Witham Staple considers wider global issues 

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The Witham Staple is mandated to reflect what is happening in our Lincolnshire community (i.e. the villages of Aubourn, Bassingham, Carlton le Moorland, Norton Disney, Stapleford, Thurlby, Witham St Hughs and the rural areas surrounding these villages).

The Witham Staple like our community tries not be entirely parochial and is influenced by what is happening in the wider world.

Fair Trade

World trade – Fair trade?

Debt Forgiveness

Claire's Indian Summer

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Fairtrade: Traidcraft

‘TRAIDCRAFT’ is one of the Fairtrade companies referred to in the article ‘Fairtrade: a Growing Concern’ (The Wtham Staple April 2004). This year) Traidcraft celebrates 25 years of Fairtrading. Among their products are Teadirect and Cafédirect, both now widely available and used, for instance, by the cafeteria at Whisby Nature Park. It is encouraging to see supermarkets steadily increasing their range of Fairtrade products.

More locally, Traidcraft products are available through Withamside United Parish. A small amount of stock is held and you may see Traidcraft stalls at local events, including some coffee mornings, where you can buy selected food items such as tea, coffee, sugar, honey, marmalade, confectionery and pasta. The Spring 2004 catalogue is also available and shows a wide range of products, including crafts, clothing, wine and gifts that can be ordered.

If you would like to know more about buying Traidcraft products, you can visit www.traidcraft.co.uk or phone Thelma Rowland (Tel: 788652).

[WS May 2004]

Fairtrade: A Growing Concern

As the world grows smaller, it has become easier than ever to trade globally. But with globalisation comes responsibility. Fairtrade was launched in 1994 and is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay above market prices, Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conven­tional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their lot and have more control over their lives. The Fairtrade Foundation, with its part­ners, maintains these standards by regularly inspecting third world suppliers, and checking contracts and trade terms.

The FAIRTRADE Mark is an independent consumer label, which on UK products is a guarantee that they have given their producers a better deal. Sales of products carrying the FAIRTRADE Mark are increasing impressively: by the end of 2003, shoppers were spend­ing over £2m per week at the checkout on products with the FAIRTRADE Mark, compared with the £2.7m spent in the whole of 1994. This shows that consumers do care and are prepared to pay the true price for products they know they can trust, guaranteed by the FAIRTRADE Mark.

Ten years ago there were just three companies - Clipper Fairtrade tea, Green & Black’s Maya Gold chocolate and Cafédirect coffee.

We can now choose from over 250 products from over 100 compa­nies.Tesco are launching 30 more Fairtrade products in addition to the 40 Fairtrade products already available in store. The Co-op is pledging to double the size of its own brand range of Fairtrade prod­ucts by the end of this year. Most other major multiples are stocking a wider range of Fairtrade products, many independents too.

Fairtrade now has 18% of the UK roast and ground coffee market; the British public eat a third of a million Fairtrade bananas every day; new Fairtrade foods introduced in 2003 include grapes, lemons, oranges, and rooibos tea from South Africa, as well as jams, marmalades, chutneys and a number of biscuit and cake products.

We can make a difference. If your store doesn’t have the product you want, please ask the manager to stock it!

For more information visit www.fairtrade.org.uk Stan Underwood

[WS April 2004]

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World trade – Fair trade?

Bringing in the harvest

‘All is safely gathered in...’ nothing marks the unchanging cycle of the seasons of the year so reassuringly as the arrival of Harvest Time. This is the time when all the labours of the preceding months come to fruition — literally — rewarding the good husbandry of the land and, on a smaller scale, the hours spent tending the garden and the allotment, providing us with the food and nourishment essential to life. Looking at the fields all around us today, the crops seem to have been harvested in record time this year, though in some areas the yield will perhaps be down on what it might have been because of the long weeks of dry weather. The sugar beet, which has yet to be lifted, certainly does look a bit sorry for itself just now. And yet...

Although we live here in the heart of the countryside, most of us nowadays see only glimpses of the harvest at a distance; we hear the busy hum of the combined harvesters and see the clouds of dust they raise; or we drive slowly behind a trailer full to the brim with grain. Some of us, on the other hand, are indeed old enough to remember harvest times of years ago and of a very different style.

Forty and fifty years ago, there were many more people employed on the land. Every farm now had a tractor, of course, though there were still some jobs left for the horse to do, like hay turning. In those days the hay, corn and, later, potato harvests saw youngsters and older folk coming out after tea during the week and all day on Saturdays — Sundays were only for milking and feeding the stock —into the fields to lend a hand. Both hay and sheaves of corn would be pitched up onto carts and trailers with pitchforks, and sometimes there’d be more helpers than forks! There’d be a great deal of sweat and plenty of chatter; best of all was tea, or even supper if things were running late, in the field, sitting on the grass by the haystack or against a ‘shock’ or stook of corn-sheaves. Hearty sandwiches, great wedges of fruit cake, and always scalding hot, sweet tea from a huge enamelled can. There were more people in those days at church or chapel harvest festivals than at Christmas or Easter services. And couldn’t they sing! They knew the meaning of the words and the harvest was indeed everybody’s business. And yet...

It is interesting that, nevertheless, ‘Harvest Suppers’ survive, as evidenced in the pages of this magazine, but they can sometimes seem a strange remnant of a distant past. And most of us today have no part in bringing in the crops; we do much more consuming than harvesting. Yet for millions of our fellows elsewhere in the world, the land and what it can yield, their crops and whether they will be able to feed themselves from them or sell on any surplus are matters of daily concern, issues of survival even. And yet...

