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Fairtrade on the road


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Showing posts tagged “travel”

Cassandre Maury is the Regional Coordinator at Fairtrade International (FLO) for South  East Asia and the Pacific. She recently traveled to China and Hong Kong to visit producers and traders. 
Fairtrade Hong Kong was created by a few companies who are promoting Fairtrade with the support of OXFAM Hong Kong. Each year they organize a Fairtrade Fortnight event to promote Fairtrade. I was invited to attend the event and give a speech.
The atmosphere was warm and many consumers attended the fair and the companies were able to sell a lot of their Fairtrade products. I had dinner with the people from Fairtrade Hong Kong. They want to strengthen the Fairtrade presence in Hong Kong. They see a lot of potential and the market is growing, but there is a huge need for more awareness among consumers.
The Hong Kong market is quite small, so most of the companies do not have the capacity to import raw materials and transform it into products. They import their Fairtrade products packaged and labelled directly from the UK!!! You can imagine in terms of carbon footprint, it’s a bit of a disaster!!
As a result, the companies from Hong Kong are interested in working more closely with Asian producers to see how they can import already processed/ packaged products from a closer source. This year OXFAM Hong Kong has invited three Fairtrade certified small-producer organizations from Pakistan, Indonesia and China to attend a food fair in May.
Visit their website here.

Cassandre Maury is the Regional Coordinator at Fairtrade International (FLO) for South East Asia and the Pacific. She recently traveled to China and Hong Kong to visit producers and traders.


Fairtrade Hong Kong was created by a few companies who are promoting Fairtrade with the support of OXFAM Hong Kong. Each year they organize a Fairtrade Fortnight event to promote Fairtrade. I was invited to attend the event and give a speech.

The atmosphere was warm and many consumers attended the fair and the companies were able to sell a lot of their Fairtrade products. I had dinner with the people from Fairtrade Hong Kong. They want to strengthen the Fairtrade presence in Hong Kong. They see a lot of potential and the market is growing, but there is a huge need for more awareness among consumers.

The Hong Kong market is quite small, so most of the companies do not have the capacity to import raw materials and transform it into products. They import their Fairtrade products packaged and labelled directly from the UK!!! You can imagine in terms of carbon footprint, it’s a bit of a disaster!!

As a result, the companies from Hong Kong are interested in working more closely with Asian producers to see how they can import already processed/ packaged products from a closer source. This year OXFAM Hong Kong has invited three Fairtrade certified small-producer organizations from Pakistan, Indonesia and China to attend a food fair in May.

Visit their website here.

FLO in Palestine: At Canaan Fair Trade

Wednesday, December 15th: It’s time to leave the Issa family. Iman doesn’t want me to leave and she is crying. I will be back, Iman.

I hold one last meeting in Jenin with the Fairtrade certified exporter, Canaan Fair Trade. It is always a pleasure to have a conversation with Nasser Abufarha, Director at Canaan.

We set  a time for our next visit. I give him advice on the needs of producers, what he needs from the producers he works with. We talk about market opportunities and the issues around olive oil and how to develop the Fairtrade market, how to become a licensee and increase their opportunities in other countries.

On Tuesday, December 14th, we conduct a training with the new management of the Palestine Fair Trade Producers Company (PFTPC). Drinking a lot of Arabic coffee… I’ve missed that.
I realize how much I’ve missed speaking in Arabic and listening to the farmers’ updates on different issues they face in their day to day life. We ended up spending a lot of time talking about the Fairtrade Minimum Price and Premium and we agree on the next steps to move forward.
By the end of the day, I am back with the Issa family in Anin, a village in Jenin. The Issa’s are always welcoming and make me feel part of the family. It’s not my first time staying here and the kids are used to me now. I help them with their homework in English and they tell me jokes.
Later while trying to send a work email and the light went off. Iman, 4 years old, tells me at this particular moment “the Israeli Army came one time and I wasn’t scared!”
We look at pictures of the family: Mahmoud (dad), Palestine (mum), Hiba (13), Mos’ab (11), Amal (8), Iman (4) and Saad (2).
My last night at the Issa’s family was a memorable night we were all sitting on the floor joking and laughing.

On Tuesday, December 14th, we conduct a training with the new management of the Palestine Fair Trade Producers Company (PFTPC). Drinking a lot of Arabic coffee… I’ve missed that.

