Life is Sweet

As my weekly shop was passing through the checkout this morning, the woman on the till commented on the amount of organic and fair trade products. “I buy all the fair trade items too” she added. I was taken aback. I don’t think I’ve realised how mainstream fair trade has become. Let’s not forget how far we have come. Even ten years ago, fair trade was considered to be for hippies and we(us hippies?!?) couldn’t conceive of a time when fair trade products would appear in supermarkets, let alone be a positive marketing asset. I never thought I would see the day.

Moreover, there was a whole page about fair trade in Malawi in the business section of the Observer last weekend. Fair trade is no longer only for idealistic unrealistic marginals; it is now seen as a viable business alternative. And I read the article with particular interest because I am going to Malawi in July!!!! Having never been to Africa before, I am sooo excited!

Malawi has the lowest number of doctors per person in the world and the Aids epidemic has ravaged the population. But this fertile land can be farmed to produce fair trade ground nuts, tea, cotton and sugar, so that money can be ploughed back into community projects - schools, bridges, water supplies, hospital buildings etc.

I love the motto of the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi is “The future belongs to the organised” (although in that case, there‘s no hope for me!). Isn’t it a far cry from the rumours of corruption and disorganised distribution of aid that we feared when wanting to help Africa by giving to charities in the past? In fact, fair trade can now complement the aid charities in an evident partnership to alleviate poverty and bring new hope.

According to the article, “Fair trade is, in a sense, the purest form of aid and the British public knows it. Government surveys show that people believe it is more effective than giving to charity.” And so all the supermarkets are jumping aboard. Take Sainsburys for example. From March this year all bags of Sainsburys sugar will be fair trade. Amazing. It can only be a good thing (although the cynical voices in my head say the motivation is purely self-promotion - the advertising does seem to be aimed at saying “Look at how well we’re doing!”). Anyway, as I said, it can only be a good thing. Life is sweet (especially if you buy fair trade sugar!).

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