We hope you enjoy the third and final update from Aled Pickard, who has been carrying out our grant-funded research.
What a fascinating experience this research project has been. I’ve been supporting fair trade for years, always confident that it was bringing real benefit to the producers. But I had no idea how my purchases were contributing to improving the lives of some of the world’s poorest people. With more than 4,500 fair trade products available in the UK, produced by 1.5 million farmers and workers from more than 1,200 organisations in 74 countries, I’ll need to research for several more years before I know how every single purchase is changing lives. However, a picture is forming that confirms that every single purchase is indeed enabling producers to not only meet their basic needs and ensure children are educated, but they are able to save money and plan for the future.
My last blog focused on the work of Cards from Africa and Denur Crafts. This time, I look at one of the most widely consumed fair trade products – coffee. Through working with Equal Exchange and Nimrod Wambette from Gumutindo Coffee Cooperative in Uganda, I can show how you’re helping a coffee farmer and their family; how your school/office/place of worship could sustain a coffee farmer and their family; and how we in Wales could support the 12,000 strong cooperative.
There are already very strong ties between Wales and Mbale in Eastern Uganda, where Gumutindo grow their coffee. Size of Wales are busy planting 10 million trees and Pont-Mbale links Rhondda Cynon Taf with this region. Positive changes are also taking place through Equal Exchange’s ‘Grown by Women’ project, which provides female coffee growers with access to the market and is contributing to a cultural shift, bringing greater equality to women.
Did you know that one coffee tree produces around 4,000 beans? And that in turn produces around 45 shots of espresso? If you drink just one cup of coffee a day, depending on how strong you like your coffee, you’ll need 3-5 trees to provide you with your daily fix. So, on average, if you drink 1 cup a day, you’ll need 4 trees to meet your needs. You know how much you really drink – how many trees do you need to feed your habit?
Kuloba Charles is a typical member of the Gumutindo Cooperative. He has 220 coffee trees, across 2 acres of land. He’s 45 and has four children. The price paid for coffee has been falling in recent years, and in 2015, he earned around £578 from the coffee he grew. This table shows the cost of meeting Kuloba Charles’ needs, how many coffee trees are needed to generate enough income to pay for each of those needs, and in turn, how many people drinking just one cup of coffee a day are needed to provide the income he needs.
|Item||Cost||%||No. of trees||No. of people drinking 1 cup of coffee a day|
|Social benefit||138,600 USh
By this measure, we can say you need 55 people drinking one cup of coffee a day to sustain Kuloba Charles. If we consider the 12,000 members of the cooperative, you need 660,000 people drinking one cup of coffee a day to sustain the cooperative. The reality though is more complex than this as much of the coffee we drink is mixed in with coffee from different farms and cooperatives and even countries, but we can see that every cup of fair trade coffee we drink is contributing to meeting the needs of the producers.
Life is still challenging and unpredictable though for many producers. In Niger, producers of Cadwyn’s Welsh dragon leather purses struggle to earn enough to meet their food needs, despite working through a fair trade cooperative. In what is often deemed the world’s poorest country, malnutrition is a serious concern. With more than 20% of the sale price of the purse staying in Niger, Cadwyn is providing much needed income to 120 crafters and their families.
Working on this project has helped me look at fair trade in a different way. I feel encouraged that all of my purchases are improving the lives of the people who helped produce them. This motivates me to want to buy more, so that more of my money can do good. And it makes me wish that more people made a stronger commitment to buying fair trade items so that we can enable more people to lift themselves out of poverty, particularly in places such as Niger.
* A PowerPoint presentation, with accompanying notes, will soon be available on this website. It can be adapted for use with any audience and includes information on each of the four partners who were involved in this research.