Jenny spills the (cocoa) beans on Fairtrade Fortnight

With Fairtrade Fortnight looming in a couple of weeks, we all wanted to get past the familiar logo on chocolate, coffee and bananas to find out more about what, exactly, is involved when we support the Fairtrade Foundation. The group were therefore delighted to meet Middlesborough’s Jenny Medhurst, who arrived with a whacking big cake and a slew of insights, facts, and anecdotes about the history of Traidcraft and about the Fairtrade movement. Both the cake and the history were nutty, complex and enormously satisfying.
The Fairtrade Foundation, we discovered, aims to provide not only a living income to farmers, but also a safety net to help cover even harder times when the market drops, or kids get ill, or the rain washes away this year’s harvest. Jenny explained that large-scale community investments in providing schools, healthcare and clean water were every bit as important to the Fairtrade Foundation as renumerating individual workers for their labours.
The group touched on the vexed subject of how ‘charitable’ and other organisations apportion their running costs, and were pleased to learn that Traidcraft had pioneered transparent ‘social auditing’ alongside more conventional measurement of financial accounting. Jenny acknowledged the challenges of maintaining a physical presence for Traidcraft in the currently dismal state of UK High Streets, and with the growing confusion of supermarkets’ own versions of ‘fair trade’.
We finished our Q & A session with Jenny in a wiser, but sadder, mood than we’d started. On the one hand, it’s jolly nice to know that the best thing we can do to support the Foundation’s work towards social justice is to buy lots and lots of coffee and chocolate! On the other hand however it is salutary to remember that coffee and chocolate are both, fundamentally, just luxuries which (by definition) their producers will never afford.

This year, Fairtrade Fortnight lasts from 25th February until 10 March.

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