This week marks the start of Fairtrade Fortnight (from 24th February to 8th March) during which a series of events and campaigns are organized across the UK to explore issues relating to the Fairtrade movement.

Fairtrade Foundation image: Gore Ya Plohi village, CAVA coop members.

In 2020 the Fairtrade Foundation’s (FF) campaign calls for cocoa farmers to earn a living income, whilst also sharing the stories of women involved in the making of chocolate. This campaign focus seeks to address issues highlighted in a recent FF report: that the production of cocoa too often relies on gender inequality, injustice and exploitation.

The FF commissioned research into women farmers, who make up two thirds of the labour force. The report, ‘The Invisible Women Behind our Chocolate,’ highlights how large numbers of women farmers face an even worse situation than their male counterparts, especially those groups who are completely ‘invisible’ to market, research, and policy actors.

As part of its series of events FF has organised a panel of guest speakers, including a female cocoa farmer from Côte d’Ivoire, that will explore the importance of women in taking leading roles in business and society.

Zaytoun is also organising a series of events in collaboration with a range of cooperatives around the UK, to explore the role of regenerative agriculture within the fair trade movement. (See Zaytoun’s website for more information about these events).

These Fairtrade fortnight themes offer much food for thought and are also important to explore in the UK context. Questions around a living wage and the role of women and regenerative farming systems need to be addressed at every level (bio regionally, nationally and internationally) if we are to support the emergence of resilient and healthy food systems.

For example, the UK national minimum wage is £7.70 per hour for under 25s and £8.21 per hour for over 25s despite daily life being generally more expensive. The Fairtrade Foundation’s website states that people living on the minimum wage suffer a ‘shortfall equivalent to more than six months’ food and drink bill for an average household or almost three months’ worth of average rental payments’.

In contrast the Living Wage (currently set at £9.30 for the UK or £10.75 for Greater London) works out the amount needed to support a basic standard of life, with the aim of supporting people to afford the basics whilst saving a little. How can we work towards ensuring that everyone working in our food system can afford to live well? And how can we ensure this whilst supporting healthy ecosystems?

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