Coronavirus and fair trade
Wednesday, 18 March 2020 | Joanna
When the new virus was discovered in Wuhan, China at the start of 2020 none of us in Europe could have imagined the impact it would have on our everyday lives just a few weeks later. Supermarket shelves have been stripped bare, hand sanitizer and soap have become rare and precious items, and we're all quietly singing happy birthday to ourselves as we wash our hands for the required 20 seconds.
Thankfully the spread to the lowest income countries in the global south has been slow, but cases are now emerging in African nations whose healthcare and sanitation systems are barely functioning in normal times. For example, only 8% of Ugandans have running water into their homes, and less than half have access to a clean communal water supply. It won't be a very happy birthday for them. Globally 2 billion people don't have a safe place to go to the toilet (source: Toilet Twinning) and 785 million don't have access to clean water (source: Water Aid). A virus which is predominantly spread through droplets on hands and surfaces is stopped in its tracks by soap and water. In high income countries we take it for granted that we can wash our hands, even if we may not do it as often as we should. Low income countries are doing their best, but if you can spare some money for the charities mentioned above, and others, whose remit is to increase access to hygiene, clean water and toilets, it will have a huge effect.
The Fairtrade premium is used by communities in the way they feel will best benefit them, and often the first thing they choose to buy is a borehole providing clean running water right into the heart of the village. This makes life so much better for local women and girls whose job is traditionally to collect the family's water supplies.
This is a borehole in Ghana paid for by the Fairtrade premium from sales of Divine chocolate.
Fair trade is a partnership and while our priority is always the producers and farmers in the global south, we can only keep supporting them if we can keep trading ourselves. Since 2008 the majority of our sales have come from events and markets around the North of England. Only around 10% of our sales come via online orders, and our plan of events over the spring and summer - while not as critical as our winter events - help sustain us through the year. One of our biggest spring events is the Living North Live Spring event at York racecourse. This is one of the most expensive events to attend, and we always buy in plenty of stock to sell. Both the stall fees and the stock have already been paid for, so it was disappointing to hear on Sunday 15 March that the event - due to open on Friday 20 March - was cancelled. We completely understand that this is unavoidable, but we then heard on Tuesday 17 March that all our events until the end of May are cancelled. This includes our planned shop opening in Hull. Obviously people's health is of paramount importance and if we can help stop the spread of COVID19 in any way we will do all that we can. While fights break out over toilet roll and pasta in our supermarkets, the gorgeous fair trade items we bought to sell at Living North and other events are stuck in our stockroom. Bricks and mortar shops are in the same predicament, with people advised not to go out unless it's absolutely necessary.
All we ask is that customers who aren't able to get out to events, or are isolating at home, please think about the small fair trade retailers like us. While you're self isolating you can still get a Mother's Day gift, Fairtrade Easter egg or birthday present delivered direct to your Mum, friend or yourself from a small independent retailer like us. You know it will be delivered with love and care, and you'll be helping sustain your local community as well as the global community we are all part of through fair trade.