I realize how much I’ve missed speaking in Arabic and listening to the farmers’ updates on different issues they face in their day to day life. We ended up spending a lot of time talking about the Fairtrade Minimum Price and Premium and we agree on the next steps to move forward.

By the end of the day, I am back with the Issa family in Anin, a village in Jenin. The Issa’s are always welcoming and make me feel part of the family. It’s not my first time staying here and the kids are used to me now. I help them with their homework in English and they tell me jokes.

Later while trying to send a work email and the light went off. Iman, 4 years old, tells me at this particular moment “the Israeli Army came one time and I wasn’t scared!”

We look at pictures of the family: Mahmoud (dad), Palestine (mum), Hiba (13), Mos’ab (11), Amal (8), Iman (4) and Saad (2).

My last night at the Issa’s family was a memorable night we were all sitting on the floor joking and laughing.

FLO in Palestine: Waiting at the Border

The Producer Services and Relations (PSR) Unit at FLO International provides training in local languages, guidance on certification requirements, help in accessing new markets, and facilitates relationships between buyers and producers.

Chiraz Skhiri, the Fairtrade Regional Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, is travelling to Palestine this week to visit with local farmers and provide training to cooperatives and other producer organizations.

Her first entry chronicles the difficulties of crossing into Palestine:

I arrived at Allenby Bridge at 09.30 am where the long wait for no apparent reason begins. We are stuck in this no-man’s land between Jordan and Palestine waiting for a little hand to stick out the window and wave us in.

After 45 minutes and 5 buses in queue, we are in to the inspection office! I give my luggage to a Palestinian worker who gives my passport to the Israeli Officer. He applies a bar code sticker and a category number. I am in category 2. I don’t really understand what this means, but I do know that it is not category 6: full search.

At 10.30 am, I enter the first control station. Someone takes my passport and tells me “please sit down.” Ten minutes later a female officer comes, takes me aside, and asks me the regular questions, “Where you going in Israel? Where are you staying in Israel?”

Then comes the tricky question, “What is the purpose of your visit?” Here I have to explain what Fairtrade is without mentioning the words farmers, agriculture, olive oil or that I am going to Jenin.

After 10 minutes first round of questions I am asked to wait and then a smiling security officer appears, she recognized the picture on my passport. Relieved, I proceed to passport control.

Passport control… yeah the computers are out so we wait another hour. Computer back on for work… I thought I would just have passport stamped and then be released but not really, it was too good to be true.

After 3 hours, I can leave finally. I never really understand why I cannot just enter the country and do my work. And after all of that, they can see it but the only thing they tell me is that they like my name. I am improving though on the waiting time.

I am finally in the bus to Jenin. 

FLO in India: Back in the office

It’s my third day back in the Bonn office after my India trip (read all the blog entries here) and I am still readjusting. It was a wonderful experience and I was sorry to leave. Now there are many notes to go through and lots of thoughts to process. 

I come back with slightly mixed feelings. On the one hand, the trip assured me that Fairtrade is making a difference. The Premium is allowing farmers to make all sorts of investments in their business and communities. Rice cleaning machines, computer centres for women and organic composting units are just some of the examples.

What really impressed me were the many individuals I met who are working so hard to help farmers in their villages. People like Mr Bhati with his passion for organic farming, and his hope that more farmers will convert thanks to Fairtrade. Or Satpal who works around the clock for Agrocel and its farmers. These people are at the heart of Fairtrade.

On the other hand many challenges remain and I’m still pondering several questions: How can we improve market access, so groups like Agrocel can sell all their rice on Fairtrade terms, instead of just 50 per cent? How can Fairtrade help in times of natural disaster, like the flooding in Khadar where some farmers lost up to 80 per cent of their crop? And even though the Fairtrade Premium is being used for great projects on tea estates, how can we ensure that the workers really are “empowered”?

Not easy questions, but all of us at FLO are striving to find answers and working to improve the system.  We certainly owe it to our producers. Their hard work, determination and amazing hospitality are the things I shall remember most from this trip.

FLO in India: Putting the environment first

It was interesting to see Carlos Eugenio Vargas’ quote about Fairtrade producers caring for the environment. Ambootia Tea estate, a Fairtrade tea garden I visited in Darjeeling, India is also doing a lot for the local environment.

