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Women, Co-operatives and Fair Trade

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Sarah's house

Sarah’s house

Women around the world are improving their lives through membership of co-operatives and selling their produce through Fair Trade. Through visiting Fair Trade producers I gained an insight into this.

Sarah is a farmer in Ghana with the Kuapa Kookoo Co-operative, which represents over 45,000 cocoa farmers through 1300 co-operative societies.  As a fan of co-operatives I had long admired this organisation.  After a tour of the cocoa fields, Sarah was really eager to show me her house which she was immensely proud of. She explained that it was only through being a Kuapa farmer (and thus their growing exports through Fair Trade), that she had been able to afford to build the traditional mud and clay small house. Women’s Development groups are also run to help women be financially independent, for example, by starting micro-businesses outside the cocoa growing season.

Another remarkable outcome of Kuapa Kookoo’s work is the number of women on its National Executive Council, which at 6/10 bucks the national trend. This is because each farmer has a vote and can stand to represent the local co-operative society at the area and main board. They also send one man and woman from each village society to the Annual General Meeting where main decisions are made.

Sarah working at Kuapa Kookoo Co-operative

Sarah working at Kuapa Kookoo Co-operative

So many women I met talked most about their children’s future and education is key to that. Whilst sometimes education is free, there are often school fees, uniforms, books and pens to buy that exclude some of the poorest paid. The basic long term income from Fair Trade helps them do that as well as feeding their children.

Ann Summa and other tea farmers in Kerala, India, live in the Ellapara mountains and own small areas of land they grow tea on. They collectively sell their tea as a consortium and through selling a tiny percentage of their tea on Fair Trade terms, she is able to keep paying their older children’s college fees. At a meeting of the Women’s Group they discussed how to spend their future Fair Trade premium. The amount was likely to be smallish and although they would have liked to have some kind of visiting medical clinic, they decided instead to spend the money on organic farming, so they no longer had to use the same tools containing pesticides. They explained how whenever they tried this their children had much better health compared to regular sickness after conventional spraying.  This correlated with the story of Bella Joachim, a Banana farmer from Dominica who I met on tour in Wales during Fair Trade Fortnight in 2009.  From her point of view, as well as having a better price, the most significant change from Fair Trade was in better health and safety procedures.

Fair Trade garment factory, India

Fair Trade garment factory, India

In rural Tamil Nadu, India, I was amazed to visit a garment factory with a crèche on site. The factory only makes Fair Trade goods. This meant women, who formed the majority of the workers, could go to work and earn their own money and hence have some financial independence. As the factory pays relatively well for the area it is also key to keeping people in the community, as many young people in India migrate to large towns to find work. Women’s’ groups, which were small groups of women who were waiting for employment at the factory and did cotton bag sewing, were so successful and in such demand that they had been extended to men’s groups.

Elizabeth Hudson visisted Kuapa Kookoo with Fair Trade Wales in 2008 (to represent the Centre’s Fair Trade Business project) and India in 2007 as a personal trip.

Written by ieuannash

March 8, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight as the world’s 1st Fair Trade Nation turns five

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A guest blog post from Fair Trade Wales.

Five years ago, Wales became the world’s first Fair Trade Nation. This was an unprecedented achievement and marked years of hard work from grassroots campaigners, schools, faith groups, business and Government. So this Fairtrade Fortnight there is more reason than ever to celebrate.

And what better way to celebrate than to attempt a Fair Trade themed world record! This year, the people of Wales are invited to share what the Fair Trade Nation means to them by sending in postcards from their own corner of Wales. It can be a simple sentence, a doodled drawing or even a cheeky tune. Whatever your message and however you chose to express it, it will then be collated together to make up to the largest ever post card to be shared with the world later this year. All that’s left is to find a big enough stamp! You can find details of this exciting attempt and download your own Fair Trade Nation postcards on the Fair Trade Wales website.

