Pupils meet producers

Yesterday saw a Fairtrade Fortnight event held at Fair Do’s where I, and a number of school pupils, got the chance to meet Mrunal Lahankar. Mrunal has come over to the UK from Andhra Pradesh in India, just for this fortnight to talk to people about Fairtrade cotton.

The venue, Fair Do’s is a small shop in Canton. Despite its size the shop boasts the widest range of Fairtrade products in Wales. You can find many of the food products that have now been Fairtrade certified on the shelves, but aside from that there are beautifully crafted items from all over the world. I spent a long while perusing the shelves and admiring all the things I would love to have in my home! The shop has been open since ’98 and has grown with the Fairtrade movement. However, the recession, like in so many places, has taken its toll. We can be hopeful though that increased awareness of fair trading through campaigns like this fortnight will encourage customers to think more carefully about where they shop and bring many through the doors at Fair Do’s. It is not only a shop but also a centre of information, a place where people can come to learn more about fair trading and the products that are now available.

Today was a token of this, a chance for pupils from local schools and members of the public to come and learn more. Meeting Mrunal meant that they could understand more the importance of Fairtrade and feel involved with the movement. In the morning a group of primary school pupils arrived at the shop, bringing with them some questions that they had prepared at school. After having a look around the shop, (and exclaiming over all the different chocolates that they wanted!) they settled to listen to Mrunal. She explained how the cotton is produced, organically and by Fairtrade standards; and then spoke of how important it is for people to buy their cotton. She told of how Fairtrade is benefitting the communities she works with. As Mrunal was speaking it became very clear how important it is for consumers to use their power to encourage large shops to use Fairtrade cotton. This year has been hard for the cotton producers, there have been fewer orders than last year and some of the large contracts have fallen through. We hope that the demand for the cotton will increase more and more, but hoping is not enough, it’s so important to ask for it to be in more and more of high-street shops. This topic came up with the year 11 students that came in later in the afternoon. Mrunal told them “I’m here to talk to the consumers as well as the buyers, the consumer’s demands play a very crucial role”. The students were clearly fascinated by everything Mrunal had to tell them and the conversation was lively and rapid. They had many questions and the answers always led to further discussion. Their interest was amazing to see as it’s clear that with this passion and involved attitude this young generation is going to carry the Fairtrade movement far beyond what has already been achieved.

I hope that everyone left Fair Do’s feeling like they had learnt as much as I did, I knew little before about the production and trading of cotton, it is clear now how important the relationship between Fairtrade and cotton producers really is. When we tried to thank Mrunal for the day she told us there was no need to thank her, she is here for a purpose, “If my visit helps to get more orders in the future then I will feel accomplished. We are making the best cotton, we are doing our best.”

Josie Allan