by Lory Boutchakdjian from Fair Trade Lebanon. Tony has recently visited the UK to learn about the Fairtrade Towns movement
If I were to describe Fair Trade Lebanon in a couple of sentences, I would say it is an organisation that strives to preserve and valorise the traditional Lebanese know-how of food preservation and transform it into an income-generating activity. With the help of other NGOs, Fair Trade Lebanon provides technical training to residents of villages, helps them to form co-operatives and use their know-how to come up with products that achieve export standards and are easily marketable. Along this journey, Fair Trade Lebanon also teaches co-operatives to work according to the values of fair trade, such as transparency, accountability and fair compensation. Finally, it conducts all marketing activities, from packaging to finding markets to exporting.
After gaining experience in marketing, Fair Trade Lebanon saw the need to upgrade its campaigning activities through Fair Trade Town campaigns. As these campaigns have been very successful in Europe, a delegation was sent to the country where the first Fair Trade Town was announced: the United Kingdom.
Whilst in the UK, we talked to campaigners from many Fair Trade Towns and gained insight into the mechanisms used to increase the public's awareness of fair trade and their willingness to buy Fairtrade products. While each campaigner was recalling their own experience, we gathered a pool of ideas on how to finance campaigns and commit people to buying Fairtrade.
Moreover, while meeting people from different fair trade organisations, we realised many opportunities for cooperation with them, since our goals and activities are similar.
But most importantly, we came back to Lebanon with inspiration and optimism, with the thoughts that although our economic and security situations are not ideal, we can inspire people to adopt an alternative economic model, with the long-term intention of developing their own localities and that of others in situations similar to theirs. We found the Fairtrade movement in the UK very active and exciting, especially considering that many of the people involved are working voluntarily and passionately giving their time and energy to this cause.
For the Fair Trade Town campaigns in Lebanon, we hope we can achieve as much success in the years to come as the UK campaign has achieved. We plan on announcing 10 Fair Trade Towns in 2015, and keep on increasing commitment to fair trade in the future. Making use of the ideas we gathered from the UK, we hope to establish our own campaign that combines fair trade production and consumption. We are also working on expanding the range of Fairtrade products from Lebanon available in the UK (currently the Coteaux les Cédres red wine is the only certified product exported to the UK), since we received such a positive response during our tasting sessions there.