That’s not all either, Fair Trade Wales and Welsh campaigners have partnered with the Fairtrade Foundation, Zaytoun & Cafe Direct to bring Fairtrade producers from Uganda, St Lucia and Palestine to Wales. They will be sharing their stories about the transformative impact Fairtrade is having on their lives at a whole host of events up and down the country involving school, councils, business and even government reflecting all aspects of the Fair Trade Nation. You can find out where your nearest Fairtrade Fortnight event is taking place by checking our events page.

If that doesn’t take your fancy, why not throw your own Fair Trade Nation party. You could invite your neighbours and celebrate with some Fairtrade bubbly or orange juice and lots of Fairtrade food. If you fancy a more sober occasion, why not arrange a debate? You can invite your local MP and ask them what the Fair Trade Nations means to them. Finally, how about taking inspiration from the Fair Trade Nation and joining the remarkable Enough food If… campaign.

Whatever you choose to do, we can be enormously proud of the contribution Wales has made and continues to make towards the cause of trade justice. So let’s get celebrating!

There’s more information on Fairtrade Fortnight on the Wales Co-operative Centre website.

Written by MarkWalesCooperative

March 1, 2013 at 2:37 pm

From bean to brew: a new challenge for cooperatives

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High-up in the mountains of South-West Ethiopia the mist mingles amongst the tree-tops. At ground-level, rich green foliage is abundant and plump red berries are ready for picking. This is the Oromia region of Ethiopia, and here thousands of families are dependent upon Ethiopia’s native crop: coffee.

Coffee beansDubbed ‘Black Gold’ in a 2006 film, coffee is the second most valuable commodity in the world after oil. But in Oromia and across Ethiopia, smallholder coffee growers find this hard to believe: “What I understand is that people in your country drink it, but I receive nothing,” says one farmer. Coffee growers rarely get a fair deal and Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Union of co-operatives

Just over ten years ago, the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU) was founded and today, under the leadership of Tadesse Meskela it represents over 100,000 smallholder coffee farmers and their families. This union of cooperatives has turned around the fortunes of coffee growing communities in the Oromia region.

“Our members are benefiting from the profits made by the cooperative,” says Meskela. “Schools have been built, farmers earn a guaranteed price for their coffee and the cooperative can provide enhanced food security to farmers and their families.”

Such is the success of the OCFCU, more coffee cooperatives haven been founded in Yirgachefe and Sidama. Both of these regions grow unique, world-renowned coffee.

Fair Trade for co-operative Union members

Cooperatives have brought Ethiopian farmers direct access to global markets. Miju Adula is the Chairman of the Kilenso Mokonsia Cooperative: “We used to sell our coffee to exporters who would cheat us and sometimes they did not pay us at all. Now we know the value of our coffee and we receive profits from the coffee sold by the Union”. Coffee growing in Ethiopia doesn’t just provide export revenue; it is engrained in the cultural life of rural communities, who have been growing coffee for centuries.

Climate change and variable weather conditions

Access to world markets and a fair price for the coffee that Ethiopian farmers produce isn’t the only determining factor to the success of a coffee growing community. Like all agricultural producers, coffee farmers must hope for good climatic conditions each season; not too hot, not too cold and perfectly timed precipitation. Without these conditions, yields decrease, coffee quality is poor and the incidence of plant disease increases. Cooperatives have given their members access to fair market prices but can they support growers in the face of climate change?

For fairtrade coffee company Cafédirect, a recent winner at the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards, waiting to see how climate change affects their small holder cooperative farmers hasn’t been an option.

In 2007, Cafédirect launched a Public-Private Partnership programme known as Adaption to Climate Change for smallholders (AdapCC), with the German Technical Cooperative, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit. Together they have worked with cooperative tea and coffee produces in Latin America and East Africa to identify the threats from climate change.

“I have never known the weather to be so unpredictable,” says Willington Wamayeye, the General Manager of the Gumutindo Coffee Cooperative in Uganda which supplies coffee to Cafédirect.

“The coffee plants are badly affected – flowering is stopping. Last year alone we lost about 40% of our coffee production because of climate change.” With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicting rising temperatures and increasingly erratic precipitation across East Africa, coffee growers are at an increasing risk of crop failure and declining yields.


