Is eating chocolate ever entirely guilt-free?!

I read in the Scotsman over the weekend that a group of city businesswomen have raised awareness of Fairtrade chocolate by eating as much of it as possible. Around 70 women were involved in Saturday’s party at a member of Edinburgh’s Soroptimist organisation, which formed part of a worldwide initiative to draw attention to the current situation regarding the Ivory Coast.

I’m not sure how this challenge was organised or what the cut-off point was (an ‘eat until you feel sick’ tactic does not sound that great to me.) But then as the event is aimed at highlighting how thousands of children have been trafficked to work on cocoa farms on the Ivory Coast, then a bit of nausea seems a small price to pay for such an important campaign.

The Scotsman reported that a third of the world’s chocolate comes from the Ivory Coast, which means that there is quite a hill to climb in terms of change. However, although it helps enormously to have profile-raising campaigns to promote such causes, we can all make small changes without having to raid the sweet counter until we throw up!

By choosing only Fairtrade certified chocolate (made even easier now by Cadbury switching all of its dairy chocolate bars sold in the UK to Fairtrade) we can ensure that our afternoon sugar hit leaves us with a cleaner conscience (because eating chocolate is never entirely guilt-free, right?) and helps put an end to the cycle of poverty and dangerous conditions involved in the chocolate industry on the Ivory Coast.

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Namayiana - Fair Trade Producer Visit Click here to learn how you can invest in fair trade.

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Fair Trade: Feel-good fashion or global blueprint?

Click here to access a Powerpoint presentation from a recent lecture given by fair trade pioneer and Senior Research Fellow in Economics at Homerton  College in the University  of Cambridge, Dr Mark Hayes. In addition to this Powerpoint presentation, you can also access all of his fair trade related work on his website.

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Namayiana - Fair Trade Producer Visit Click here to learn how you can invest in fair trade.

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Life after Fairtrade Fortnight

This week I have been getting back into the swing of life as an SRO after Fairtrade Fortnight and the AGM. I returned to the Islington Arts and Media School, where I gave a presentation to their year 9’s during Fairtrade Fortnight, to see how the pupils had interpreted their knowledge of Fairtrade into a variety of activities for local primary schools, including a fantastic fashion and music show. My Fairtrade knowledge was tested in a banana tasting session where I had to taste two bananas and decide which was fairtrade, guessing correctly (Phew!) and winning myself a sticker. Whilst at the event I met Islington’s Schools Environmental Project Officer who is currently working on an information resource for schools in the borough to provide guidance and contacts centred around sustainability issues for schools.

Preparations for UK Aware are going well and a big thank you to all who have responded to our request for assistance at the event. If anyone would like to pop down just to see the exhibition and come and say hello please get in touch with me here.

It was great to meet some of our more Northerly members at the AGM last weekend and it was fantastic to hear from everyone, but especially the overseas staff and Hugo’s video will make a very welcome addition to our resources, a great way to let the producers speak for themselves to new audiences.

As always, if you have any thoughts, suggestions or ideas for ways in which the profile of Shared Interest can be raised in the South East please do get in touch.

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Namayiana - Fair Trade Producer Visit Click here to learn how you can invest in fair trade.

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Shared Interest Member and Ambassador Awards

For the first time ever Shared Interest presented Member and Ambassador Awards at our AGM.

The categories and winners were as follows:
Members Award for Fairtrade Fortnight Challenges

Category winner- Barbara Judd who completed 10 of the 14 challenges, including holding a  fair trade workshop for 150 kids, and activities at her local ASDA, library, two churches and cafes.

Ambassador Awards were awarded for the following categories:

Most Innovative Fairtrade Fortnight Plans – Shelagh Baird-Smith and her husband Iain who held a display at a Fairtrade Pancake breakfast held in the Ballroom of Nottingham Council House on Shrove Tuesday. They also had a stall at a Fairtrade tasting event in Minster School in Southwell.

Exceptional Effort Award – Tracy Mitchell who completed all the member Fairtrade Fortnight challenges, started blogging as an Ambassador, conducted 3 presentations for churches in Falkirk, represented Shared Interest at a fair trade Coffee morning in Edinburgh, secured our leaflets at the Scottish Fairtrade Forum AGM, and is in the process of making our schools pack available on an intranet for all Scottish FT schools.

Ambassador Challenge winners (x2)

1.     To put as many Shared Interest posters up around your local area as possible – Reverend David Self who secured our leaflets in every box that was delivered during Fairtrade Fortnight from a local veg box scheme in Bristol.

2.     To find the most creative place to display a Shared Interest poster or copy of QR.

RSA Academy, who put our poster on the top of a crane (don’t ask!) We have pictures to prove it and their prize is in the post!
A big congratulations to all the winners, and thank you to all who took part. We hope you all had a great Fairtrade Fortnight and enjoyed taking an active part in events in your area and beyond.

Remember to look out for your next challenge in the next copy of QR.

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Namayiana - Fair Trade Producer Visit Click here to learn how you can invest in fair trade.

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Shared Interest Advert from 1991

A member recently sent in this advert from the March 1991 issue of New Internationalist.

While the concept remains the same, the terms have changed significantly.

