On Thursday, I went along to a round table discussion and standards review with Fairtrade International in London. It was a very productive day with lots of discussion around how far we have come and how we still need to do a great deal more.
It was amazing to hear from the miners themselves telling the stories. I will be writing some more blogs about the day over the next week or two, this is just the first.
The day started with a fascinating and inspiring speech by Harriet Lamb. She recently went to Tanzania to visit the gold mines there. She talked about how nothing has shocked her more as much as visiting these mines. They wear no hard hats in the mines. There was no wood to support the mine shafts which might collapse when it rains, people were leaching gold from the rock with mercury with their bare hands whilst fumes for this float around the streets where pregnant women and children are close by.
They really need the help that being able to offer Fairtrade gold will represent. Despite the problems that the foundation will need to help them with, I gather that in Tanzania they are likely to be the first group to meet the Fairtrade standards in Africa.
Harriet Lamb has written quite a few blogs on the subject which can read yourself by clicking this link.
Fairtrade gold has been relatively slow on the uptake. The biggest problem is that so many of the public still don't know or think about where gold comes from. So we still have quite a way to go to communicate this. But looking back at previous Fairtrade projects, they really do make progress with a bit of time. For example in Switzerland now half of all bananas and flowers sold are now Fairtrade which is fantastic progress.
Fairtrade is now 25 years old and 1.3 million small scale farmers or workers in 70 countries now benefit from the Fairtrade process. You can now buy Fairtrade products in 120 countries, although 23 of those countries are far stroner in selling Fairtrade products than the others.
We still lead the way here in the UK where 9/10 of us recognise the logo and know that it stands for a better deal for producers.
Harriet said that the emotional appeal of Fairtrade needs to come together with the emotional appeal of gold. It is so great to have your wedding rings made from Fairtrade gold so that you know that your rings have brought a fair sustainable price and better living and working conditions for the people who mined the gold in South America. Please ask your jeweller if they can work in Fairtrade gold and if they can't perhaps find one that does. There are many jewellers now able to work in this amazing and life changing metal.
I hear that they now have 9 pilots in East Africa so in the future perhaps we can use African Fairtrade gold as well as South American Fairtrade gold.
I was also very pleased to see that Harriet was wearing the earrings that made for her from Fairtrade gold, by the way. We were asked to make these as a leaving gift for Harriet when she left Fairtrade UK to go to work at Fairtrade International in Germany and I was so delighted to be a part of this very special gift for her.
photos are courtesy of Harriet Lamb at Fairtrade International