Through the AdapCC partnership project, small-scale farmers worked with experts to recognise changes in climate that threaten coffee production. Growers were involved in identifying low-input technological and management changes that can mitigate the actions of climate change. Such steps can hugely reduce the vulnerability of communities and ensure that they keep on producing coffee, no matter what the weather does. The ethos amongst AdapCC farmers is “the climate changes and I adapt to it!”

Adaptation can be simple, but knowledge about the changing processes is required. In the instance of climate change and predicting the weather for each growing season, meteorological data is needed, but according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), East Africa has one of the lowest densities of weather stations anywhere in the world. This lack of information makes predicting weather and climate in some areas almost impossible. But this needn’t be the case.

In a partnership between the mobile phone company Ericcson, the Global Humanitarian Forum and the WMO, it is hoped that by 2012 large areas of East Africa will be covered by weather stations hosted on mobile phone masts. This much-needed information can then be used to monitor trends and changes in the weather and climate. Companies developing partnerships with developing world communities and actively pursuing corporate social responsibility programmes can bring solutions to problems that have big results.

Partnership between small co-operatives and global companies critical for future

Back in Ethiopia, the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union has successfully transformed the lives of thousands of coffee farmers over the past twelve years. Tadesse Meskela has huge ambitions for the cooperative, but he also faces new challenges as he strives to support over half a million Ethiopians who are dependent upon the profits made through the selling of its coffee. The answers to these challenges don’t just lie in smallholder farmers working together in cooperatives; partnerships with global private sector companies and non-governmental organisations will be critical.


The Wales Co-operative Centre offers support and advice to Welsh businesses looking to adopt a Fair Trade policy or start a specialist Fairtrade business.

Written by C Kenzie

July 1, 2011 at 9:08 am

Results of Wales’ Favourite Fair Trade Cuppa poll

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A new Fair Trade hero emerged this Fairtrade Fortnight.  Coffee Culture in Llandudno has come out top in a national poll to find Wales’s Favourite Fair Trade cuppa.

‘Wales’ Favourite Fair Trade Cuppa Poll’ was run by the Wales Co-operative Centre to discover where people go for their favourite ethical brew.

27 businesses were nominated including cafés, pubs and the Arriva Trains Wales service which serves fair trade beverages on their long distance services.  1395 votes were cast in total.

Elizabeth Hudson, Fair Trade Marketing Officer at the Wales Co-operative Centre, says: “Cafés selling Fair Trade drinks have a loyal following of fans.  The poll was a great opportunity to find the nation’s favourite.”

With 418 votes, Coffee Culture in Swansea took second place, and The Red Cafe in Mumbles claimed third place with 210 votes. The Herb Garden in Llandrindod Wells came in fourth with 71 votes, and at 45 votes, The Embassy Café of Cardiff took fifth place.

Despite hard times, cafés remains an affordable treat.  Indeed sales of fair trade coffee have increased 14% to just over 14,000 tonnes, which is equivalent to an estimated 6.4 million cups of Fairtrade coffee drunk every day. Sales of fair trade tea have increased 5% by volume in the last year, equivalent to 9.3 million cups of tea drunk every day. The fair trade option may only represent an extra 1 pence cost to your regular cuppa.

Overall, sales of Fairtrade products have risen by 40% in 2010 to an estimated retail value of £1.17bn compared with £836 million in 2009.

As part of the activity for Fairtrade Fortnight, Fair Trade Wales made a special showing of the film ‘Black Gold’ at their pop-up shop in the Morgan Arcade, Cardiff. After the 2006 film was made, Starbucks adopted a Fairtrade policy, and the café chain immediately became the world’s largest buyer of fair trade coffee.

Thursday’s announcement by The Wales Co-operative Centre is further evidence that there is still room for ethics in the hard times.

Visit for more information.

The Wales Co-operative Centre offers support and advice to Welsh businesses looking to adopt a Fair Trade policy or start a specialist Fairtrade business.

Written by C Kenzie

April 10, 2011 at 9:18 am

Posted in Fair Trade

Cafés in a stir about Wales’ Favourite Fair Trade Cuppa poll

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a Fair Trade cuppaThere are only ten days left to vote for Wales’ Favourite Fair Trade Cuppa!

