An inspiring Members’ Day and AGM

As the 22nd Annual General Meeting and Members Day draws to a close I reflect on what has been a very busy and thought provoking experience.

Over 200 Members travelled from around the country to attend the day which was held in the Ballroom of the Oxford Town Hall.

Ian Barney the Managing Director of TWIN and Willington Wamayeye, MD of Gumutindo Coffee Cooperative gave an introductory address.  Ian explained how TWIN worked exclusively with smallholders recognising their importance to rural economies and in the protection of rich and diverse ecosystems.  Willington spoke of the difficulties created by climate change and the devastating impact of landslides in the small organic coffee farming community of Mount Elgon in Uganda.

It was a great opportunity for Members to talk to other Members and hear first-hand the massive impact their investment has made.  Last year, payments of over £39m were made to 63 countries around the globe.

Regional Development Executives Rachel Ngondo and John Dossou travelled from Kenya and Ghana respectively to give Members a first-hand account of their experience on the ground.  Two new films were showcased which detailed the impact of lending to banana cooperatives in Peru and handicraft producers in Kenya.

Patricia Alexander gave an overview of the recent work of Shared Interest Foundation and reported that the percentage of children attending school had risen to 86% in one area.  The video accounts of women in Rwanda were particularly moving.

Feedback from Members was extremely positive.

“Thank you for a very inspiring day and for the wonderful work you do. Thanks for the delicious lunch and refreshments”

Related Articles

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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International Women’s Day 2012 in Sunderland

Yesterday’s event at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland brought together several diverse organisations who were all committed to raising awareness of women’s issues on a local and international level.

Managing Director, Patricia Alexander spoke about why fair trade is so important to women’s producer groups around the world. Patricia spoke of her trip to Rwanda, where she met many women who had been impacted by the genocide. For the women who were widowed, becoming self-sufficient was their only option, and by forming fair trade co-operatives many of these groups are thriving. With the help of the Shared Interest Foundation project we have provided business skills training to many groups, which we estimate has impacted 9000 individuals.

The event was closed with a fair trade coffee on the roof of the National Glass Centre, one of Sunderland’s most iconic buildings. It’s well worth a visit if you’ve never been before, and of course you can treat yourself to a Fairtrade beverage in the café.

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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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International Women’s Day celebrations at Shared Interest

International Women’s Day celebrations for 2012 take place this Thursday 8th March, which slots neatly into our programme of celebrations for Fairtrade Fortnight.

I will be attending a Fairtrade reception at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland, which is being organised in celebration of IWD. The event is designed to raise awareness of the issues facing young women in developing countries, and how young women in Sunderland can make a difference. I am looking forward to hearing my colleagues speak about their first hand experience of how fair trade and Shared Interest can support women’s producer groups. We will also have the opportunity to network and share stories with local women’s organisations.

Here at the office, our social committee have organised an in house competition for staff to name a famous woman who has inspired them. I’m sure there will be some very diverse and interesting names put forward. Roll on Thursday; it should be a very positive and uplifting day!

Related Articles

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
Mexican coffee farmer at work in the fields


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Sharing Steps this Fairtrade Fortnight

In a bid to raise awareness about Shared Interest and the work that we do in the developing world we have partnered up with Smooth Radio in the North East and The Big Issue across the country, using their websites as a way to promote Shared Interest.

Have you seen our dedicated microsites? If not the links to each site are below:

http://www.smoothradionortheast.co.uk/ethical

http://www.bigissue.com/shared-interest/

Please pass on the links to your friends, families and work colleagues and help us to bring Shared Interest to their attention as show them how they can invest in a fairer world.

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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
Mexican coffee farmer at work in the fields


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Working in partnership for Fairtrade Fortnight 2012

Monday 27th February saw the start of Fairtrade Fortnight 2012. I travelled to Glasgow to celebrate the launch of the Fortnight’s activities with one of our partner organisations, the Scottish Fairtrade Forum.

