We were lucky enough to receive a visit from Howard and Webster, rice farmers from Malawi on Wednesday 19 September.
The story of Kilombero rice starts with a remarkable act of faith. JTS were given a container of rice to sell, on the understanding that the rice would be paid for once it had been sold to UK customers. They were given free access to a warehouse in Paisley and started to figure out how to market the rice. They sold through fair trade shops, churches and schools and gradually the farmers were paid back with interest to invest in the better quality Kilombero rice seeds.Howard and Webster are both from Northern Malawi and represent around 7,000 rice farmers. Since they started working with JTS about ten years ago this has increased from 2,500. There are no plans to expand it any more until the demand for the rice increases, otherwise the farmers will stop seeing the benefits. The farmers work in small groups and elect officers who organise the sales and marketing of the rice. They hold each other to account for things being done on time. Both Howard and Webster – who are Chair and Vice Chair of one of the regional co-operatives – believe it is this collective organisation and the structure of the co-operative that makes them efficient and successful.Most of the investment into the collective comes from government funds, from both Scottish and Norwegian governments but since public opinion is turning against “foreign aid” it’s vital that the farmers are able to compete on a level playing field. John Riches of JTS reckons that a £250,000 one-off investment would be enough to put the farmers in a position to be self-sustaining.The farmers have always been rice farmers on a subsistence level, but those outside the fair trade system often don’t have enough money to feed themselves and their families. The big improvement in their productivity was the introduction of Kilombero rice seeds. Each farmer was given 20kg of rice and tasked with doubling it in two years. This was achieved and now they have enough to sell and make a profit as well as feeding their families. The two main technological changes they are taking on board to maximise productivity are ox carts and threshing machines. The ox carts mean they don’t have to transport their rice from their field to the marketing hub in individual 50kg sacks but can take several at once. The threshing is currently done by hand but Howard is working with an engineer from Dumfries to develop a lightweight mechanical threshing machine to save labour. He hopes to have this up and running within a couple of years.Two thirds of the farmers are women, mostly widows. In Malawi there are lots of women who are colloquially known as widows but whose husbands have left them and engaged in polygamy. They are responsible for feeding and looking after anything up to eight children. All the farm work is done by hand – when they saw Scottish farmers they said they weren’t farmers, they were machine operators. They were, however, astounded at how quickly tractors and modern farm machinery can work. Fields that would take them three weeks to plough manually, can be ploughed in a day.Another important tool is ploughs. Lots of the very poorest farmers don’t have their own ploughs so they have to pay someone who does have a plough £30 every year before they can plant their rice. Most of these poorest farmers are women so there is an initiative called “A ploughwoman’s dinner” where women get together for a meal at someone’s house, using Kilombero rice, and donate what that meal would have cost them in a restaurant to help a Malawian woman afford a plough. Since ploughs cost around £100 it’s likely that as few as 4 or 5 women doing this would be able to buy a plough for a Malawian woman farmer.One of the attendees said that she had visited Malawi on an initiative from the Bishops of Malawi to support primary school children, especially getting girls to stay in primary school. The farmers agreed that education was vitally important especially for girls and that one of the things they have done with the support of JTS is to pay the school fees of children who have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS. Some of these children have been able to get to university and the continuous support of JTS has meant that the fees have continued to be paid right through to university.The 90kg challenge is an initiative designed to help market the rice to community groups such as schools and churches. It was based on the best guess of one of the farmers who was asked how much he was paying to educate his children and how much rice that equated to, but it has been extremely successful in getting children into school and helping them fulfil their potential.
Howard and Webster will be going on to the Fair Trade Yorkshire Conference at Leeds University which takes place on Saturday 22 September so if you missed them on Wednesday you have a second opportunity to meet and chat to them.
Details of both events are on our “Events” page.
There is nothing like a nice cup of tea… But have you ever thought about where your tea comes from?
Many popular British blends include tea from Assam in India, where the people who picked it – most of them women – are paid poverty wages and live in appalling conditions.
The ‘Big 6′ British tea brands – PG Tips, Twinings, Typhoo, Yorkshire Tea, Tetley and Clipper – are well aware about this but aren’t doing enough to challenge it.
