Saturday, 12 December 2015

Christmas Fair

It's a bit of a dismal day (but a lot warmer than some Christmas Fair days have been!), but there's a good spread of stalls in the Buttermarket today.
Free tea, coffee and mince pies (donations gratefully accepted) are being done by the new Refugee group this year. In fact, they have organised a day trip for a group of refugees to visit Hay tomorrow - a treat before Christmas for them.
Martha from Love Zimbabwe was there (I bought a lovely hand printed round tablecloth, with elephants on it, for my round table):

Opposite them was Zimele with Zulu crafts. On the other side of the Buttermarket was Tools for Self Reliance, a display of Tuareg silver jewellery and leatherwork, and knitted and felted goods at the end from the Fairtrade shop at Llandeilo, which I think is called the Dragon's Garden.
Chris, with his Timbuktu twinning hat on, was manning the Tuareg jewellery stall, and also had holly branches, with lots of red berries, and mistletoe. He said that the Fairtrade group are hoping to make enough money from the fair this year to put into Shared Interest again, which loans money to Fairtrade groups around the world.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Shared Interest

For some time now, Fairtrade Hay have been investing any profit they make from events they hold into a Shared Interest account. The minimum that can be put in is £100, so the group usually waits until it has a round number to put in.
Last night Sue James, of the Council of Shared Interest, came to speak at Tomatitos. When I got there, she was just explaining about the makeup of the Council, which includes randomly selected investors - so one year someone from Fairtrade Hay might be asked! The only requirement seems to be that they can get to Newcastle, where the meetings are held, three times in the year. The AGMs are held alternately in Newcastle and "somewhere further South" - the nearest to Hay so far has been in Bristol.
Shared Interest started off at about the same time as Fairtrade, the founder realising that some capital would be needed by Fairtrade producers and buyers to make the system work. This year, they have £33 million to loan out, and they do it in countries round the world. At first, they had an office in Newcastle, but now they have four more - one in Peru, one in Costa Rica, one in Kenya and one in Ghana, which makes it easier for members of staff to visit borrowers who often live in remote areas.
One of the main borrowers are coffee co-operatives. When the farmer harvests his or her coffee crop and brings it to the co-op, they need to be paid straight away, but the co-op needs to sell the coffee before they have the money. So they take out a loan to pay the farmers, and pay it back when they've sold the beans.
Other loans are to improve machinery, or install electricity - that sort of thing. We were told about a banana group which used the money to install a cable car arrangement between the farms so the bananas could be transported through the jungle, and a group of women in Africa who make beaded craftwork who installed solar panels, so now they don't have to go to the nearest town to charge their mobile phones!
There are quinoa farmers in Bolivia, exporting to the US, and vanilla farmers (and this is where I learned that vanilla is actually a type of orchid, which grows up a tree!).
47% of the money goes to coffee producers, but strangely only 1% goes to tea producers. One of the things that they have started doing is to offer a loan to producers whose coffee plants have been affected by roya, a coffee disease, so that they can replace their plants with more resistant varieties. Of course, it also takes five years for coffee plants to mature enough to produce a crop.
In India, loans are made through charities like Oxfam and Traidcraft as Shared Interest are not able to work there directly, but they still managed to work with 51 organisations there last year.
Mostly they deal in US dollars, and a little (mostly in French speaking areas of Africa) in Euros, because dealing in all the local currencies would be too difficult. The interest rates they charge on loans varies from country to country and organisation to organisation, too, depending on the individual circumstances. Meanwhile investors didn't get any return for a few years, because of the banking crisis. It's only in the last couple of years that they have got half a per cent of interest, because the Council thought they ought to get something back!
Investors have an equal voice and vote in the company whether they have invested the minimum of £100 or the maximum of £100,000.
There's also a charitable wing of the organisation, for producers who need more help than a conventional loan can give.

More information can be found on the website at
Financial matters can tend to be quite dry, but this really was a fascinating evening, and the members of Fairtrade Hay now have a much better idea of where their money is going and how it all works!

Monday, 2 November 2015

Fairtrade Fashion

Here are some pictures from the Fairtrade Fashion show at the Globe, taken by Mari Fforde:

"Medallion Man" - he was also modelling a Timbuktu silver pendant.

With bamboo socks

I really liked this cardigan!

