Fairtrade purchases hit €3.4 Billion

Yesterday the Fairtrade Labelling Organization (FLO) announced that despite facing one of the most difficult economic years on record, consumers spent an estimated €3.4 Billion on Fairtrade products in 2009 – a 15% increase over the previous year.

Cocoa and sugar farmers experienced among the strongest leap in sales, 35% and 57% respectively, thanks in part to 100% commitments by global chocolate and confectionary brands including Cadbury Dairy Milk, Nestle’s Kit Kat, Green & Black’s, and Ben & Jerry’s. Sales in Fairtrade herbs and spices multiplied as FLO opened its scope to include all varieties of herbs and spices. Coffee, the pioneering Fairtrade product, grew steadily at 12%.

Rob Cameron, CEO of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) said “As 2009 began in the midst of the worst recession in 70 years, we worried that Fairtrade producers could lose sales. Instead, consumers across the globe bucked the trend and proved their deep commitment to giving producers a fair deal“.

This is great news for the Fairtrade Foundation as in addition to this increase in sales they have recently joined Shared Interest as winners of the Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development, the award is a tribute to the hard work and entrepreneurialism of tens of thousands of producers in developing countries and the UK public who see Fairtrade goods as a fantastic way of addressing global trade injustice and poverty.

Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “This award is recognition from the very top that there is a fairer way of doing business. Winning the Queen’s Award for Enterprise will spur us on to take sales to an even greater level, opening further opportunities for producer organisations to build a better future

Overall this feels like a great time to be involved in the fair trade movement and we are proud of our role within it, congratulations to the Fairtrade Foundation for both the increased sales and the Queen’s Award. Here’s to a Fairtrade future!

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The ‘Mickey Mouse’ Money Model

Last week saw the launch of a South East group for the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR). ECCR works for economic justice, human rights and environmental sustainability and engages with organisations and individuals on issues of how to use money to match values. The guest speaker at the launch event was Dr Robert Howell from New Zealand who spoke about the issues of sustainability, economics and the environment in investments.

In the light of events such as National Ethical Investment Week we are increasingly exposed to the ways in which we can use our money to match the principles and values we live by. Where we choose to put our money is exactly that, a choice, which can be based upon the same personal values we use when demonstrating our buyer power in the shops.

I was introduced to the ‘Mickey Mouse’ model of finance which shows that economic outcomes are still considered more than the environmental and social outcomes of investment.

Dr Howell indicated the lack of sustainability in such a model where long term investments must consider the sustainability of all outcomes to create a more equal ratio between these three outcomes.

As a parting comment we were left with the point that we should consider how to invest to save the world instead of destroy it.

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Congratulations Joe Human MBE

Joe Human MBEYou may remember that back in January we announced that Shared Interest member Joe Human was to be awarded an MBE for services to Oxfam and the Fair Trade movement.

We are delighted to say that Joe was presented with the award at Buckingham Palace last Friday, after years of voluntary work; the prestigious award is highly deserved.

Thanks to the work of campaigners like Joe, Cumbria now has more Fairtrade towns than any other county, not to mention the UK’s first Fairtrade landmark in the shape of Hadrian’s Wall!

Joe currently helps run the Cumbria Fairtrade Network and has started a project to link Keswick, his home town, with the coffee-growing village of Choche in Ethiopia.

Joe said: “I was pleased to hear that I’d been awarded an MBE as I hope it shows that Fairtrade is increasingly seen as a force for good, he continued, the link with Choche shows supporters that Fairtrade really does work and is helping producers to lead a much better life.

If you want more information on how you can help producers in the developing world secure livelihoods for themselves and their communities visit www.shared-interest.com for more information.

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World Fair Trade Day

There was candy floss, music and all the fun of the fair.  The London Fair Trade Festival ran from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon last weekend.  The event celebrated World Fair Trade Day and involved a number of fair trade organisations including Visionary Soap, Cafedirect, Zaytoun, Tropical Wholefoods and of course Shared Interest.

Although the weather wasn’t on our side there was lots going on.  Tate and Lyle were spinning the candy floss into pink fluffy fair trade clouds, Flamenco dancers were just some of those getting the crowds to join in the celebrations with some dancing and the Fairtrade Bananas were dancing on the streets with passers by:

World Fair Trade Day 2010

There were lots of exciting things to find at the stalls with sweet treats from Wish4Fairtrade, where I topped up on my Mint Crumbles which have become a staple favourite since I made a swap for them in Fairtrade Fortnight.  Another favourite was the Pachacuti stall where I bought a beautiful summer hat from their great collection, now all I need is a summer to wear it in!

Tell us how you celebrated World Fair Trade Day.  Did you go to any of the organised events across the country or indeed the world?

World Fair Trade Day 2010

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Crafts, Rice and Banana Wine!