19 years on, we now have over 8,700 members who have invested over £24 million. The minimum deposit is £100 while the maximum is £20k and you no longer need to give 6 months’ notice to make a withdrawal. Unfortunately with the current interest rates as low as they are, we are currently paying 0% interest on members’ investment.

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Namayiana - Fair Trade Producer Visit Click here to learn how you can invest in fair trade.

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Refreshed inspiration….

Tracy Mitchell is a Shared Interest ambassador and the views expressed herein are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of Shared Interest Society.

Like many other Shared Interest members, I spent Saturday at the AGM & Members’ Day in York. It was a great chance to hear how the organisation is doing but more importantly it was a wonderful opportunity to hear inspiring stories from staff and producers that reminded us all why we invest and why we are trying to increase the levels of investment. Continue reading

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Namayiana - Fair Trade Producer Visit Click here to learn how you can invest in fair trade.

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Great News for the Foundation!

Great News for the Foundation

The Foundation has just received £10,000 from one of our society investors. This is a massive help in pushing us further up our Fundraising Mountain!  I will be making a Blue Peter type thermometer to track the progress of the Foundation as we work towards our overall Fundraising Goal, however so far the Foundation has received over £64,000 in donations, so we are almost half way there! If you would like to help support the Foundation to reach our Fundraising Goal and change the lives of thousands of Fairtrade producers across the developing world please visit our just giving site http://www.justgiving.com/sif or send a cheque payable to Shared Interest Foundation to Shared Interest, No. 2 Cathedral Square, Groat Market, Newcastle, NE1 1EH

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Namayiana - Fair Trade Producer Visit Click here to learn how you can invest in fair trade.

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AGM summary – Rwandan Producer Support Project

Rwandan Producer Support Project

Shared Interest Foundation, working in collaboration with COFTA, received its first large grant this year. The Big Lottery Fund awarded £236,000 to train 50 fair trade businesses over three years in Rwanda.

This new programme will provide three levels of learning suitable for producer groups at different stages of development, ranging from informal groups that are selling on the national markets to those more established organisations that are already exporting. Building on our mentoring experience from previous training, the new programme will include both one-to-one mentoring and group training.

The project started in June and there we made good progress in the first few months including the recruitment of an in-country Project Coordinator Donatien Mungwarareba; formalisation of all related partnerships, hosting agreement with the Rwandan Private Sector Federation and the launch of the first stage of the training process – training of trainers. The 18 Rwandan trainers started the first of four training sessions in which they will learn key international training techniques and will work together to develop a training manual aimed specifically at improving and empowering and Rwandan handicraft businesses.

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Namayiana - Fair Trade Producer Visit Click here to learn how you can invest in fair trade.

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AGM summary – Pan African Training Programme

Pan African Training Programme

The Foundation’s pan African training programme has been running for over two years now and is a joint project with The Cooperation for Fair Trade in Africa (COFTA). This year alone we have trained in 7 countries throughout Africa. In Rwanda, Uganda. Ethiopia, Senegal, Egypt, South Africa and Ghana and we are currently planning the programme for 2009.

In September 2008 we held four training workshops in South Africa designed to increase producers’ understanding of the value of fair trade. These were facilitated by me in partnership with local business development consultancy Fetola Mmoho and FTSA (Fair Trade South Africa). Training at different venues in Cape Town, Franschhoek and Tulbagh attracted 81 participants, which exceeded expectations. This was a significant increase on the 12 participants who attended a similar series of workshops held in the previous year; and an indication of a rapid increase in interest in fair trade in South Africa.

One of the organizations that attended the training was Umtha which means “ray of light” in Xhosa language and the organisation has certainly brightened the lives of disadvantaged women in Cape Town. Almost all of Umtha’s employees are women, and many are single mothers and some are HIV positive. The organisation like many other fair trade organisations provides additional support to their employees, on top of a fair wage, the also receive regular training, health care support and assistance in budgeting. Although this jewellery business works under the same principle’s as Fair Trade, however is not yet a registered Fair Trade business, so the training that I provided was Fair Trade Awareness to enable the organisation to officially join the Fair trade movement and reap the benefits. I trained their staff and management team so everyone understood what it meant to be a fair trade organisation. Since then the organisation has submitted its application and are on the road to becoming registered.

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Foundation Summary from our Annual General Meeting

For those of you who weren’t able to make it to our Annual General Meeting took place in York on Saturday, I thought you might appreciate a brief run down on what we have achieved in the Foundation over the last year and what new and exciting projects we are looking to set up this year.

The Foundation had a successful year both in terms of income and delivery. We received over £127,000 (individual donations, trust and grant giving bodies, and gift aid) and were thrilled to receive news that the Big Lottery Fund had agreed to fund our three-year producer support project in Rwanda, awarding us with almost quarter of a million pounds over three years.

This support has enabled the Foundation to train 167 producer groups and over 250 people in 7 countries this year alone and over the 4 years the Foundation has been active we have trained 40% of all WFTO (formerly known as IFAT) registered businesses throughout Africa,

We have also awarded a total of £5,000 in grants and have been developing plans to introduce a livelihood security fund to complement this capacity building work. In other areas, we continued to work in support of the wider Fairtrade movement and launched a Foundation newsletter to keep you informed about our activities.

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Namayiana - Fair Trade Producer Visit Click here to learn how you can invest in fair trade.

Click here to donate to the Shared Interest Foundation
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