout the world.

Help us to be careful in the goods we choose, so that others can enjoy a better quality of life.

Hymn

‘When I needed a neighbour’ (Come and Praise, 65)

Publication date: May 2009   (Vol.11 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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