Most of us love chocolate but do we care much about where it comes from and whether the producer was fairly paid for his/her crop? Buying Fairtrade goods is one of the ways we can support small-holders in the developing world to lift themselves out of poverty, whilst enjoying a tasty treat or purchasing a special craft item.
Cumbria is proud to have one of the most well-developed Fairtrade networks in the UK with 21 Fairtrade cities, towns, villages or zones (more than in any other county). Cumbria also boasts one of the most successful Development Education Centres (CDEC) in the country which works with local schools to help teachers deliver high quality education exploring global issues and social justice.
NW Labour MEP Julie Ward supports CDEC through the Easyfundraising campaign, becoming one of the charity’s top givers within the first 6 months of taking office.
During Fairtrade Fortnight, which ended on March 8th, she took time out from her busy schedule to find out more about the work of CDEC, visiting St Oswald’s Church of England Primary School in Burneside near Kendal where she also met farmer, Alvaro Pop, Chair of the Toledo Cacao Growers Association (TCGA), from Belize. Alvaro was on hand to tell pupils about life in his remote mountain home near the Equator.
"I spent a busy morning with pupils and staff at St Oswald's School, observing how children engaged with the concept of Fairtrade through exciting interactive classroom activities,” said Julie. “The children were having lots of fun designing logos, listening to and writing stories, and making and eating chocolate! Being able to meet a real Fairtrade farmer was fascinating for them and for all of us.”
She went on to say, “The children had lots of intelligent questions to ask Alvaro, not simply about cocoa farming but also about everyday life in Belize. Projects like this, funded by the European Union, help to make our world a more compassionate and tolerant place. We live in an interdependent world and the concept of Fairtrade is based on social justice and closing the inequality gap. I have always found children to be deeply concerned about fairness. They know what it means to share and are often very upset when they see how others do not share their good fortune."
In the afternoon, Julie Ward met with members of the Cumbria Fairtrade Network at a specially convened meeting in the Quaker Meeting House in Keswick.
"It was good to meet and talk with members of the network and hear their concerns about trade and tax justice. These are good-hearted people with a well-developed sense of global responsibility, many from a faith background. Listening to constituents is an important part of my job and I was able to reassure members that I share their values and will remain vigilant, challenging vested interests in the European Parliament and fighting for a fairer world.”
Back in the Parliament NW Labour MEPs marked Fairtrade Fortnight with cake sale fundraiser to give children in Tanzania the chance of an education.
The money raised will go to an international development project aimed at helping girls and women at the Kilima Hewa School in Moshi, Tanzania. They educate up to 200 children aged 3-7 and many pupils walk 6km to reach the school. Funds raised by the Fairtrade cake sale will help towards the cost of sponsoring more children at £40 each per year.
MEPs and their staff rolled up their sleeves and got baking to demonstrate that not only is Fairtrade a really easy way of helping to lift some of the world’s poorest people out of poverty, but also really tasty!
NW Labour MEP Julie Ward said:
"The UK leads the world when it comes to Fairtrade, with more products available and more awareness than anywhere else. This is helping to transform the livelihoods of more than 1.4 million people in 74 countries around the world.
"There are more Fairtrade products available than ever before. The old favourites like coffee, chocolate are bananas are choices we can make every day, but also Fairtrade gold, clothes made from Fairtrade cotton, toiletries and even handbags are available.
"The Fairtrade mark, which now features on more than 4,500 products, tells shoppers farmers have been paid the Fairtrade Minimum Price, plus an additional Fairtrade Premium to invest in local business or community projects."
Julie Ward added:
"Children in one of the poorest countries on the planet will now have the chance of a better future. Every penny raised will help these young girls get an education and enable themselves and their communities to prosper.
"Fairtrade empowers small-scale farmers and workers through trade, rather than aid, to enable them to maintain their livelihoods, reach their potential and offer a future to their children."