During Campaign Day 2012, the producers the Scottish Fair Trade Forum has engaged with over the years were never far from our mind. Though they could not be with us on the day, we wanted to remind our members and friends that our partnerships with producers have made our work so the much more rewarding.
Howard Msukwa, whom many may have met during the Fair Trade Fortnight, sent us an update to say that the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM) has been active in introducing development plans, which include farmer business training programmes. The farmers in Malawi are keen on starting work on starting a programme that would yield better seed quality. Producers such as Howard feel empowered by the support they receive from partners overseas. Their visits here serve many purposes, but it also stresses our commitment to them.
This was evident in the message that was sent in by Elias Mohammed, a cocoa producer from Ghana. During his visit to Scotland, he spoke at schools and was impressed to find out that children here are as committed to Fairtrade as their parents. This gives him and other Fairtrade producers a sense that Scotland is in it for the long haul. Fairtrade definitelymakes a difference for communities, with income from cocoa going to improve sanitation in schools, which encourages more and more girls to stay on.
Despite what looked to be a promising year for olive oil producer Abu Kamal, his crop was blighted with peacock-spot disease. With the fall in global olive oil prices, Abu Kamal would have been worried, except that by being part of a Fairtrade association in Palestine he is guaranteed at least some income this year.
Due to a power cut in the village, we were unable to share an update from Ken Mkengala, a macadamia nut producer from Malawi, on Campaign Day. We finally heard from him last week and he’s informed us that though they’ve had a great harvest, the recession in the West has had an impact on demand.
Producers often establish warm relations with partners here in Scotland and visits are exchanged. Just Trading Scotland visited Howard in Malawi a few weeks ago and were invited into his home. Howard’s message to us all as we grow nearer towards achieving Fair Trade Nation status is that ‘it’s not easy… It requires passion from the citizens, thinking about a world far from them, and the poverty and people they don’t know.”
Commenting on producers’ stories, Martin Rhodes, Director of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum said, “The challenge for us is to keep building on the relationships and successes Scotland has achieved so far, continuing our commitment to our producer partners as we near Fair Trade Nation status.”