The KOAKI Co-operative we visited in Rwanda was one of the most welcoming and generous, and also one of the most disadvantaged.

Based near Bugesera, to the South of Kigali, the members have a very small amount of land and small, basic houses and little else. They struggle to clothe and feed themselves and their families, so they began the craft co-operative to earn extra money.

Andrea and I were made to feel very welcome and as the group told us about their business, we were all served an enormous plate of rice, beans and vegetables. When asked what we would like to drink we made the mistake of replying ‘anything at all’ and were promptly given a bottle of banana wine each. The food was delicious and, although the wine was difficult to stomach at 10.30 am, the sentiment was very much appreciated: we were amazed by the generosity of the members, who have so little for themselves.

Koaki Co-Operative

The President of the Cooperative, Renilde, explained that they currently sell through a buyer rather than directly. Due to a lack of capital the members are tied into a relationship whereby the buyer supplies the materials in exchange for buying the goods for a reduced price. They are glad to receive Shared Interest Foundation training as it enables them to find new markets. Since this is a particular issue for the co-operative, the Producer Support Project’s Business Advisor, Pauline, has discussed their position and will be taking representatives from the group on a marketing tour of Kigali to help them understand the market better and look for new opportunities.

KOAKI, Andrea and I are all very grateful to those who support Shared Interest Foundation’s projects. If you would like to help cooperatives like KOAKI to grow their businesses please either donate by clicking here or send a cheque to Shared Interest Foundation, Freepost NT1883, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 1BR. We are grateful for any support you can give.

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Cleaning up – soap and sales

The cosmetics company, Dusabane who we visited in Eastern Rwanda has an unusual and inspiring tale of enterprising spirit in difficult circumstances.

The co-operative’s President fled to Uganda during the 1994 genocide. Whilst living as a refugee, a friend taught him how to use aloe vera plants to make soap and moisturising cream, using only very basic home-made hand-powered machines.

On his return to Rwanda in 2002 the government had introduced a scheme which supported the formation of new businesses.  He registered Dusabane and began attending trade shows to market his products, within a few years the business had grown significantly.

When we visited the organisation, they were very keen to tell us about the progress they have made since receiving training from Steven Taifa, one of the Rwandan Producer Support Project Business Advisors. They have found the marketing training particularly useful and changed the way they think about attracting new customers. For example, they still go to trade shows but now provide product samples. They make a point of contacting customers who have expressed an interest in their products and are far more pro-active in their approach.

Shared Interest Foundation training has helped them improve their business plan. Their range of products has expanded to include liquid soap sold in larger bottles and they have succeeded in tapping into a new market, the hospitality industry, with a subsequent increase in sales and income.

George, the Chairman, said, “When you are a baby first you crawl, then you walk. Shared Interest training has helped us to walk without falling over.

The members of Dusabane are dedicated to making their business work and optimistic about the future, but they are also a little deflated at present as their largest machine has broken down and they cannot fulfill demand for their products. This is a significant barrier for Dusabane as they cannot take out another bank loan until the one they received to buy the machine itself is paid off. They insist they have not quite “fallen over” but they are struggling. Unfortunately, as they sell only to the local market and not fair trade, Shared Interest Society is not able to provide them with a credit facility. As a result Shared Interest Foundation is looking into ways to try to help the co-operative recover from this set-back.

How business training has helped lift soap sales

The co-operative has created jobs for 13 people and will continue to become stronger with support from Steven and the Producer Support Project. If you would like to help the members of Dusabane or people like them to make their businesses more sustainable and earn a better income, please go to our online donation page by clicking here or send a cheque to Shared Interest Foundation, Freepost NT1883, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 1BR. We are grateful for any support you can give.

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A few years ago I thought that was impossible. Now, it seems possible.

I have known Cards from Africa for a few years now and walking into their building on the outskirts of Kigali is always a great experience, the whole building buzzes with busy card makers who clearly enjoy coming to work. They currently employ over 50 card makers all of whom have a story to tell.

The organisation only employs orphans aged between 18 and 24, prioritising those who have children to look after. They take a holistic approach to their work. They train their employees in finance (savings) and English language skills. They further support their work force by employing a full time counsellor. The idea is that once employees reach 24 they will be fully prepared to find alternative employment or set up businesses of their own.

Florence is a great example of the positive effect Cards from Africa has had on the local community.

Just a few years ago, Florence barely had enough money to support herself, her niece and her infant son. Now, not only does she provide for their daily needs, she is even saving for their future.

When she was only ten years old, Florence lost her parents, two little sisters and a grandmother to the 1994 genocide, she had to look after herself.

At eleven, Florence found a job as house help where she discovered she had a half-sister living nearby. They immediately hit it off and decided to live together and support one another. For a few years things seemed brighter, but in 2002 Florence’s sister fell ill and died because they did not have enough money to see a doctor.