Stylish, and doesn't exploit the workers or pollute the planet.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

The True Cost of Fashion

The Globe was the venue for last night's film and fashion show, hosted by Fairtrade Hay. There was even a glass of Fairtrade bubbly included in the ticket price - or apple juice for the non-drinkers.
First of all, we went downstairs to watch the film The True Cost, which has gone behind the scenes of the fashion industry to show just how destructive throw-away fashion really is. It's not just disasters like the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, which killed over a thousand people - it's chromium used in the tanning of leather for cheaper shoes polluting the River Ganges and the local water supply, leading to deaths and disabilities. It's cotton farmers in Texas dying of brain tumours caused by the chemicals sprayed on the cotton - it's so common in the area that they have their own specialist cancer clinic. It's peaceful protestors in Cambodia campaigning for a minimum wage being met by riot police. It's the vast piles of throwaway fashion going to landfill. And it's a garment worker who can only see her little girl a couple of times a year, as she works in the city and her parents in the home village are looking after the child. Several of the people interviewed were in tears as they spoke. Not one major clothing company agreed to an interview.
This was all sobering and serious stuff, and it really should be widely seen. Because we all buy clothes, and our choices influence the industry.
We also saw the people who are trying to change the way the industry operates - the organic cotton farmer in Texas, the lady from People Tree visiting the factories that make the clothes, the American economist who wants to change the system, and the Indian lady who was talking about poor cotton farmers committing suicide in India, amongst other things.

We are fortunate in Hay in having three shops that sell Fairtrade clothing - and we are also fortunate in having a lot of good sports who were prepared to take to the catwalk to model them! Including two male models! Eighteen Rabbit, Number Two and Flow all sell clothing from Fairtrade companies like Mata, No Nasties, Tobias Clothing, Monkee Genes, Fabrica Social, Rapanui, People Tree and Braintree - and they were also wearing jewellery from the Tuareg silversmiths in Timbuktu, provided by Jump4Timbuktu and Haymakers Gallery.
The clothes may be a little more pricy than many in the High Streets and supermarkets, though in many cases they compare very well, and they are made to last - the leather handbags and satchels being modelled will last for life.
(I couldn't help thinking about Monsoon/Accesorize, which has been in the news recently for failing to pay staff in this country the minimum wage - if they thought they could get away with that in the UK, how do they treat their suppliers? And their dresses are quite expensive.)

Any profits from evenings like this one are invested by Fairtrade Hay in Shared Interest, an organisation which provides loans to fairtrade companies in the developing world, including farmers, co-ops, workers and craftspeople.
And on 2nd November a speaker from Shared Interest will be in Hay, at Tomatitos at 8pm, talking about investing in a fairer world.

The evening was funded with help from the Welsh Government, Fairtrade Wales/Cymru Masnach Deg and Hub Cymru Africa.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the fashion industry might like to try, and

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Fairtrade Group Meeting

The next Fairtrade meeting will be at the Swan at 8pm on September 7th.
The main topics under discussion will be the proposed Fashion Show and Film event at the Globe on October 23rd, and the Christmas Fair.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Saturday in the Buttermarket

Some of the goods on display at the Buttermarket on Saturday, 15th August. Fairtrade Hay were there along with other community groups including the Timbuktu twinning people and the Hay History Group.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Eighteen Rabbit Open Evening

The shop filled up quite rapidly, and Andrew was the perfect host, filling up the glasses of bubbly. They have a lot more room in the shop on Lion Street, including an alcove off to one side for clothes, with a changing room.
One lady was taking the opportunity to buy a Diamond Wedding gift for a friend, by buying a cotton Eighteen Rabbit bag and filling it with soap and body cream and other small gifts, all wrapped in orange paper.
They also sell jewellery (some of it recycled from bullets), rugs, pottery, Mexican mirrors, wooden toys, and even a few books.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Eighteen Rabbit Celebrates

Drinks will be available from 5pm to 7pm on Saturday evening, to celebrate the opening of the new shop.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Eighteen Rabbit Moves to Lion Street

You really can't miss the Fairtrade presence in the middle of Hay now!
Eighteen Rabbit started off as a pop-up shop at Hay Castle, and stayed. Now they've moved down to Lion Street, to a bigger shop. This used to be Lion Antiques until a couple of weeks ago, when the antique dealers retired.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Love Zimbabwe in Hereford

I was in Hereford over the weekend, where I bumped into someone I knew at All Saints Church. Martha of Love Zimbabwe was there, with her Fairtrade goods, enjoying the busy atmosphere of the town centre. She said she's already booked to be back in Hay for the Christmas Fair!

