February may not be the most exciting of months. The nights are still long. It’s still cold outside. Not everyone receives a card from their Valentine. By the time the month comes to an end, change will be in the air. Daffodils will be popping up here, there and everywhere; we’ll have devoured pancakes and started the countdown to Easter; and Fairtrade Fortnight will have begun!
This year, Fairtrade Fortnight runs from February 27-March 12. It provides us with the opportunity to come together and celebrate all that Fairtrade achieves throughout the year and think about the people who produce so many of our favourite things and how we can support them and their communities to live a life free from poverty. During Fairtrade Fortnight this year, we’re encouraged to come together to enjoy a fair trade break. We can all do this easily in our schools or workplace, or even at home, or you may want to arrange your own event to mark the occasion.
The Fairtrade Premium, which is paid in addition to the minimum price farmers receive for their produce, enables producers to invest in their communities. Gumutindo Coffee Cooperative in Uganda received almost $1 million in Fairtrade Premium between 2012 and 2015 (as they produced organic coffee and supported women coffee farmers, they received two additional premiums on top of the basic Fairtrade Premium).
As a cooperative, the members decided how to distribute the funds and the money was used in a variety of ways. These included the purchase of machinery at their factory; contributions towards the construction of some schools, churches and health centres, first aid kits, training on child labour and health and safety, distributing farming tools and coffee seedlings. Some societies also used the money to buy land, and others to buy solar panels.
These are the big projects that Fairtrade makes possible. Every time you purchase or consume a fair trade item, you’re not only contributing to the big projects, but you’re helping the farmer or producer meet all their basic needs. And you don’t need to buy much to make a real difference. Just 55 people drinking one cup of fair trade coffee every day could sustain your average Ugandan coffee farmer, such as Kuloba Charles. That would ensure his four children are attending school; the family’s health needs are all met; he and his family have enough to eat; he can pay for any additional labour to help on the farm; and have enough money left over to pay for other essentials and enjoy life.
Fair trade works. As Patrick (pictured above, left) another of Gumutindo’s coffee farmers told us, “It is because of fair trade that most of my family have received an education. Because of fair trade, we have constructed good houses, primary schools, health centres; we have more clean water and better roads.”
How many cups of coffee will you drink this Fairtrade Fortnight? Or if you attend a Fairtrade Break somewhere, how many cups of fair trade coffee will be consumed? How much of an impact will you have during Fairtrade Fortnight? Probably much more than you think.
You can read more about the impact we have when we choose to buy fair trade on the ‘Research project’ page where you will find free resources for you to use.