Working towards a fairer food system

Working towards a fairer food system

Date: 9 March 2012

Guest post by Homaira Abdullah, used to be activism and events intern

As we come to the end of Fairtrade Fortnight, we have a chance to reflect on what Fairtrade has achieved and how it fits into the wider narrative of food sovereignty.

Felicity Lawrence’s blog post in the Guardian last week highlighted the importance of the consumer’s role in purchasing Fairtrade produce. Fairtrade has become a well known brand to consumers and its successes since its establishment have shown that there is a heightened interest for people to know where their goods have come from. Even with younger age groups there are efforts at active involvement in the movement; the Fairtrade website confirms the involvement of around 500 schools across Britain. WDM has been a supporter of the Fairtrade label since its establishment in 1992 and many WDM supporter groups are actively engaged in spreading the Fairtrade label to their local communities. This year during Fairtrade Fortnight- a celebration of the label, a talk on Fairtrade was delivered at Greenwich University organised by the North Kent Group. The South East London WDM group organised a Fairtrade event at another of Greenwich’s campuses. Many other WDM groups were involved in activities during Fairtrade Fortnight.

With equal distribution of income and a fixed guaranteed return for the producers in the global south who are involved in this, Fairtrade has gone a long way toward giving local producers a chance at competing with large companies at selling their produce. For example, the sales of bananas in the Windward Islands have been crucial to the income of local producers who depended on it for their livelihoods. The ‘banana price wars’ in 2009 resulted in the steep decline of prices to local producers creating high unemployment, poverty and social unrest that threatened island communities. Since then Fairtrade has helped producers gain direct access to the main exporters of bananas thereby allowing less profit loss for them. 

This is one example among many others but highlights the importance of organisations such as Fairtrade in helping us move towards a fairer food system. As Felicity writes in her article: we need to move beyond the consumer and make a broader change to the political system of trading.

Fairtrade needs to be set within the context of the wider campaign for food sovereignty. Food sovereignty ensures that farmers are not just able to feed themselves but gives them control over their own production and distribution so that they are able live and work on their land free from discrimination and harassment. It ensures that farmers are able to feed themselves before they are pressured into selling food off, calling for a more localised and sustainable food system.

Food Sovereignty focuses on food for people, values food providers, localises food systems, builds knowledge and skills, prioritises local control, and works with nature
International Nyeleni forum for Food Sovereignty, Mali, 2007