Sunday, June 22, 2008

Poverty: fighting the banana wars

Have just enjoyed Fighting the Banana Wars by Harriet Lamb, executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation. You actually do have to use the dread word 'inspirational' about this. It really is about small people, many wearing both beards and sandals, taking on the multinationationals for the sake of justice for the world's poor.

They're seeing a huge stride, from the days when Fairtrade coffee didn't even taste like coffee, to Sainsbury's fresh fruit buyer saying recently, 'I see Fairtrade as the gold standard for global sourcing from developing countries -- our preferred option wherever possible.' (p155)

Here's Bruce Crowther, Quaker, Oxfam campaigner, and the person who got his local town, Garstang, to become the world's first 'Fairtrade town', one of thousands of little actions that has moved the world, on why he campaigns:

'I don't think you can give up. Our children will look back and ask us how we can live in prosperity while over a billion children live in abject poverty -- including many who produce things we use every day. How could we know this and not do what we could to stop it?' (p44)

Harriet Lamb has some great stories -- a little kid discarding his football shirt because the people who grew the cotton didn't get a fair price. And the time they tried to sell the first-ever fair-trade branded chocolate -- Green & Black's Maya Gold -- to Tesco's. The Tesco buyer had sent the Green & Black's founder, the unlikely-named Jo Fairley, away, saying that he wasn't going to 'list a product just because it's backed by a bunch of Christians'!

'But it wasn't long before he changed his tune and was back on the phone saying, "You'd better get over here, we're being bombarded by telephone calls. From vicars!"' (p61)

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