When I first arrived I was blown away by the beauty of the Darjeeling hills: So lush, green and tranquil. But unfortunately, on closer inspection, the scene is often spoiled with sweet wrappers and remains of burnt garbage on the sideway. In most places there’s no kind of formal garbage collection. But at Ambootia, Fairtrade Premium money is now being used to provide each village with separate rubbish bins for compostable waste, plastic and glass.

Manager of the tea estate, Saagar Rawat, gets really animated when talking about the project, and about his own personal efforts to protect the environment. “The main thing is education, we need to make people aware.” he says passionately. He gives presentations in local schools and paints signs with friendly reminders about protecting the environment. On World Environment Day in June, children from the local schools collected plastic waste and planted 3000 tree saplings in the tea garden.

Awareness is on the rise, and Saagar is optimistic about the future:

“There’s a long way to go. But one day, we will achieve it”.

Photo 1: Saagar Rawat, manager of Ambootia tea estate, in front of a sign he painted himself. It encourages people to dispose carefully of plastic bags and glass.

Photo 2: The project to plant trees on the estate: Funded by Ambootia and carried out by the local school children.

FLO in India: Tea time…

There’s been no shortage of tea over the past couple of days at the Fairtrade Awareness training in Siliguri. All of the participants come from Fairtrade certified tea plantations, most of them normally drink 10- 12 cups a day, and I think some of them have tea running through their veins rather than blood! The Fairtrade officers gathered here are tea experts through and through, many of them working in the industry for 20 years or more. But even so, they’ve all come here eager to learn about Fairtrade, and how they can better fulfill their role as Fairtrade Officers in their plantations.

Vocational training for people who left school, thermal lunch boxes for tea pickers and access to health care are just some of the many projects Fairtrade Premium money has funded in tea estates across India. But if it wasn’t for the Fairtrade Officers some of these projects may never have come into being.

Under Fairtrade it is the workers who decide how to invest the Premium through a Joint Body made up of representatives from workers and management, with workers in the majority. But many tea workers are illiterate, or have little education. Few, if any, have experience managing projects like a scholarship fund. That’s where the Fairtrade Officer comes in. He or she supports the Joint Body in planning their projects and coordinating with management.

“I enjoy my role as Fairtrade officer one hundred per cent. It’s great to have the interaction with the workers, and it helps build up the relationship between them and management” says Radha Krishnana, Fairtrade officer for Thiashola Plantations in South India.

And the workshop gives the participants a great chance to meet their counterparts at other tea plantations and to learn from each other. Staff from FLO and the Network of Asian Producers organised the training, and it was great to get feedback on what is going well in the system, and also on what could be improved.

FLO in India: A visit to an organic original

Think organic is just a fad for health conscious Westerners? Well today I met Mr Ram Prasad Bhatt (pictured above), a 77 year old Indian farmer who has been practising organic farming since the 1960s. Everything he produces, from tomatoes to wheat to basmati rice is made using organic fertilisers and biogases that he produces himself on his farm. And he’s busy passing the message onto others in his village- tirelessly visiting them and encouraging them to farm the organic way. When I asked him if he had any retirement plans he replied: “Why should I stop? What will I do with my time then?!”

So why is he so passionate about organic? Mr Bhatt wants to protect the traditional farming methods in his village and keep his produce pure and free from chemicals. The difference in quality and taste is clear: People on the local market are prepared to pay up to double for his organic produce.

Mr Bhatt recently joined a newly formed federation of Fairtrade Farmers in the region. Through the help of Promoting Body, Kohinoor Foods, his organic Fairtrade rice will soon be available on European store shelves. Mr Bhatt also hopes that through Fairtrade, more farmers will be inspired and enouraged to farm the organic way.

Its been exciting to visit a new Fairtrade group and I hope I can keep in touch with them and follow their progress in the years to come. But now it’s time to travel back to Delhi, then on to the next leg of my tour: Silliguri, in West Bengal for the Fairtrade Officer Training!

Rice threshing the traditional way: In the Khaddar region, in the floodplains of the Himalayas, most of the rice harvesting is done by hand. Although the video is only 10 seconds long, the workers were threshing the whole 2 hours we were there, and were far from finished. Definitely a hard day’s work. But these traditional methods ensure that the rice grains stay fully intact, and that  we can enjoy basmati rice that’s Fairtrade, organic and top quality to boot!

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