As we celebrate Scotland’s 10th Anniversary of becoming a Fair Trade Nation, Fair Trade Stirling is approaching its twentieth year, having been founded in 2004 as the Stirling Fair Trade Propeller Group, with the by-line and mission: ‘to propel fair trade from the fringe to the mainstream’.
In 2008 we changed our name to Fair Trade Stirling, celebrating our perception that Fair Trade had by then become mainstream. With a long journey still to run, by then a majority of people recognised he Fairtrade symbol. The journey is a bumpy one and it is with sadness that the start of 2023 marked the closure of Traidcraft after over 40 years of flying the Fair Trade flag. But the big picture is that Fair Trade has grown up ‘from the fringe to the mainstream’ with UK Fairtrade food and drink sales growing from £141m when we were formed in 2004 to £1.7bn in 2013 when Scotland became a Fair Trade Nation.
Sadly this only increased to £1.9bn by 2020 and the cost of living crisis may since have dented that figure. I don’t know the Scottish figures but clearly, whilst there is plenty to celebrate, we must aim to return to the growth we saw in the ‘noughties’. All too often we see supermarkets introducing new Fairtrade lines and then later deleting them due to poor sales and competition for shelf space. Maybe we need to get into a more strategic relationship with the supermarket chains and offer, nationally, to partner with them, offering to give a big social media boost when new Fairtrade lines are being introduced – or when they are in danger of faltering.
It’s not just about food and drink either. In the last decade, we have been delighted to be able to provide Fairtrade footballs for young folk in southern Africa and to local schools for their football training. There is a big opportunity to develop the market in Scotland for Fair Trade clothing, bedding etc.
Scotland is a small nation and sensibly has chosen a special partnership with Malawi as a smallish African nation as one where Scotland could make some impact. As a small organisation ourselves, Fair Trade Stirling has also developed a close relationship with one part of Malawi, the Karonga Region. Over the decade we have worked with Fair Trade partners across the world, from central America to Palestine and the Middle East, but we have made our work with our partners in Malawi a special focus. One of the pictures attached shows a reception given by the Stirling Council Provost in 2013, the year Scotland became a Fair Trade Nation, to our partners from KASFA, representing Kilombero rice growers in northern Malawi.
Over the last ten years, our work with our partners in the Karonga region of Malawi has deepened.
A wide variety of support has been provided, contributing to Scotland’s partnership with Malawi. Each of the items of support has been selected from discussion with the Karonga partners to determine their top priorities. For physical items needed, we typically provide funds for the purchase of items and the Karonga group provides the labour needed to execute the project. Here are some examples.
– 2013 – new rotavator, replacing the very labour intensive work of ploughing by hand
– 2018 – new solar powered water pump for irrigation
– 2021 onwards – taking part in the Just Trading Scotland 90kg Kilombero rice challenge, donating rice to local food banks in Stirling. This helps the rice growers as demand from restaurants etc. dropped heavily during lockdown whilst also helping people struggling to make ends meet in Stirling
– 2021 – during lockdown, we ran a Make a Malawi Meal online fundraising event with a live link to cooks in Karonga
– 2022 saw the first graduates from the new Stirling Centre of Skills Development in Karonga which has been built with a lot of support from our group.
Throughout the decade, we have supported the Kilombero rice growers in Malawi as they sought to secure Fair Trade accreditation – in collaboration with the Scottish Government which also provided support. World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) Guaranteed Member status was achieved in 2021.
Jon Cape, Fair Trade Stirling
22 February 2023