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.

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Mexican coffee farmer at work in the fields

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