massive painting of farmer, Bismark on grass

Fairtrade Fortnight 2022: Thank you

As Fairtrade Fortnight 2022 draws to a close our CEO Michael Gidney looks back on an extraordinary two weeks and thanks the farmers, workers, campaigners, businesses and supporters who helped make it happen.

A week is a long time in politics – and so, indeed, is a fortnight. This year’s annual celebration of all things Fairtrade has coincided with global events unfolding on a terrifying scale. The past two weeks have borne witness to the unfolding horror of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the suffering that has resulted.

As I reflect on the success of Fairtrade Fortnight 2022, with its focus on climate justice, it’s hard not to feel that our concerns seem insignificant in comparison to events happening elsewhere in Europe. But just as so many of our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by war and conflict, I am reminded of the concept of Ubuntu, a Bantu philosophy which my colleagues in Fairtrade Africa refer to. It is the belief in a shared humanity – ‘I am because we are.’

This is a central tenet of Fairtrade: that our inter-connected world demands that we all work together to tackle injustice, harm and exploitation, wherever we see it. We must all play our part in bringing about peace, fairness and security: whether it’s tackling the injustices arising from a devastating conflict or injustice stemming from the climate crisis – one that sees those who have contributed the least to it bearing the brunt of its impacts.

Throughout Fairtrade Fortnight, I have been struck by the creativity and commitment of all those who took part in our ‘Choose the World You Want’ festival – from the dozens of online talks, teach-ins, celebrations and tastings to the hundreds of events across the country. While the line-up may change year-to-year, at its heart, the Fairtrade Fortnight message fundamentally stays the same: farmers and workers who grow our food – our coffee, tea, bananas – need to be treated fairly and paid decently. They need better incomes so they can meet their daily needs and protect their crops against crises such as Covid-19 and climate change.

As society takes tentative steps back to ‘normal’ life post pandemic, I am inspired and heartened by what I have seen and heard from campaigners and supporters, our Patrons and, importantly, farmers and Fairtrade businesses over these past two weeks. They understand Fairtrade, its benefits and the necessity for it, and that gives me hope and encouragement to keep pushing for trade and climate justice.

Fairtrade Farmers Taking on the Climate Crisis event for Fairtrade Fortnight 2022

My Fairtrade Fortnight began on Monday 21 February when I hosted a live session on Zoom with farmers on the frontline of the climate crisis. I was fortunate to be reunited with Bismark Kpabitey, the young Ghanaian cocoa farmer who was part of our Fairtrade delegation in Glasgow at COP26, where he spoke about the climate crisis. Bismark is a brilliant advocate – clear-eyed about the enormous climate challenges that he and countless other farmers face, but full of optimism that together we can overcome them.

Meanwhile, live from his farm in Peru, coffee farmer Hugo Guerrero spoke about how his experience of testing organic farming techniques is helping him and his community to grow more effectively and more sustainably. Hugo is a true innovator, an entrepreneur. Both he and Bismark are choosing the world they want, with the support of the British public through their continued decision to choose Fairtrade.

This Fortnight we also heard from our patrons, like the wonderful Adjoa Andoh who shared her passion for Fairtrade when hosting a screening of a film featuring Kenyan coffee farmer Caroline Rono and her efforts to tackle the effects of climate change. Later in the week our Patron Allegra McEvedy was in fine form, discussing the importance of education in the fight for climate justice with educators and activists including Phoebe L. Hanson from the Teach the Future campaign. As ever, there were plenty of events on offer – including sessions hosted by Co-op, M&S and other partners – and I was glad of the ‘On demand’ catch-up feature on our festival website. The golden thread linking each event was this: farmers are on the frontline of the climate crisis and we all have a role to play in supporting their efforts to adapt and mitigate the impact.

Caroline Rona
A film screening and Q&A event introduced by actor and director Adjoa Andoh, focusing on Kenyan coffee farmer Caroline Rono (above) and her efforts to take on the effects of climate change.

So as we put away the Fairtrade bunting for another year, I see plenty to celebrate and much to be thankful for.

People care. The British public have again demonstrated their care and concern for farmers, and equally importantly want to do something about it, as nearly two thirds say they will choose Fairtrade products when they have the opportunity. And our experience bears this out, as so many across the UK, from campaigners, MPs and supporters, to the schoolchildren who enthusiastically engaged with our Q&A sessions throughout Fairtrade Fortnight, show.

Businesses care. The engagement from our Fairtrade partners keeps getting stronger. We saw new commitments from Lidl (to use Fairtrade cotton for all their staff uniforms – a first in the sector) as well as another first from the Co-Op, moving 100% of their South African wine range to Fairtrade, alongside a raft of new products across the market.

All this gives me hope for the future. Hope that one day we will look back on unfair trade – which mistreats the people we depend on to grow our food, and takes more from the environment than it can cope with – with disbelief that we all allowed it to go on for so long. It doesn’t have to be a poorer future: we just need to remember how inter-connected we all are. I believe that the seeds of change we choose to plant now, with our Fairtrade farmers, schools, universities, campaigners and business partners, will bloom into a positive and fairer future for all.

So thank you to everyone who joined in this Fairtrade Fortnight. The challenges in tackling trade and climate justice are many, but there are many of us. Choose The World You Want is not just a festival slogan: it’s a reminder that each of us, every day, has the power to bring about positive change. That so many people are choosing Fairtrade – in their daily lives, for their businesses, in their communities – is a sure sign of solidarity, partnership, and love. The terrible news from Ukraine has made me realise, afresh, just how important these values are, and how precious the Fairtrade movement is.