Our annual poll is all about trying to find the café or other catering outlet that sells Wales’ favourite hot Fair Trade drink.

What’s more, one lucky voter will be drawn at random from the ballots to win a hamper filled with Fair Trade goodies!

By taking part, Fairtrade devotees can show the world how much they value their daily Fair Trade cuppa, and the whole project adds value to the Fairtrade brand.

So vote:

  • Online through our website at
  • Via SMS* by texting CUPPA to 78866 with the café’s name; the café’s town; your own name; and your email address. (Those last two details allow yourself to be entered into the hamper draw.)
  • Tell us about your favourite café at
  • Finally, cafés across Wales have Freepost voting postcards which can be sent back to us at the Wales Co-operative Centre.

This presitigious award has been won in previous years by Milgi’s Lounge Bar, Cardiff (2009) and Coffee Culture in Llandudno (2010). Last year, 1390 votes were cast in the Cuppa Poll, so lets try to top this in 2011!

The poll closes at midnight on 13th March, the last day of Fairtrade Fortnight 2011. We will announce the winners shortly after this.

Please visit for more information and to request posters, coasters or postcards to display in your café.

*Text votes will be charged at your standard rate.

Written by C Kenzie

March 4, 2011 at 9:18 am

Posted in Fair Trade

Show us your label for Fairtrade Fortnight 2011!

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We want you to add your photos of your Fair Trade labelled items to our Fairtrade Fortnight 2011 group on Flickr.

Be they Fairtrade clothes (show us a few fashion shots!), Fairtrade food or any other products you reguarly buy and use.

The theme for Fairtrade Fortnight 2011 is ‘Show Off Your Label’ so that what we want you to do!

We’ve started the group off with a few shots of Cardiff’s statues kindly sporting some Fairtrade clothing for us:

The panther on the animal wall at Cardiff Castle wears a Fair Trade hoodie from Gossypium:

Panther on the animal wall at Cardiff Castle

‘People Like Us’, wearing a woman’s blue cardigan with a Fairtrade themed cotton apron; both items come from Cardiff Fair Trade shop Fair Do’s. The male figure is wearing one of Gossypium’s cotton hats, and the cotton hat and scarf worn by his dog is from the same set:

‘Girl’ by Robert Thomas is wearing a Fair Trade cotton scarf and Fair Trade woollen hat also from Fair Do’s:


To find out what else we’re doing to promote Fairtrade Fortnight, please visit our website Fairtrade Fortnight at the Wales Co-operative Centre.

The Wales Co-operative Centre offers support and advice to Welsh businesses looking to adopt a Fair Trade policy or start a specialist Fairtrade business.

Written by C Kenzie

March 1, 2011 at 9:20 am

Cardiff statues get in on the act for Fairtrade Fortnight

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Statues around Cardiff have been helping to promote this year’s Fairtrade Fornight (28th Feb – 13th Mar) theme ‘Show Off Your Label’. They’ve kindly agreed to be photographed wearing Fair Trade clothing.

The panther on the animal wall at Cardiff Castle wears a Fair Trade hoodie from Gossypium:

Panther on the animal wall at Cardiff Castle

‘People Like Us’, wearing a woman’s blue cardigan with a Fairtrade themed cotton apron; both items come from Cardiff Fair Trade shop Fair Do’s. The male figure is wearing one of Gossypium’s cotton hats, and the cotton hat and scarf worn by his dog is from the same set:

‘Girl’ by Robert Thomas is wearing a Fair Trade cotton scarf and Fair Trade woollen hat also from Fair Do’s:

To see more photos please visit Wales Co-operative Centre on Flickr.

Two thirds of UK households buy fair trade products, yet less than 1% of the UK cotton market is fair trade. This suggests that while demand is high, the textiles trade is yet to tap those sales.

So in addition to our profile raising photos, we’re also mailing letters to businesses that encourage them to sell fair trade cotton products. But…we also printed the letters on fair trade cotton. That way, people in a position to supply the high demand for fair trade clothes etc. will have a sample of the cloth, as well as a host of reasons to buy it.

