Big year for Fairtrade City

One World Shop VisitYesterday morning I was at the One World Shop in Edinburgh to meet staff and volunteers ahead of what is set to be a very busy few weeks for the fair trade organisation.

This Monday marks the beginning of the Fairtrade Foundation’s annual Fairtrade Fortnight celebrations with events taking place across the country.

In Edinburgh, this year’s celebrations take on added importance with the marking of two big anniversaries.

First up, staff and volunteers at the One World Shop will be celebrating 30 years of sourcing and selling fairly traded products from around the world.  Meanwhile, the Council backed Edinburgh Fairtrade City Initiative (EFCI) will be marking a decade since the city was awarded Fairtrade City Status.

In recent years, awareness of the Fairtrade movement has increased dramatically, helped in no small part by Scotland being designated as only the second Fairtrade Nation in the world last year (Wales being the only other).  However, back in 1983 when One World Shop was founded, this was still a new idea and it is to the credit of those involved at the organisation that the issue is as high profile as it is today.

Even a decade ago, when Edinburgh achieved Fairtrade City Status, the issue was not as widely known as it is today.   To achieve the status of Fairtrade City, the EFCI had to demonstrate support for the Fairtrade movement through a range of activities and it is still heavily involved in promoting the issue across the city.  I have lodged a motion in Parliament marking 10 years of Fairtrade City Status.

In essence, Fairtrade is about providing a fair deal for producers in some of the world’s poorest countries.  That extends to ensuring a fair price being paid to producers, requiring decent conditions for local workers and encouraging sustainable work practices to protect the environment.   On Thursday I spoke in the Parliament on the importance of making sure that the Procurement Bill lives up to its potential and includes Fair Trade as a criteria when public sector contracts are being awarded.

I have witnessed first hand, on visits to places like Bangladesh and Malawi, the benefits that Fairtrade has brought to producers, workers and communities in the developing world – allowing for improved living conditions and investment in areas like education.  Also, as part of the annual Fairtrade Fortnight celebrations, I have met a number of Fairtrade producers who have visited the UK to talk about their experience.

This year, at an event to mark 10 years of Edinburgh Fairtrade City Status, I am looking forward to meeting two women from Kathmandu, Nepal who are involved in the paper cooperative, Get Paper Industries. GPI produce handmade paper products supplying firms such as the Body Shop.  You can also buy GPI products in the One World Shop.   These visits from producers always offer insight into how involvement in fair trade has led to positive results for the producers and workers.

Over the fortnight I will have a couple of other opportunities to meet up with Mandira and Amisha of GPI as they attending the Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Fairtrade and give a presentation at a family event at Edinburgh Zoo.

The overarching theme of this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight is a campaign to call on the UK Government to look at the impact of supermarket pricing practices on the millions of farmers and workers who grow the UK’s favourite fruit – the banana.  As part of my visit to the One World Shop I added my support to the petition and you can join me in doing so here.

If you are interested in finding out about Fairtrade events over the next fortnight or you just want to know more about the movement, you can access a wealth of information from the Fairtrade Foundation website.