Florence felt the crushing weight of the loss of her sister. She took her niece as her own daughter, but she felt that she had no reason to hope or dream. She struggled to pay rent and buy food, and each day was full of anxiety.

In 2006, Florence joined Cards from Africa. With a steady income, she no longer worried about whether she could buy food that day, or even the next week or month. Slowly, she has begun to save.

Florence says: “I am grateful for Cards from Africa. Not only do we have enough for today, but we have enough for tomorrow. Now, I don’t just want to have enough to survive, but I want to have a brighter tomorrow. I am saving money so that my son and niece can attend university. A few years ago I thought that was impossible. Now, it seems possible.

If you would like to support people in very similar situations to Florence you can donate by clicking here alternatively you can purchase a card by visiting their website http://cardsfromafrica.com

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Bead Making in Rwanda

On day two we visited a women’s cooperative, Buranga, on a hillside in the outskirts of Kigali. It was rainy season so it took us a while to get there. Donatien’s car skidded and jerked around on the steep muddy dirt tracks and Andrea and I had to get out several times to lighten the load, but we eventually arrived in one piece!

The now 38 strong co-operative was instigated by Odette Murebwayire. Before joining Buranga most of the women, having lost their families in the genocide, were working as prostitutes and living on the streets. Odette said of the group, “This is our family”. After such huge losses during the genocide, they rely on each other not only to earn money but for support and friendship.

Bead Making in Rwanda

In the past the co-operative has been duped by buyers and lost out on profits, this has made them particularly eager to learn new business skills. They told us that they are pleased to have been given training as it has empowered them to make significant changes to their business.

After a year’s training they now have a business plan and a management committee of 6. Odette explained, “We have to have training because no-one will help us, we have to look after ourselves”.

The women earn very little for the pieces they make and are struggling to pay their rent on their own houses, despite this, they all insist that paying the rent on their small co-op building comes first.

Though this is obviously not ideal, and they have some way to go before they find new markets and start making more money, they recognise the importance of making their business more sustainable and take pride in their enterprise. The members of Buranga are determined to make a brighter future for themselves and their children.

Thank you to all our supporters who are donating to the Foundation and helping us to enable people like Odette to feel empowered to make their livelihoods more sustainable. If you would like to make a gift, please go to our online donation page by clicking here or send a cheque to Shared Interest Foundation, Freepost NT1883, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 1BR

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Dancing, cows and kindness in Rwanda

Welcome to day one of our Rwandan retrospect!

As Louise mentioned last week, our 10 days in Rwanda were very hectic, we had lots of producer groups to visit.

Our first day took us to Rwanda Work of Art, a craft business that has been part of the Rwanda Producer Support project from the beginning.

We received the most amazing welcome from Alice, the chair of the cooperative, who I am pleased to say informed us not only of the co-operatives development but her own personal triumph at learning English.

This may have been my eighth trip to Rwanda, but I can assure you that this was one meeting I will never forget. While we waited for the rest of the group, we were treated to a surprise, a traditional dance routine by around twenty local children, many of whom had lost their families in the genocide.

Alice told us about the importance of dancing in Rwanda culture, she said:

We wanted to welcome you here and to say thank you for the training you have provided us with. For the children and for all of us Rwandans, dance is a way of forgetting what happened in the past and thinking about the here and now.

Alice went on to tell us that the dance represented the cow. The cow is incredibly important to Rwandan culture as it provides food and social status; it also acts as an emergency source of funds for many families.

To Rwandans, giving cows is a sign of true friendship and we certainly felt like true friends.

It was great to see the development of the organisation.  Alice has successfully built her business and is using it to provide a sustainable livelihood for the people who work within the co-operative; it really was inspiring to see.

Dancing in Rwanda

If you would like to support groups like Rwanda Work of Art you can donate by clicking here or by sending a cheque to Shared Interest Foundation, Freepost NT1883, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 1BR.

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Want to win £40 of Ethical Superstore vouchers?

Happy World Fair Trade Day to one and all!

As Sally mentioned earlier last week there are various events celebrating World Fair Trade Day running around the country this weekend but if you’d like to be involved without leaving your computer we can help!

Below is a picture of our trusty fair trade banana, your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to come up with a comedy caption to accompany the photo. All captions must contain the words fair trade and banana.

Photo Competition

Keep them clean but make them as entertaining as can.

The prize, £40 of Ethical Superstore vouchers goes to the most creative entry, so what are you waiting for?

All entries must be entered into the comment box at the bottom of this page by 5pm on Monday, don’t forget to include your name and email address.

The winner will be announced on Tuesday on our Twitter page….GOOD LUCK!!

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

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