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    Fairtrade at 25

    Friday, 4 October 2019  |  Joanna

    Most of our customers probably don't know that as well as being the driving force behind All's Fair, Joanna acts as Co-ordinator for Fairtrade Yorkshire. So it was wearing her Fairtrade Yorkshire hat that she headed down to London on Wednesday for the 25th birthday party for the Fairtrade mark. She had this to say:

    London's Borough Market has grown into a hotbed of foodie culture in the capital, with dozens of small independent food businesses focused on artisanal produce, provenance, taste and ethics. So it was hardly surprising that the market was chosen as the venue for Fairtrade's 25th birthday party.

    A few minutes walk along the Thames from the market, past Southwark Cathedral and the Globe theatre, you find Tate Modern, which was Joanna's first port of call. The vast Turbine Hall's current exhibit is an enormous white marble fountain. From a distance it resembles the monoliths you find in squares in most European cities, but look closer and you see that the figures represented are not majestic statesmen, gods and godesses, nymphs and shepherds but slave ships, sharks and fat cat capitalists.

     

    Later in my visit I found a room created by Yinka Shonibare featuring the gorgeous batik prints we now associate with West African cultures. It's relatively little known that these fabrics were actually developed in Indonesia by Dutch colonists, but didn't catch on. They are a symbol of globalisation from previous centuries. But they are still beautiful. Shonibare has created shelves full of books backed in the fabric, with gold lettering on the spines representing a range of people of immigrant backgrounds who have made an impact on British history and culture, interspersed with the names of some who have made life harder for people immigrating to the UK. 

    After the doors closed at Tate Modern at 6pm, there was just half an hour to wait before the start of the birthday party. Never knowingly late for an appointment, I arrived at 6.25 and got into the short but rapidly growing queue. The pavement outside was still crowded by people who had been watching a poor soul climbing a crane on the side of the Shard threatening to take his own life. Things like this are a constant reminder that we need to take care of one another.

    I got chatting in the queue to Leila from the Climate Coalition. People in low income, agriculture dependent countries, including most Fairtrade farmers, are at the sharp edge of the climate emergency and they have been showing leadership and innovation for many years while the rich world twiddles its thumbs and shrugs its shoulders while pocketing cash from fossil fuel giants. It was really interesting to talk about the intersections between the newish organisations campaigning for global change on environmental issues and those of us who have been campaigning for trade justice for 10, 15, 25 or more years. 

    The doors opened and we were greeted with trays full of canapes created by Allegra McEvedy, the Fairtrade Foundation's Patron. Using Fairtrade Palestinian olive oil, tahini and za'atar. Bizarrely, in a room of 150 people, Leila and I discovered we had been seated next to one another. By the time Mike Gidney, the Fairtrade Foundation's CEO, stood up to speak, we were firm friends. 

    I was seated alongside Nina Tweddle, veteran Fairtrade campaigner and Twitter legend, and opposite representatives from Divine Chocolate and Waitrose magazine, both staunch supporters of Fairtrade from the start, and Adam Gardner, whose work with Fairtrade communities and groups has brought us into contact several times over the years.

    As we sat down to his recipe Venezuelan Arepas with BBQ oyster mushrooms the chef Tom Hunt gave an impassioned speech praising the Fairtrade farmers who strive to provide the best organic ingredients. He was followed by Martin Morales, who you'll remember from the Haworth - Machu Picchu twinning event just 6 weeks ago. His Artichoke ceviche was a triumph - sweet, spicy and delicious.

    The main course was created by Ghanaian-Irish chef, Zoe Adjonyoh. Her okra stew with plantain and groundnuts was hot, sweet and satisfying. Containing Fairtrade peanuts, ginger and curry powder, Zoe explained how Fairtrade helps her connect with both her Ghanaian and Irish roots. We learned that Fairtrade peanut farmers in Nicaragua used the Fairtrade premium to learn new skills, and tools to help them make and sell handicrafts as a second income stream. Dessert was Sooji halwa ladoo from Darjeeling Express's Asma Khan - a sweet, nutty and spicy paste made using Fairtrade saffron, cassia bark, cloves, sugar, raisins, nutmeg, cardamom seeds and cashew nuts. 

    Anne-Marie is a cocoa farmer from Cote D'Ivoire and she delivered one of the most memorable speeches of the evening. She talked about how Fairtrade empowers women to take control of their own finances and careers. The Women's Leadership School is giving women farmers the tools they need to grow their business and Anne-Marie herself says her life and the lives of the women who work alongside her has been changed. She described the last 25 years of the Fairtrade mark as climbing Kilimanjaro. We are now half way up, and the way is getting steeper, but the view from the top, when all global trade is fair, will be worth the trials and tribulations on the way up. Hearing directly from a cocoa farmer made the final course - coffee and chocolate truffles - all the sweeter. Melt in the mouth, dark and rich, they were the kind of truffle you know you should only eat one of, but the plate in front of me was too tempting and I polished off four while chatting with my fellow campaigners.

    It was a shame that by the time Allegra McEvedy and Adjoa Andoh took the stage to talk about their long standing connection to Fairtrade, around a third of the guests had left. They spoke about their own visits to Fairtrade farms, and crucially to non-Fairtrade farms. The only way you can appreciate the great work done by Fairtrade is to understand what life would be (and is) like for farmers without Fairtrade. At the end of the night, we dispersed into taxis and tube, having picked up a goodie bag on the way out.I came away inspired for the next 25 years of Fairtrade and convinced that Fairtrade and fair trade remain part of the solution to a sustainable food future and to tackling global poverty.