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Mar 2 2010
Susan Gallwey, Waterford One World Centre
Fairtrade Fortnight is here once again, and over the next two weeks we will see Fairtrade getting a lot of media coverage. Last year, our proudly-Fairtrade City of Waterford ‘went bananas’ and this year there will be a Mad Hatter’s Fairtrade Tea Party. Young people seem to relate easily to Fairtrade, and not just because it’s about chocolate! I think students are attracted to Fairtrade because they can see that their actions can make a difference: the simple act of buying a FT chocolate bar can have a real and positive impact on a cocoa producer in Africa.
It’s great to have a Development Education topic that generates such an enthusiastic response. Each year, our Centre is contacted by so many students who want information about Fairtrade. But the challenge to us as Development Educators is to ensure that Fairtrade education does not simply send the message to young people that the ‘solution’ to world poverty lies in buying. Certainly Fairtrade producers need markets and it’s vital to build a committed consumer base. But we must also ask young people to look beyond their role as consumers and to explore the broader context in which the Fairtrade movement is situated. As Albert Tucker, a producer from Sierra Leone, argues, Fairtrade needs to be more than ‘just a brand of food that demonstrates you are paying a little more to desperate farmers.’
Students need to be encouraged to explore the relationship between trade and aid, and to consider how the Fairtrade movement can support development challenges in the areas of Human Rights and Sustainable Development. These are ambitious learning goals and cannot be accomplished just by handing out Fairtrade stickers. Of course, we need to keep up the consumer-based side of Fairtrade campaigning. But at the same time, we ought to use the popular appeal of the Fairtrade brand as an opportunity to introduce some more uncomfortable issues, such as why our world needs Fairtrade so badly.