We won’t let them get away with this anymore. Please add your voice by asking the brands: Who picked my tea?
To make your message more powerful, add a sentence on why this issue matters to you. Your email will go to all six brands’ customer service teams, but if you get a response from the brands, please let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about the campaign, visit: www.traidcraft.org.uk/tea-campaign.
World Fair Trade Day: Saturday 12 May
World fair Trade Day is a chance to celebrate the artisans and craftspeople who make the fair trade crafts, gifts, homewares and fashion we love. These goods aren’t crops so they can’t be Fairtrade but many come from workshops, factories and collcectives which are members of the World Fair Trade Organisation.
Shared Earth is a member of WFTO and you can buy their goods from their shop at 1 Minster Gates.
You can also buy goods from other WFTO members like Traidcraft from Fairer World on Gillygate.
With WFTO fair trade products we can live fair, one product at a time.
On Tuesday 10 April we were delighted to welcome Rachael Maskell the MP for York Central who talked to the group about her commitment to fair trade and ideas to progress trade justice in York. We discussed the recent changes at Sainsbury’s, fair and ethical trade deals in a post-Brexit UK and the sustainable development goals.
We would like to thank Rachael for being so generous with her time, and look forward to moving forward with her ideas.
On Monday 16 April our usual monthly meeting will feature Ashley from Shared Interest talking about the range of fair trade organisations supported by Shared Interest and how we can all get involved. Again, the meeting will be at West Offices and Ashley will talk from around 6.30 after a short group meeting.
Please do come along to our monthly meetings, and find out more about how you can support fair trade in York.
Fairtrade Fortnight 2018 ran from Monday 26 February to Sunday 11 March.
Our main event this year was e a Business Breakfast meeting at Spurriergate Centre on Tuesday 6 March.
We invited local business people, councillors and other interested parties to “Come on in” for free Fairtrade tea, coffee and juice, fruit and toast with fair trade jams and spreads. The event was really well attended, with at least ten councillors in attendance and some really interesting conversations about the role of fair trade in combating global poverty.
York Press was on hand to cover the event. You can see their write-up here.
We were excited to welcome That’s York TV to the event as well, and their interview with group member Joanna was broadcast later that evening. The piece is now available on their You Tube channel.
We would like to thank the staff and volunteers at the Spurriergate Centre who did a great job of hosting the event, the Co-op who provided Fairtrade bananas and Fairer World who provided some of the more unusual jams from their Swazi Kitchen range.
This was one of the most popular events we have ever held, and we hope to repeat the event next year – our 15th anniversary as a Fair Trade City – so keep your eye out for details and come along in 2019.
On Saturday 10 March Norton and Malton Fair Trade Group is holding a fair trade and local craft fair at the Friends Meeting House in Malton, featuring stalls selling fair trade crafts, food and gifts as well as goods from local makers. The popular monthly Malton farmers’ market will be on at the same time so it will be worth a day trip to the town even if you’re not local.
If you’re in the York area and holding an event celebrating fair trade please let us know and we’ll help promote it any way we can.
Congratulate fair trade stockists
Do you ever see Fairtrade/fair trade goods somewhere you didn’t expect and feel pleasantly surprised? Why not write to let them know you noticed and support their decision – if nobody comments on what they stock, they may start to think it’s fair trade provenance isn’t import and stock something else instead. So, whilst it’s always good to mention it when you’re there in person, an email or letter often gets to the person who makes the decisions and provides a more lasting token of thanks and support. You can see the Forum’s template letter here – we’re planning to send them to outlets along with a couple of our window stickers.
We have published a new book of inspiring stories stretching from the origins of fair trade to the present day
Details of our book, Fair’s Fair – Inspiring stories of Fair Trade champions from the 18th century to the present day, and information on how to purchase it, can be found here.
See the Forum’s Fairly Traded York trail guiding you round the beautiful and historic city centre and exploring its fair trade links here.
Interested in fair trade around the world? See this website to find out more about the World Fair Trade Organisation’s activity in Asia