Fairtrade in Garstang
A small child dies from poverty every 2.4 seconds. This is preventable and therefore totally unacceptable. But what has this to do with world trade? It is another startling fact that developing countries in the South lose $100 billion per year due to an unfair trading system. That means for every $1 donated in aid, $2 is being stolen from poor countries through unfair trade rules set up by the rich countries to protect their own markets. The reality is that, in many ways, the rich North takes from the poor South, rather than gives to it.
While calling on developing countries to further open up their markets the US and the EU persist in ‘dumping’ their cheap, often subsidised products onto the world’s poorest nations. The US for example, subsidises its uneconomic cotton industry with an amount that exceeds the entire US African aid budget. This not only undermines the traditional export markets of countries like Ghana in West Africa but also means that subsidised American cotton is cheaper to buy in Ghana than the local product. To make matters worse, existing trade rules prevent the Ghanaian government from protecting their own cotton industry from these unfair imports. The result? The cotton farmers go out of business plunging them even deeper into poverty. Oxfam reports that 128 million people could be lifted out of poverty if Africa, Latin America, East Asia and South Asia each increased their share of world exports by just one percent.
Fair Trade is one alternative to this global injustice. Fair Trade means a better deal for farmers, growers and small-scale producers. By working in partnership with them, and reducing the number of middlemen, it ensures they receive a fair price, thereby enabling them to improve their business, or invest in health and education projects in their communities.
The average UK citizen will spend a massive £90,000 in supermarkets during their lifetime. As a consumer buying Fair Trade goods one can help reduce world poverty. In 1994 the Fairtrade Foundation launched the FAIRTRADE Mark, shown upper left. The FAIRTRADE Mark, appearing on many products such as tea, coffee, chocolate, cocoa, sugar, fresh fruit, fruit juices, honey, jams, biscuits, confectionary, ice cream, sports balls, cotton products and flowers is a guarantee that the product has been fairly traded.
The Garstang Oxfam Group (GOG) have campaigned on fair trade since its formation in 1992. The campaign to make Garstang a Fairtrade Town developed during Fairtrade Fortnight in the year 2000. At that time there were five traders in Garstang selling Fairtrade goods including the Mustard Seed, the first Fair Trade shop and coffee bar in Garstang. There are now many more Garstang Traders selling Fairtrade products and many businesses, schools, faith groups and other community organisations using Fairtrade goods on their premises.
Making Garstang a Fairtrade Town not only increased awareness of the FAIRTRADE Mark but also led to the formation of many links between Garstang and Ghana. These links culminated in a twin town relationship between Garstang and the cocoa farming community of New Koforidua in Ghana. GOG also worked with the local Youth Club and Garstang High School on the Go Global Fair Trade / Slave Trade project. Central to the project was a visit to Ghana by a group of young people in the summer of 2001. The fair trade campaign has also brought together the problems faced by farmers in Ghana with those faced by UK farmers also struggling to get a fair price for their produce.
Garstang’s Fairtrade Town status is now maintained by the Garstang Fairtrade Steering Group (GFTSG). The Garstang And New Koforidua Linking Association (GANKLA) together with the New Koforidua and Garstang Linking Association (NKGaLA) oversee the North-South link. GOG, GFTSG, GANKLA and NKGaLA all share the same desire to see an end to global poverty and believe that bringing people together in this way can help us to understand and share in each others problems. As the coffee producer Guillermo said, while visiting the UK during Fairtrade Fortnight 2002 “if we can look one another in the eyes we can understand each others' needs”.