The new year is a good time to embark on a new challenge, but this one is particularly exciting with a potentially far-reaching impact. Fair Do’s has been given a grant by the Welsh Government, via Hub Cymru Africa, for a project called ‘Every time a person in Wales buys fair trade…’ and we’re hoping to show how every purchase of a fairly traded item is having a positive impact in Africa.
Over the years, I’m sure we’ve all wondered what difference our small purchases are making to the people who’ve harvested the cocoa for our chocolate bars or the coffee beans for our lattes. We’ve read inspiring stories of women who’ve been empowered to become leaders in business and of schools being built through the Fairtrade premium.
These stories are important and the purpose of the Fairtrade movement is to bring about these great, societal changes. And whilst we are stronger as a collective, we are also powerful as individuals – every vote at an election counts and every purchase of a Fairtrade item contributes towards the changes we wish to see happen across developing nations.
If we had a simpler understanding of the difference we make through choosing fair trade, would that encourage us to buy more? For example, if we knew that the purchase of a 100g bar of Fairtrade chocolate could pay for a day’s education for a child in Ghana, would we ensure that we only buy Fairtrade chocolate so that more money is going into the pockets of the producers and help pay for their children’s education throughout the year? Or, if we knew that buying a jar of coffee could pay for 10 trees being planted in Uganda, would we feel more confident in trying to persuade the workplace to make the switch to Fairtrade?
At this stage, this is all hypothetical and it’s important to emphasise that not every sale of a bar of chocolate would pay for a day’s education or each jar of coffee sold would result in 10 trees being planted because the producers of the products we love are entitled to spend their money as they wish, just like you and I, and their needs are varied and complex, just like yours and mine.
But, if more of us realised the potential impact of every fair trade purchase, will you ever buy non-fair trade again? When we multiply this with the number of items we sell across Wales, we can see the big impact we’re having. This could then be used as a tool to encourage local councils and the Welsh Government to adopt Fairtrade across all schools and hospitals in Wales; or motivate businesses to switch to Fairtrade; or persuade individuals to make that choice.
This is a big challenge, but to achieve big, you’ve got to start small.