The meeting of the World Trade Organization held in Cancun, Mexico in September was supposed to address the huge stranglehold that the rich nations of the world have over international trade, so that the 2.7billion people who now live on less than $2 a day might begin to stand on their own feet and trade fairly with the richer countries. Depressingly, the talks failed again. WTO rules are such that 40% of the world’s population receive only 3% of the world’s income from trade. Britain alone makes more from trade than South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa combined. Trade barriers, unfair import tariffs and taxes, rich governments subsidizing their own farmers — all these prevent the poorer countries from trading fairly with rich ones. For example, raw cocoa beans can be imported into the US and EU without tax. But if the poor process them themselves into cocoa butter, the EU rate goes up to over 10%; if they turn it into cocoa powder, it’s more than 15%; if they convert it into chocolate, it’s more than 20%. So that Germany processes more cocoa than Ivory Coast, the largest producer and a very poor country. Or a shirt made by a worker in Bangladesh attracts 20 times more import duty when it enters America than goods imported from Britain. That’s ‘free trade’ WTO-style, but it’s a long way from ‘fair trade’. And yet...

So, what’s that to do with us? What are we supposed to do about it? How can we roll up our sleeves and get involved in providing ‘a fairer harvest’ for the people of the world’s poorer nations? Well, there may no longer be pitchforks for us to grasp or sheaves of corn to be heaved up onto the cart. And yet... and yet, and yet we can start by being concerned, by being ashamed at the state of affairs. Then perhaps we can each put our minds and our energies where best we might help: share our sense of outrage with others, write to those in a position to bring influence to bear, give our support to the NGOs who tirelessly work for an improvement in world trade, seek out more fair-trade products in the shops. And then... then perhaps we shall have begun to find an appetite for our own harvest supper.

Stan Underwood [WS Oct 2003]

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Debt Forgiveness

Bob Geldof has invited us all to join him in Edinburgh this July. His open invitation has caused consternation to some who worry about how a million people will look after themselves in the city. Others point out that unless a huge crowd turns up our world leaders will not feel the weight of concern of many of us to see the vast continent of Africa helped and supported to lift itself from poverty and to find new ways of sustaining its myriad communities. 

World finance ministers have already met (in June) and set down some proposals to move forward their ambition for 'debt forgiveness' for the poorest nations of our world community. 

Some believe debt forgiveness is the best way to help Africa towards a brighter future. They believe the nations of Africa need a clean slate in order to build a better future. Others are concerned that, as often happens in Africa, it will not be the poor who benefit from such measures but those who are experts in feathering their own nests. Stringent control of the 'forgiveness' will be necessary to avoid such corruption. 

Over the last couple of years the churches of the United Parish have been working at building a link with just one small corner of Africa - some schools in Swaziland. The Swaziland Schools Project seeks to provide an education for the children of Swaziland who long for a future set free from the plague of HIV/ Aids and the daily grind of poverty. They live under a monarchy which sucks in huge amounts of the nations wealth to support its own lavish lifestyle. As well as raising money to support the children of Swaziland we have written to its - and our own - government expressing our concern. 

Debt forgiveness for Africa must go hand in hand with stringent regard for the well-being of her people over the self-serving of the corrupt. 

The Christian's world is entirely shaped by the notion of 'debt forgiveness'. We use a different word - 'redemption' - but it boils down to the same thing. We owe God a debt of gratitude for his patient love for us that we can never repay. He forgave us the debt when Christ died on Good Friday. The challenge of the Christian life is to live in the light of that forgiveness. 

Revd. Nick Buck  [WS July 2005]

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Claire's Indian Summer

Globe-Trotter Claire Buck is preparing for a month-long trip to India where she will be working with disadvantaged street children.
Abused children living in fear on India's streets face a brighter future thanks to a Lincolnshire student.
Claire Buck is flying to Calcutta in August to work with street children who struggle to find food, water and shelter.
The international relations and development graduate from Torgate Lane, Bassingham, near Lincoln, is part of an 11-strong team organised by charity Tearfund to work on this summer's Transform aid programme.
Miss Buck (22) said: "It's going to be tough. We'll see a lot of difficult sights when we work with the children because they face so many problems."
They will set up pavement clubs and educational projects teaching skills such as engineering.
Miss Buck, who works at Green's stores in Bassingham High Street and begins a masters degree at Brunel University this autumn, will work in a school and help at a health clinic for young adults.
"I heard about Tearfund because a friend completed one of its projects last Easter and it sounded so worthwhile," she said.
Her travelling companions have a wealth of different experiences.
"There is a huge age range, from an 18-year-old medical student to a
57-year-old secondary school teacher," she said.
"We've just completed a two-day training weekend to prepare ourselves for the trip - we learned everything from how to avoid becoming ill to being sensitive to another culture."
Miss Buck must raise £1,700 for the month-long trip, which begins on July27.
She completed a similar project in east Africa before studying for her degree in Brighton.
She said: "My family have been really. supportive about me going to Calcutta. The fact I've done projects like this before makes them less nervous. "
Her brother Stephen (18) said: "We're really proud of what Claire's doing. "She worked with people in a similar way in East Africa so we know she can handle herself in that situation."
Tearfund spokesman Abby King said: "Claire's team will provide practical help to partners on the ground. We also hope that by seeing the reality of people's lives in Calcutta, compared to the rich West, they will gain a lot from the projects too."

Lincolnshire Echo 26 May 2006 [by Vicki Kellaway]

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