Magazine Article – Fair Trade at St Marys

St Mary’s Church has promoted Fair Trade for many years, primarily by offering specifically ‘Traidcraft’ grocery and seasonal goods for sale after selected Sunday morning services and at certain events at the church.

Taking over from her predecessor, for a long while Catherine Burchell brought such goods from the ‘New Roots’ shop on Glossop Road, on a sale and return basis. When the shop closed, it was decided to continue offering ‘Traidcraft’ merchandise by setting up an account directly with them and for over 3 years now I have sold ‘Traidcraft’ products on behalf of the church.

But what is ‘Fair Trade’? In simple terms, fair trade benefits producers in a number of ways; it guarantees: –

1. Farmers a fair and stable price for their products.
2. Extra income for farmers and estate workers to improve their lives and communities.
3. A greater respect for the environment.
4. Small farmers a stronger position in world markets.
5. A closer link between consumers and producers.
6. Decent working conditions and no exploitative labour.

Along with quarterly catalogues, I receive quarterly ‘Traidcraft’ magazines and monthly bulletins. These regularly include stories illustrating the benefits realised by producers in those third world countries with which ‘Traidcraft’ has established links. ‘Traidcraft’s’ strategy is to maximise its impact in those particular countries with which it works and in practical terms this also means that ‘Traidcraft’ cannot spread itself too thinly (unlike the ‘Sweet Justice’ ‘Traidcraft’ honey that you might spread on your morning toast!)

Here is just one example of the many real-life stories given to us: –
Mwathi Musyoka and her family are from Kenya. Mwathi took part in ‘Traidcraft’s’ Flourishing in Vulnerable Environments (FIVE) programme. She joined the programme to improve her farming technique and knowledge. Previously she was only able to sell one bag of maize for 1250 ksh. Her land had a lot of erosion leading to low production. Since receiving training on soil conservation her production has improved and now sells two bags of maize and two bags of cow peas thus earning 6100 ksh and also grows beans, greens grams, sorghum and pigeon peas. Mwathi sends her children to school but had incurred a debt to the school of 24,000 ksh and her children used to miss entire terms. With her increased income, she is starting to pay off her debt and doesn’t have to buy a lot of food from the market. Because of the poor harvests previously experienced, some days the family had no food. Now the family eats every day, three times a day. Mwathi is now passing on to other growers what she has learned about soil conservation.

‘Traidcraft’ products are often more expensive than their nearest high street non-fair traded equivalent. The reason is explained by the previously-listed, and other, factors and is evidenced by stories like that of Mwathi. The more fair trade products that are sold the more ‘Traidcraft’ can work with families like Mwathi’s to help them grow more, earn more and eat more.
Unfortunately, St Mary’s cannot operate on a sale and return basis. If products do not sell, St Mary’s makes a loss and I am forced to withdraw such products from the range sold at church. Regular supporters of ‘Traidcraft’ at church will have noticed this decline. If you would like me to source other products not currently sold, please let me know and if you don’t currently make purchases, please think about doing so and the benefits this is likely to bring, such as that experienced by Mwathi.

Geoff Vause