(In spite of the recession, people spent more on fair trade products, with the average spend rising by 5.5%. A free poll has also found that a massive 96% of consumers would pay extra for ethical goods. Recently, the fair trade market in Britain shattered the £1 bn. mark.)

See the buzz around fair trade cotton at For fair trade enquiries, the Wales Co-operative Centre can be contacted on 0300 111 5050.

To find out what else we’re doing to promote Fairtrade Fortnight, please visit our website Fairtrade Fortnight at the Wales Co-operative Centre.

The Wales Co-operative Centre offers support and advice to Welsh businesses looking to adopt a Fair Trade policy or start a specialist Fairtrade business.

Written by C Kenzie

February 28, 2011 at 9:15 am

Fairtrade Fortnight February 28th – March 13th 2011

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The Wales Co-operative Centre are getting fully immersed in Fairtrade Fortnight this year!

We are:

  • Running the Fair Trade Cuppa Poll – vote for Wales’ Favourite Fair Trade cuppa!
  • Dressing Cardiff statues in Fair Trade cotton. Photographer Nick Treharne has taken some shots for us, photos to come in the next blog post!
  • Sending out 200 ‘letters‘ printed on Fairtade cotton to the Welsh clothing and textile industry to promote the use of Fairtrade cotton.
  • On 10th March, we will be at Fair Trade Wales shop in the Morgan Arcade, Cardiff, for the showing of their film ‘Black Gold’ and to talk about the Fair Trade Cuppa Poll.

Fairtrade Fortnight starts on Monday 28th February.

Visit the Fairtrade Foundation’s website to find out how you can get involved in this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight and ‘Show Off Your Label’.

See what Fair Trade Wales are doing for Fairtrade Fortnight.

The Wales Co-operative Centre offers support and advice to Welsh businesses looking to adopt a Fair Trade policy or start a specialist Fairtrade business.

Written by C Kenzie

February 25, 2011 at 10:50 am

New website for the Wales Co-operative Centre

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The Wales Co-operative Centre have a new website! You can find this at

We have completely updated the site to make information easier to find. The new site will also allow us to add new features in the near future

We have a new Training section that includes a secure online booking and card payment process which means your place on your workshop of choice will be reserved straight away. Payment by cheque and BACS is still available.

All support for social enterprises and co-operatives can be found in our Business support section. For those looking for information about credit unions, this can be found in our Fair access to financial services section.

Please also note we have a new domain name – the website can now be found at <a href="http://“>, although the original address will also bring you here.

Click.Connect.Discover from Communities 2.0 has also joined us with a new website. You can still find the site at but it is also available linked from the Wales Co-operative Centre as ‘Help with technology’.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you would like to offer feedback on our new website.

For business support for co-operatives and enterprises, help and support for the use of digital technologies, credit union advice, Fair Trade for businesses and Training, visit the Wales Co-operative Centre.

Written by C Kenzie

February 24, 2011 at 10:40 am

Fair Trade Cuppa poll tea party!

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**Announcement: change of venue**

The Fair Trade Cuppa poll campaign tea party will now be held at Milgi’s in Roath on Friday 18th February between 4pm and 6pm.


We’re holding a campaign party for our Fair Trade Cuppa poll at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff. It’s on Friday 11th February and starts at 4pm.

Naturally it will be a tea party (or a coffee evening, if you prefer!), so come along and talk to cafés and prospective voters about Fair Trade.

When you vote,  you can choose to enter our prize draw to win a Fair Trade hamper.

How to vote:

Text CUPPA to 78866 with your favourite Fairtrade café’s name, town, your name and your email address. The last two details let us know who to send the hamper to.

Or fill out a postcard at the Fair Trade Cuppa tea party at Chapter on the 11th.

If you’d like to help promote the poll (or promote your premises!) get in touch with us at or phone 0300 111 5050 and ask William Sullivan for a promotional pack.

For more details, please see

Vote for Wales' Favourite Fair Trade Cuppa

Written by C Kenzie

February 1, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Posted in Fair Trade

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