Fairtrade Fortnight, an annual event that raises awareness about Fairtrade, comes to a successful close this Sunday, March 9. Clonakilty, Ireland’s first Fairtrade town, organised a number of informative events over the two weeks, one of which involved Allison Roberts and Cindy Kingston recounting their experiences visiting Fairtrade farms and co-ops on a trip to Ghana last November.
Allison and Cindy got the opportunity to represent Clonakilty Fairtrade on the two-week trip to Ghana after Clonakilty was declared ‘Best Fairtrade Town in Ireland 2013’. They speak to Mary O’Brien about their experience and the importance of supporting Fairtrade.
Fairtrade guarantees the growers fair prices for their produce, which results in the farmers being able to invest in their holdings and communities and that children attend education rather than having to work on the plantations. The Fairtrade system has also helped and encouraged producers to come together to form co-ops and these are working very well in Ghana.
Clonakilty based chocolatier Allison Roberts has always been passionate about Fairtrade, so when the occasion arose to see firsthand where the cocoa beans for her chocolate come from, she jumped at the chance. Cindy has been involved in the Clonakilty Fairtrade Committee since 2006 and says the trip was a truly humbling experience.
In Ghana, Allison and Cindy visited producers of Fairtrade palm oil, cocoa and bananas, as well as learning about the history of the slave trade in Ghana and visiting local recycling projects.
They met with cocoa bean farmers, many of whom were women, in the small rural village of Amankwatia. The local children attend a school, which was built with the aid of the Fairtrade premium.
In New Koforidua, Africa’a first Fairtrade town, Allison and Cindy met with 40 to 50 farmers who supply Fairtrade cocoa to the Kuapa Kokoo cocoa co-operative. Kuapa Kokoo’s cocoa is used in many of the big brand Fairtrade chocolate bars. “The farmers were very concerned about the future of Fairtrade produce and asked us to bring the message back to Ireland for people to continue supporting Fairtrade,” says Allison. “Fairtrade means they can improve their lives in Ghana, continue farming and continue to send their children to school.”
In Asuom, Cindy and Allison visited Serendipalm, a Fairtrade palm oil plantation and production unit. Here, they were guided through a local village where a new water pump has been installed and a new toilet block built with Fairtrade premium. “Sanitation in many of these small villages is very poor,” explains Cindy “and being part of the Fairtrade system is having huge positive impacts on their lives.”
“Entire towns are developed as part of the Fairtrade system, not just cocoa plantations,” explains Allison. “You can really feel the sense of community and pride in their traditions. In one of the weaving projects we visited, the man running it spoke extremely passionate about promoting sustainable tourism in his country.”
Throughout all the areas that the women visited in Ghana, they were met with huge smiles and even bigger welcomes. “The palm oil plantation was visually stunning,” says Allison. “All the work is done outdoors, mainly by women and everyone seemed very happy and relaxed. We were given a very warm welcome.”
“I would encourage everyone to think twice about everything that we consume in our consumer hungry society and maybe consider a simple change, such as buying fairtrade tea/coffee/chocolate, confident in the knowledge that just by having a cuppa, we can impact on the daily lives of others, positively,” says Cindy.
On Saturday, March 8, ‘Clonakilty Chocolate’, which recently received the Fairtrade Mark, will officially launch at The Lettercollum Kitchen Project Shop in Clonakilty.
Anyone interested in becoming involved in the Clonakilty Fairtrade committee can contact the chairperson Trevor Kingston on 086-2202029.