Yesterday evening saw the success of a Fairtrade Fortnight event at Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre. Two producers from Palestine were there displaying their goods ranging from olive oil to almonds to sun-dried tomatoes. Chapter was buzzing with its usual lively atmosphere and the Fair Trade stand was never without interested passersby, almost all of whom tried (and enjoyed!) the tasters that were laid out.
People had the chance to learn more about the work that Fair Trade do in Palestine. To be able to speak to two of the producers themselves really brought home the importance of Fair Trade involvement. I had the chance to spend a little while talking to Riziq abu Nasser, a farmer and ambassador for his co-operative and the Zaytoun CIC. He has come over to the UK for Fairtrade fortnight, hoping to promote his co-operatives produce and raise awareness of the importance of buying Fairtrade. When I asked him how he felt about the event and all the people enjoying the tasters, he smiled and replied “I am happy with the response of the people here, they like it and we are giving them a push to buy the products. The quantities we sell increase every year.” This shows how important the events, like the one in Chapter, are. They increase awareness and encourage people to try, and hopefully switch to buying, Fairtrade products. Riziq went on to tell me how big a difference there has been to his village since they became Fairtrade certified in 2008, the prices that they are paid for their produce have increased dramatically and stabilized; they used their social premium for the local health clinic and school. He told me proudly about his four children, the oldest of whom is sixteen and hoping to study physics, the youngest is only two; both have and will hopefully continue to enjoy the benefits that Fairtrade partnership brings to their community.
Yesterday was the first chance that I’ve had to meet any of the producers and it was an incredible opportunity to talk to someone who has been so affected by the work that Fairtrade do. A fair price for their products is something that we really owe, as consumers, to the farmers who produce them. The event has hopefully helped as a step towards more fair prices, as one of the volunteers manning the stall said – people are coming over because they’re curious, but as soon as you mention that it’s Palestinian produce and point out the producers there’s immediate positive feedback and more and more interest. Fairtrade fortnight will have been a huge success if it has encouraged people to learn more and persuaded them to pick Fairtrade products in future.
I look forward to more events at the end of this week and hopefully to meeting more of the producers and hearing their stories. To talk to them is to be reminded what Fairtrade is really working for.