As hundreds of Welsh Government workers started their day on Friday 9th March 2012, they were greeted by aromas of fresh coffee and talk of Fairtrade in Uganda. Jenipher Wettaka, a Ugandan coffee producer was in the Government offices encouraging people to try her coffee, confident that once people have tasted the beautiful flavours and high quality they will take a step for fair trade and switch to Fairtrade coffee.
Wales being the first Fair Trade nation means that, of course, the Welsh Government has strong ties with the Fair Trade movement. I got the chance to talk to Jon Townley, the head of International Sustainable Development and the Wales for Africa Team within the Welsh Government He explained how the Welsh Government fully support Fair Trade and are committed to the continuance of that support; they not only fund Fair Trade Wales but also show their commitment by using Fairtrade products wherever they can. The first minister himself serves only Gumutindo (the co-operative that Jenipher works within) coffee to all his visitors. The Assembly does what it can to promote Wales as the first Fair Trade nation and hopes to see other nations join it in this status. They are also currently working to encourage other organisations to get involved with Fairtrade, giving procurement advice to government supported businesses. There is still much more to do in Wales for the development of the Fair Trade movement, despite the many achievements so far. But the Welsh Government is committed to this cause and will continue to strengthen its ties with producers and co-operatives worldwide.
Many of the government workers we spoke to today both knew about and use Fairtrade products, although everyone walked away having learnt something new. The commitment of Wales, as a country, to the Fairtrade cause makes me proud to live here, we have come far since the beginnings of the movement in the 80’s. However, there is still more that we can, and should, do. Jenipher’s presence here today shows both how much of a difference Fairtrade has already made, but also an appeal to continue the good work.
Jenipher is not only a coffee farmer with 600 coffee trees, but also Vice Chairperson of the Gumutindo Board. She is part of a movement that has mobilized women as both farmers and members of the society and decision-making process. Fairtrade has made a huge difference to her life and that of her children. Because of the fair prices she has been able to send her children to school, and Fairtrade’s emphasis on women’s roles in society has meant that she is much more able to take control of her own life and farming. The social premium has been used for a variety of projects in her community, from water storage to extra classrooms for schools. It has clearly made a huge difference to hundreds of lives. After yesterday’s event Jenipher was tired out from the busy past few weeks, but very happy with the day. “Most of the consumers who came to try the coffees are saying it’s very good and I know that they are going to buy it.” It’s very true that the reception for both the event (and perhaps more so for the coffee!) was great and I think we can safely assume that many of the government workers will be switching to Gumutindo coffee. I hope that Jenipher’s journey back to Uganda is easy and that she gets some chance to rest. It has been an amazing experience for me to meet some of the Fairtrade producers this fortnight and I trust that their presence has served to increase awareness and encourage people to take a step for Fairtrade in 2012, the year of Fairtrade!