“Don’t feed exploitation. Choose Fairtrade – because farmers deserve a fair deal” is the 2017 Fairtrade Fortnight slogan. The Luton Town Fairtrade Steering Group commemorated Fairtrade Fortnight on Tuesday 28th February 2017 at Luton Town Hall. The Council Chamber was almost full to its capacity with people from different faiths and cultural backgrounds and people of all ages with 25 pupils from St Joseph’s Catholic and Ramridge Primary Schools. In her opening comments, Cllr Jacqueline Burnett, the Luton Borough Council portfolio holder for Fairtrade, welcomed everyone and expressed the strong commitment of the local authority in continuing to promote and support Fairtrade across the town and into all its future planning. Attendees felt encouraged as they were reminded of the highlights from the journey of the “Making Luton a Fairtrade Town” campaign during the last 10 years and the on-going commitment by the Grassroots Programme and Luton Council of Faiths. It was heart-warming to note how positively Luton was mentioned by the then Director of the Fairtrade Foundation in her speech at the National Fairtrade Supporters’ Conference in 2012, when Luton was given the Most Outstanding Achievement Award in all categories by the Fairtrade Foundation.
Luton was again chosen this year for a producer tour by the Fairtrade Foundation. Luton Town was privileged to have Mr Patrick Kaberia Muthaura as the guest of honour. Patrick is a Fairtrade Tea Producer from Kenya. His life story left everyone feeling inspired to support Fairtrade. The little extra we pay, he said, helps farmers live their lives with some dignity and pride. “We do not want your charity or aid. We want you to support our business, so that we can help ourselves. We want you to trade fairly, which does justice to our labour and produce and not exploit it.” Patrick also raised concerns about climate change where farmers are already living through various crises. He also spoke about the future of wholesome agriculture and how we can encourage young people to join farming.
“People have become educated, but have not become human” said the late Pakistani humanitarian giant Abdul Sattar Edhi, who was honoured last week by Google. St Joseph’s Catholic School Children gave a wonderful presentation trying to address this challenge on how the school is preparing them by helping them to engage with such issues of common well-being. This was followed by Harriet Kelsall’s passionate talk on Fairtrade Gold. Harriet is one of the most respected bespoke designers and business trailblazers, multi-award winner and business woman, working in the UK jewellery industry. Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery started in 1998 and since then it has grown to be one of the most respected UK Fairtrade jewellery companies with many national and international awards to its name, most recently the 2016 national Bridal Jeweller of the year award.
Patrick also gave a presentation for a school assembly at Ramridge Primary school where he answered pupils’ questions. He visited a classroom and was very touched and inspired by the children's work and learning on justice and peace issues.
When asked why we should support Fairtrade, we remembered Tookie Bowman, a Banana producer from the Windward Islands who visited Luton a few years ago. He had said “when you buy Fairtrade you also buy a little bit of humanity!”