Your meal starts with fruit juice, moves on to a pineapple and porcini risotto with herbs accompanied by a glass of Chardonnay, then a baked banana drizzled with honey, followed by coffee and after-dinner mints. All the ingredients are certified as Fairtrade – provided that you like your coffee black!
There are thousands of products that have this symbol on the label, which is awarded in the UK by the Fairtrade Foundation. Carrying the Fairtrade mark means that the product meets international fairtrade standards – standards for the small producers’ organisations, for the hired labour involved, for the specific product(s), and for the traders who buy the products. They’re not just a list of requirements for farmers and traders to farm and trade responsibly, they go further than that to support disadvantaged small-scale farmers and plantation workers, covering social, economic, and environmental development.
Well, for me the motivation stems from an understanding that almost all trade between the ‘developed,’ ‘rich,’ or ‘Western’ countries and other countries is heavily biased towards the rich, and a belief that this is unjust. In the Bible there’s a book by James who writes, ‘Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.’ (James 5, verses 4 and 5) This rings true with the unfair trade we see around the world today.
What can be done?
You can march and demonstrate, lobby MPs about national legislation, or write to legislators or opinion formers. I have done that, but it isn’t for everyone and doesn’t always bear fruit. What everyone can do is choose to buy a Fairtrade product instead of one that comes through a less fair trade route. Each purchase makes at least a small difference to a grower or producer somewhere, and the groundswell of hundreds of thousands of individuals and organisations buying Fairtrade regularly has already had significant repercussions at a national and international level.
What did we do?
About six years ago a group from two or three of the Headington churches started to make plans to open a shop in Headington’s main shopping street, selling almost entirely Fairtrade or fairly-traded products. It wasn’t a straightforward process, but The Windmill has been trading now for over four years. We operate as a community co-operative (not a charity), at present we don’t have any paid staff, but we have moved into profitability, which is essential for long-term survival.
Is it worthwhile?
Yes, but it’s time-consuming and hard work. We have become well-known and are seen as part of the Headington community. We help to promote Fairtrade generally. And in small ways we are addressing the failure to pay the wages of those who have mowed our fields.
104 London Road, Headington, Oxford OX3 9AJ
John has lived in Headington and been a member of Headington Baptist Church for over 22 years. He and his wife Sheila continue to develop new skills – not just how to run a small retail business, but more recently how to be good grandparents.