Friday, 6 March 2015

Allan Saidi at Hay School

There's a good article on the Hereford Times website
with a picture of Allan Saidi, the Malawi sugar farmer, at Hay School with members of the Fairtrade Hay group.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Best Fairtrade Town Group in Wales?

Well, they certainly work together like a well-oiled machine, and the lady from Cardiff, Helen, seemed impressed!
It was a well-attended meeting at Tomatitos last night, packed onto the gallery at the back of the pub, where the white wall could be used as a film and slideshow screen. Free teas and hot chocolates were available, as well as nuts (all Fairtrade, of course), for a donation to the Malawi flood appeal. Shared Interest, a group that gives loans to Fairtrade projects, and which the Hay Fairtrade Group have been supporting for several years, promised to double whatever was collected to go to Malawi.
There was a film and two speakers - the film showed tea farmers in Malawi, describing their work and what they have done in the co-operative with the Fairtrade premium. They were very proud of their ambulance, which had saved the lives of the daughters of one of the narrators when they came down with malaria, and another speaker was very pleased with the motorbike they'd been able to buy. Sadly, the floods were very bad this year, and several of the people in the film had lost their livlihoods as a result. They work so hard to better themselves, and then something like that comes along and knocks them right back to the beginning again.

The first speaker was Allan Saidi, a sugar farmer from Malawi, who explained how sugar is grown, including the part where they bend the canes to frighten away wild animals before they harvest it, including snakes and elephants! They have bought two trucks with the premium, which deliver fertiliser to the farmers, and take people to hospital, and collect farmers to take them to the co-operative meetings.
They have also built a primary school - Allan's daughter (there was a picture) is six, and goes there, and he seemed so proud. The government provide the teachers when they have built the school.
There's also a clinic, and the largest hall in the district is being built at the moment, to be used for community events. He also showed pictures of his old, mud brick house, and his smart new house.
Another thing they have bought is a tractor, to dig irrigation trenches and for other farm work, which means they no longer have to hire tractors at great expense, and so have that extra cash in their pockets.
Bore holes have also been built, which means the women no longer have to go to the river to collect water - where there are crocodiles. Allan said that a couple of the farmers have lost their arms to the crocodiles.
When they started there were just over 100 farmers in the co-op, and now there are over 700. He was elected secretary, which means he also has responsibility to see that the farmers abide by the Fairtrade standards in their farming, such as health and safety, and sending their children to school rather than working on the farm.
However, the future is uncertain for them, due to EU rules which are coming in in 2017, which will favour European sugar beet farmers over African sugar cane farmers. One of the things he was doing while in the UK was trying to lobby MPs to help.

Oliver Balch was the second speaker, because he has recently been on a visit to Nicaragua to visit Fairtrade coffee plantations and a sesame seed producer. There they have been having problems with a disease which attacks the coffee bushes - but the fact that they are not isolated, but gathered together in co-operatives, means that they can get back on their feet faster.
They were also proud of what the Fairtrade premium had brought to their districts - including Eco-latrines! There's a strong environmental component to the Fairtrade co-ops there, including retaining areas of cloud forest instead of clearing them for extra growing space.
They have been installing new wood burning ovens in the houses, with chimneys. They are more efficient than the old style, and cut down on the cases of TB in the community, which was exacerbated by the smoke. One village has installed a communal oven, where the women can bake cakes and biscuits to sell in the local market to make extra money.
They are very keen on expanding local markets for their crops as well as the export trade. They also run courses on women's rights and similar issues.

One of the questions that came up at the end of the talks was why some crops from a co-op were sold as Fairtrade and some were sold as ordinary crops on the open market, even though it was all Fairtrade. The reason in a lot of cases is that they cannot find enough buyers for the Fairtrade produce, so have to sell the rest where they can.
In West Bengal, apparently, the best tea is sold at a premium anyway, to places like Fortnum and Masons, leaving the second best, ordinary tea for the Fairtrade market, and then whatever they can get for the rest. So, they need to expand the Fairtrade markets, and they can only do that if people here in the UK buy Fairtrade products wherever they see them.

Allan Saidi spent this morning at Hay School, talking to the children there, which went very well. On Friday, there will be hot chocolate provided at the school, and on Sunday teas on the Cobbles by the Castle.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Fairtrade Fortnight - Return of the Tea Ladies!

The Tea Ladies are back! This was something that was very popular the first time it was tried - dispensing free Fairtrade tea from a tea trolley at the Thursday market. So, next week, the Fairtrade team are doing it again.

And the following week, there's this: