When doing our weekly shop, we rarely consider the farmers who have toiled to produce the food we buy.
But we should. In developing countries across the world there are many small-scale farms or plantations employing workers who are in turn supporting their families.
Despite being thousands of miles away, we can help these farming and worker communities thrive and have a good quality of life by choosing to buy products that are produced in a way that ensures decent working conditions, fair prices and and fair terms of trade.
Fairtrade allows these communities to have more control over their futures and protects the environment in which they work.
There are more than 1.65 million farmers and workers in 1,226 producer organisations across the Fairtrade system. Every year Fairtrade Fortnight - organised by the national charity the Fairtrade Foundation - highlights the importance of helping farmers and workers. Across the UK campaigners, businesses, schools and places of worship show their support.
This year the theme for the fortnight - which runs from February 27 to March 12 - is putting Fairtrade into your break. When we reach for our favourite food and drink each day, without thinking about where it comes from, we may be feeding exploitation, says the Fairtrade Foundation. But with a little thought as to which tea or coffee we select - by looking for the Fairtrade logo - we could help tackle the problem.
In Bradford many events are taking place during the fortnight. Bradford Fairtrade Zone is teaming up with Marks & Spencer, organising events in two local shopping centres. On Friday March 3, outside Bradford’s Broadway Mark & Spencer and in Airedale shopping centre, Keighley, members are inviting people to come and have a Fairtrade break.
Says chairman of Bradford Fairtrade Zone Karen Palframan: “They can sit down in some comfy seats, sample some Fairtrade products, and enjoy a free hand massage kindly provided by students from Bradford and Keighley colleges using Fairtrade shea butter products. Keighley’s special pamper parlour will also be offering free head massages, as well as Fairtrade tea and coffee. We’ll be explaining all the economic, social and environmental benefits of Fairtrade.”
Bradford Fairtrade Zone is made up of Bingley, Shipley, Baildon, Ilkley, Burley-in-Wharfedale, Thornton, Haworth and Keighley. There are more than 600 Fairtrade groups in the UK which raise awareness of Fairtrade, and Yorkshire is the UK’s first Fairtrade Region.
Haworth was the UK’s first Fairtrade Village.
“The need for Fairtrade has not diminished - millions of farm workers are living in poverty and are unable to adequately provide for their families,” says Karen. “For example, in Kenya’s coffee and tea-growing regions one in three people live in poverty, while tea pickers in Malawi earn less than £1.46 a day. This is not enough to provide decent food, education or healthcare for their families or invest in better farming. We can make a conscious choice to be part of the solution and support trade that is fair”.
Fairtrade products include not only food and drink but goods such as flowers, jewellery, beauty products and sports goods.
To support the efforts of Burley and Woodhead Primary School in raising awareness, Karen presented them with a Bala Fairtrade football. The children were very interested to discover that Fairtrade footballs exist, and to learn more about how Fairtrade helps to ensure the workers who hand-stitch the balls in Sialkot, Pakistan, are paid a fair wage, have safe working conditions and that there is no child labour.
Karen was delighted to learn that the staffroom had converted its tea and coffee to Fairtrade. Footballs have also been donated to local walking football group The Wharfedale Strollers, Burley Trojans under tens and to Ilkley Town Veterans.
Convenors of Baildon Fairtrade group Mike and Elaine de Villiers will be manning a stall in Northgate, Baildon on March 1 inviting shoppers to try various samples of Fairtrade goods and to choose a tea bag from the Co-op's large range, and the Co-op will have a display of their Fairtrade products. They will be assisted by pupils from Baildon Primary school which is moving towards applying for Fairtrade status.
“There is a lot of work still to be done,” says Mike, who gives talks in local schools. “A survey aiming 14 to 16 year olds by the Fairtrade Foundation showed that 87 per cent recognised the Fairtrade symbol but when I go to some schools they hardly know it. Children respond well, they just need to be informed.”
Other events include a Fairtrade breakfast at Bradford Cathedral on March 5 and a Fair Train break event on the first steam train of the day from Oxenhope on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.
Ilkley Fairtrade Group is teaming up with Oxfam, Christchurch and St. John’s Church
Staff from Bradford Council are organising an office Fairtrade bake off event.
Bradford Council’s Fairtrade Champion Councillor Adrian Farley says: “I am delighted to be taking part and supporting Bradford District's Fairtrade activities for Fairtrade fortnight. There's a number of events taking part throughout the district and I hope as many as possible can take part.
“As the Council's Fairtrade Champion I am so proud of what the Council, local groups and volunteers have done to raise awareness and bring Fairtrade into conversation. It's so important to remember that Fairtrade is about trade and not aid; such a small difference each and everyone of us can take which makes a big difference to the lives of many.”
Fairtrade Shipley has organised a schools competition to design a poster promoting a Fairtrade break. A film highlighting child labour used in food production in developing countries will be shown in City Park throughout the fortnight.