Fair Trade Towns Update

Push Walk

The Fair Trade Towns campaign kick started with the inspirational 20 day walk covering 450KM by Push (Pushpanath Krishnamurthy) from the shores of Pondicherry to the hills of Kotigiri. Since the walk ended in December 2015, the Fair Trade Towns movement has continued the hard work of getting organised and involving the varied local stakeholders to commit to Fair Trade. Fairtrade India, Fair Trade Forum India and Push have continued to engage with the local leaders to help build momentum.

Kotagiri and Pondicherry-Auroville are set to be India’s first Fairtrade Towns. To achieve this they are working towards these goals:
1. A wide variety of Fairtrade products are on sale in the shops and available for local government to use.
2. Cafes, stores, restaurants, hotels and workplaces are supportive of Fairtrade and use the products
3. The workers making Fairtrade goods get a fair living wage and safe working conditions.
4. Schoolchildren are taught why Fairtrade matters.
5. The general attitude is supportive of Fairtrade Towns and promotes Fairtrade values.

We can give the movement practical support in this work by fundraising and helping the communities with resource mobilisation. Pushpanath has taken on the role to raise funds for the movement and is doing so in part through his donations webpage on https://www.gopushgo.co.uk/ At the moment the need is for covering costs for Fair Trade materials, meetings, travel and training. When the Fair Trade Towns are under way there will be a range of projects to support.

The Fair Trade Towns movement have always been instrumental in galvanising the grass root movements and communities for raising awareness and instigating real change in local businesses, governments and institutions in support of our farmers and artisans. The Fair Trade Towns movement is at it’s infancy in India but with support from the global Fair Trade movement and with the tirelesswork from local pioneers like Push the movement is poised to really take off and compliment the work of Fairtrade India and Fair Trade Forum India to empower the farmer and artisan communities of India.

Meet the Plant Doctor

Sunny Babu plant doctor

Mr. Sunny Babu has a lot on his plate. Serving the needs of 1000 Fairtrade farmers in the Kottayam and Idukkidistricts , for the Manarcadu Social Services Society (MASS) of Kerala is not a small task. As the resident “Plant Doctor”, a service supported by the community’s Fairtrade Premium, he’s called on daily to help them with the business of growing food, sustainably, in somewhat complex conditions.

Lately , he’s dealing with challenges that come around monsoon season, such as drying and processing spices in wet conditions. But this year, the challenges are even greater: climate change has altered weather patterns. Thus, the harvesting of spices, like nutmeg or cocoa, which normally takes place between May andSeptember, will be delayed. In most cases it will start a month late, but in some places, it may extend even to December

A regular day sees him rising with the birds: 4am is the best time to really see what’s happening with plants. He might check out the banana or spice cultivation for small pests or signs of disease. The early morning is also a good time to irrigate plants. Then by 8am, he’s at his desk in Kottayam, ready to answer his phone from the farmers with their questions.

“Farmers call me and ask me what to do. They are worried about their incomes, and want to ensure the best prices. In most cases, I try to provide them with answers. If I can’t, I’ll do some research and get back to them, and may need to visit them in the field.”

“Storage and processing are often the biggest issues,” says Sunny, “but lately we’ve seen changes to pollination patterns. As they’re not getting the proper rain, as in the case of the pepper plant,there isn’t proper pollination, so yields are decreasing.”

The same thing, he says, is happening with rice. “Also because of the lower monsoon, we find more problems with rice.” Rice cultivation demands decent rains in order to succeed, which is why, traditionally; the crop has been well suited to the moist and warm monsoon conditions of Kerala.

MASS, and Sunny, are fully committed to organic principles. So his task has been to find alternative organic pesticides and organic solutions to disease in rice paddies, vegetables&spices.

Fortunately, he’s well trained. Sunny studied Microbiology at Karpagam College under Bharathiar University in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, before becoming the Plant Doctor in 2010. He’s also a Senior Research Fellow at Regional Agricultural Research Station, Kumarakumin Kerala. His training and current research has led to some success in finding organic solutions.
For example, he worked with a farmer, Kunjumon, in Hyrange, where they found leaf spot and fruit rot on the nutmeg plant.. It was treated successfully with neem oil and garlic emulsion, and his crop is now in good condition.

Aside from being a very proud new father with a 10 month old daughter,
Joahna. S. Muricken, he is clearly passionate about his work, “I enjoy my work, and working with the farmers and MASS has been very rewarding,” he says. “The farmers tell me that they’re making a loss. If they improve their growing, they can improve their income. I feel very proud when I see a farmer who has taken on my advice and is now doing well.”

Ethical consumers are prepared to go further to support social and economic well-being

During the election in April and May, we had an idea about asking people what they would ‘vote’ for when it comes to their purchasing habits. So we polled people online through Facebook and Twitter to uncover more about the interests and motivations of consumers who are committed to responsible purchasing.    Though it was a fairly warm audience — 45% of people who responded were familiar with the Fairtrade mark — there were some interesting findings that emerged:

 

Farmer suicides, women’s rights as workers and child labour are the top issues for ethical consumers. Seventy-five per cent (75%) of respondents in India said that women’s rights as workers was their top issue overall; with child labour and farmer suicides coming in second and third respectively. Climate change and GM ranked well below these issues in our survey.

 

Ethical consumers are also those who are prepared to share responsibility with business. 85% of respondents also agreed that upholding the rights of workers and producers, and protecting the environment was a joint responsibility between business and consumers.
Ethical consumers are price sensitive, but not as much as you might think. Ethical consumers, were, on average, willing to spend 25% more for a product they felt was ethical.

You can read more about our survey findings in the Alternative.