The event was opened by the President of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, Mike Kirby, who highlighted Scotland’s campaign to become a fair trade nation. He welcomed an international guest, Jennifer Wettaka, a fair trade coffee producer from the Gumutindo co-operative in Uganda. Jennifer spoke about how the group made use of the fair trade premium, emphasising that it was this pricing strategy that had allowed their farmer’s children to attend school. One of the audience members asked Jennifer whether there was any other support for the community; she simply answered no – there is no other mechanism. She said she hoped to benefit from a long partnership with Fairtrade and with buyers Equal Exchange, who were also there on the night to showcase their ‘Grown by Women’ range.

Martin Rhodes, the Director of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum was there to launch their new slogan – “Scotland is going Fair Trade. Are you?”  He urged individuals and organisations to become truly committed to the campaign by signing pledge cards.

Closer to the Newcastle office, the Sunderland Soroptimists are currently running their fair trade and Shared Interest information stall in the Sunderland City Library. I was on hand earlier in the week to chat to local schools that were passing through.

Next week will see a programme of international celebrations for International Women’s Day 2012. The Shared Interest team will be part of a Fairtrade reception at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland, which will see several regional partnerships come together to raise awareness of women’s issues. Our network of ambassadors will also be attending events o to mark this day. If you live in Leeds, be sure to check out celebrations which are being organised by the Co-operative Membership Team and Daisy Green. See our events calendar for further details.

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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
Mexican coffee farmer at work in the fields


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Be the change you want to see

As I embark upon my fourth Fairtrade Fortnight I am as inspired and enthused as ever by the stories and actions of campaigners, producers, fair trade pioneers and all involved in the movement.  This years’ theme of ‘Take a Step’ seems especially appropriate as I do clock up the steps, and train journeys and bus trips, at this time of year.  My journey for Fairtrade this fortnightstarts in my own town with a visit from Anton ‘Tookie’ Bowman, a Fairtrade banana producer from the Windward Islands, to a number of events in London, including the ‘Fair Enough?’ Conference and then, I head west for the first ever Bristol Fairtrade Fortnight Awards.

Last night I attended an event at the Fairtrade Foundation to celebrate the success of Palestinian Olive Oil producers, Zaytoun.

Atif Choudhury opened the evening last night with reference to the first meeting he and his friends, now colleagues at Zaytoun, had with Palestinian olive farmers almost a decade ago.

Realising that the only way to understand what exporting olive oil from Palestine to the UK would mean to the farmers was to ask them directly, they gathered with thirteen farmers and the questions began.  The farmers asked could they guarantee they would be able to bypass the wall? The response was No.  Could they guarantee they could sell the farmers’ oil?  Again, the response was No.  Finally, had they ever actually sold any oil?  No.

Ten of the farmers left the meeting.  Of the three who remained in that room we heard from two last night. Riziq Abu Nasser told us that before they achieved Fairtrade certification for their olive oil they were forced to sell it for $1.5 per kilo, the oil cost more to make than they earned from it.  Now, they are able to sell at $5 per kilo which covers their costs of production and offers a viable income for the farmers and those involved in the production of the oil.  As well as the fairer price they receive the Fairtrade premium has also been put to good use by the communities.  This has been used to support payment of school fees for their children, to buy equipment for the schools and fridges to preserve medical supplies. 

Through fair trade, the farmers take greater care over their trees, preserving them to ensure sustainability as best they can.  They are also now able to offer seedlings to those who want to get involved in production.  Olive trees can take decades to produce useable fruit so the group have formed a series of women’s co-operatives that produce a herb mix known as ‘Za’atar’ which enables them to generate an income after just a few weeks.  What an inspiring start to what I’m sure will be many stories we hear from producers and Fairtrade pioneering organisations over Fairtrade Fortnight. 

The Fortnight is an important time for us at Shared Interest as it gives us a great opportunity to draw attention to the work of that we do.  With all of the events and activities which take place over the fortnight it is often disappointing that I haven’t yet mastered the art of being in more than one place at a time!  However, with the support of our network of volunteers we are able to take the story and message of Shared Interest far and wide.  To find out where we will be over the Fortnight take a look at our events calendar and pop along to say hello if you’re able to, it’s always lovely to hear more stories of your involvement and to share ours.

Related Articles

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
Mexican coffee farmer at work in the fields


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