February 12, 2015 by THE WELSH HORIZON
February 2015 in Wales means more than just chocolate and roses.
This year the world’s first “Fair Trade Nation” will celebrate the 20th anniversary of “Fair Trade Fortnight”. This year the festival will run from February 23 to March 8 and will highlight producers of cocoa, sugar and tea– perennial Valentine’s favorites.
The Fair Trade movement strives to attain equality for small manufacturers and farmers across the globe. Foodstuffs and items including bananas, chocolate, gold, coffee, cotton, flowers, sugar, tea and wine are all produced by fair trade farms and manufacturers.
Groups like the Fair Trade Foundation and the World Fair Trade Organization work with these farmers and craftsmen to balance prices, improve working conditions, and secure fair contracts for international importers.
“We fight against poverty and the inequalities in trade through a new Fair Trade system,” said the World Fair Trade organization on their website.
First ever “Fair Trade Nation”
Wales Fair Trade Forum campaigned for two years, with the aid of funding from the Welsh government, for the increased availability of Fair Trade products in the country. On 6 June 2008 the campaign ended in a resounding victory as Wales was declared the first “Fair Trade Nation” in the world.
Renamed Fair Trade Wales, the Cardiff-based organization continues to keep Wales at the head of the fair trade movement. Their mission is to help create, “an equal world, trading fairly.”
For some Welsh shopkeepers selling fair trade products is part of the very ethos of their business model.
“It is important to stock fair trade goods because we can connect with our brothers and sisters across the world and give them a fair price for their produce,” said Pamela Kirkham, owner of Beacon Books and Kingdom Krafts in Llandudno, Conwy.
Beacon Books and Kingdom Krafts has sold gifts, cards, jewelry, and food–all fair trade–for 12 years. “We don’t have anything else,” said Kirkham.
In Newcastle Emlyn, Dyfed Jill Sutton owns and runs Fair and Fabulous. A long-time fair trade activist Sutton has a passion for selling fair trade products. “I think it’s a catalyst for change in terms of trade justice and it’s a more empowering way of doing trade for all those involved, the communities that produce the product and we who sell them,” she said.
She opened Fair and Fabulous in 2010 specifically to sell fair trade and local products. Since then she has become a member of the British Association of Fair Trade sellers, a conglomerate of incorporated fair trade sellers.
“For me it’s about the connection and what I think Wales does quite well is make the connection to the producers,” said Sutton.
Under her guidance, Newcastle Emlyn has become a fair trade town. As the local coordinator Sutton said she campaigns by telling the stories of farmers in developing countries and explaining how the fair trade movement and logos empower farmers.
“The ultimate aim about fair trade is that that type of trade becomes normal rather than niche, that’s what we’re all after. I think we’ve got a little while to go yet.”
Many of the unique, independent shops in the Cardiff arcades sell fair trade products, among them The Plan, which sells fair trade sugar.
As 2015 begins Fair Trade Wales has helped 82 per cent of the nation’s local authorities and 93 per cent of Welsh universities achieve fair trade status. In addition 91 towns, counties, villages throughout Wales host groups that promote fair trade-friendly practices year-round. In partnership with One Planet: One Wales, the Welsh government’s sustainable development scheme, Fair Trade Wales has helped half of all Welsh schools become registered under the fair trade schools scheme.
So while you’re giving a cwtch to your cariad this St. Valentine’s Day remember to gift fair trade from a store in the “Fair Trade Nation”.
By Emily Gowdey-Backus
Photography from The Guardian