"On a wet and windy 1st of March, Fairtrade campaigners headed for Westminster. Co-operatives large and small played a key role in the launch of an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Fairtrade, which aims to:
- Promote Fairtrade within Westminster
- Raise awareness of the importance of Fairtrade
- Deepen relationships between local Fairtrade organizations and Parliament
Co-operatives showed how their Fairtrade activities contribute to a better deal for farmers and their families. The theme of this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight ‘Sit down for breakfast, stand up for farmers’ highlights seasonal hunger faced by millions of farmers worldwide.
Julio Mercado Cantillo of Banafrucoop, a co-operative of 40 banana smallholders in northern Colombia, spoke movingly about the positive impact of Fairtrade on his family and the community. Periods of food insecurity ‘los meses flacos’ (the thin months) were common until 2009, since when Fairtrade minimum prices have helped stabilise incomes. The Fairtrade Premium has established a mutual fund for farm repairs, retirement pensions, school toilets, housing and university scholarships.
For the Co-operative Group ( http://www.growingstories.coop ), Brad Hill, Fairtrade Strategy Manager, talked about ‘Growing Stories’ – a fascinating online way to meet and interact with producers of sugar, blueberries, bananas, wine, roses, tea, coffee and so much more.
The Co-operative - Food, Holmfirth (http://www.co-operative.coop/store/food/HD9-7AX/market-street ) was represented by Kelly Stower, recently appointed Manager, who is keen to support local charities and Fairtrade organizations.
Fair Trader (http://fairtrader.coop) is a Holmfirth based community co-operative that sells Fairtrade and ethically sourced goods; Michelle Brown and Kathryn Sheard championed this volunteer-owned and led organization, which now has 600 members worldwide.
Honley High, a 1200 pupil Co-operative School (http://www.honleyhigh.co.uk ) sent twelve students and staff, including Assistant Headteacher Mrs Tandy. The students stole the show – serving Fairtrade tea and coffee and answering MPs queries about all aspects of Fairtrade. Honley High has a very active Fairtrade Forum. The students are well informed about all aspects of Fairtrade – and students and staff make the effort to have lots of Fairtrade activities in school.
Patrick Kaberia Muthaura, a Kenyan tea producer spoke of the importance of Fairtrade to ensure better and more stable prices, and opportunities for training.
#FairtradeAPPG mapped live Fairtrade questions and answers and there were words also from Mike Gidney (CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation), Minister of State Desmond Swayne and Jason McCartney. Holly Lynch talked of how far along the Fairtrade journey we’ve come – and how far there’s still to go. On recently asking in a local store “Do you have any Fairtrade biscuits? “ the response was “No, but we’ve got gluten-free, if that’s any good?”
It’s no co-incidence that APPG Fairtrade is jointly chaired by northern MPs Jason McCartney (Colne Valley, Conservative) and Holly Lynch (Halifax, Labour) as its creation is due in part to the lobbying of Holme Valley Fairtrade campaign group (http://www.holmevalleyfairtrade.com), chaired by Helen Robinson.
Thirty-eight MPs came to find out more. Each MP, understandably, proved to be an expert cherry picker of the most useful information for his/her constituency. Several MPs were interested in the community co-operative model that is Fair Trader.
Fairtrade cotton bags, with endorsements from the great and the good were on display. MPs were invited to sign a similar bag, to show their commitment to Fairtrade and commemorate the day.
So, why not contact your local MP and encourage him/her to join the APPG, link with local Fairtrade campaigners & co-operatives and promote Fairtrade in your constituency!"