Best Years Ltd – Updated “Pebble” blog on the Sundarbans Pre-school

Fair Trade is all about improving the pay, working conditions, gender equality, hours, opportunities and lives of producers and their families in developing countries. Below is a recent wonderful example of how one of our suppliers, Best Years, has funded a pre-school in Bangladesh. Such a provision is relatively unheard of there and the children look really thrilled to be learning in a safe environment whilst their mothers work. The blog is from Samantha Morshed, founder and CEO of Pebble, who produce crochet, hand made, fair trade cotton toys, which Best Years distribute for them.

“Back on 8th December 2014, I wrote a blog showing you the opening of a new pre-school in the Sundarbans, funded by the customers of our UK distributor, Best Years Ltd. Liz and Gaynor were visiting Bangladesh from the UK and took the opportunity to open the school themselves while visiting the Hathay Bunano centres in that area.

Best Years School

Image: preschool in Sundarbans two months on

Two months since opening, the pre-school is now really thriving. The concept of a pre-school was entirely new to the people of this area. Traditionally in Bangladesh children do not go to school until they are 6 years and children who are younger tend to just run around the village unsupervised. Whilst the thought that little ones can be completely free to run around is nice on the one hand, on the other hand, drowning is the single biggest killer of under 5s in Bangladesh. It’s a statistic that surprises many. Most people imagine that dysentery or diseases which cause dehydration, like Cholera or Typhoid, would be the biggest killers but they are not. Bangladesh is a delta region and as well as 3 huge rivers running their way through it to the Bay of Bengal there are many thousands of smaller rivers and tributaries, as well as lakes and ponds where fish are cultivated. When you drive around the countryside in Bangladesh in the dry season, it looks almost like the whole country is a river bed and of course, during the monsoon, much of it is flooded.

So creating pre-schools alongside our rural production centres is not just about educating children and giving them a good start and a better chance of getting into school at 6 years, it is also about keeping them safe while their mummies are working.

 Best Years School

Image: children learning in the preschool

The children are all now aware of the routine of the pre-school and happily attend every day. Friday is the weekend in Bangladesh and so on Friday it is closed. There is no curriculum for pre-schools in Bangladesh, because the concept isn’t really known here, but through our other pre-schools we have learnt and put together a basic curriculum that works. Challenging enough that the children are learning and with lots of fun because they are still very young.

Best Years School

Image: Learning English letters in the pre-school

The children learn both English and Bangla letters. There is a long history of speaking English in Bangladesh, back before independence and whilst Bangladesh fought for its independence on the basis of the language movement and having Bangla as the primary language, rather than Urdu, it is generally accepted that English is very useful if you want to get a job in the city or go to University and these days with the IT industry growing rapidly, it is recognised as very useful for computer programmers. It was great for me, when I first came to Bangladesh, because so many people I met spoke some English and so it helped me a lot in communicating and in learning Bangla.

Best Years School

Image: preschool in the Sundarbans

It’s really a joy to see this little pre-school thriving and the children enjoying the opportunity it offers and of course, knowing that they are safe while their mummies work.

Best Years School

 Image: teaching the children

I hope you enjoy this update on this lovely new little pre-school. Thanks go to Best Years Ltd, the Pebble distributors for the UK, France, Scandinavia and Ireland for supporting this.

Posted in Fair Trade

Myakka opens first shop; awards for Kerala Crafts and Voyage Fairtrade

Fairtrade Fortnight is always jam-packed with lots of exciting and inspiring activities, events and awareness-raising campaigns up and down the country. We are proud of all our members’ achievements but do not have the time and space on the website to showcase them all. Here are two news items which we have been asked to share and we hope you enjoy reading about them. Well done to all who took part in a whole host of other events in your own areas!

First off, Myakka opened its first shop, bringing fair trade solid wood furniture, soft furnishings, lighting and home accessories to Guildford, after having successfully traded for many years through its dedicated mail order catalogues and website.

Founder and Director, Georgie Hopkins, explained: “This is a really exciting time for Myakka. We have a very different approach to fair trade; our products are design-led, covetable pieces in fresh, individual styles that are perfect for modern living. It is fantastic to be able to provide customers with an opportunity to see and touch products before they buy, particularly with the larger furniture items. ”

The furniture is made from sustainable hardwoods from properly run plantations, including sheesham, monkey pod and mango wood. There are hand-waxed ranges, or alternative finishes, including items for the living room, bedroom, hallway, dining room and office. The majority of the furniture is designed and made exclusively for Myakka, but some items have been made to fulfil customer demands eg space-saving bookshelves and space-making sideboards; a nest of tables for awkward corners and storage coffee tables. A wide selection of lamps, lights, candles and lanterns are also available alongside soft furnishings such as rugs, cushions and throws. Finishing touches are provided by mirrors, photos frames, wall hangings and tableware. For more information visit

Secondly, the South West Fairtrade Business Awards were held again towards the end of Fairtrade Fortnight, and two BAFTS’ members came up trumps. Christine Snow from Kerala Crafts was selected as Joint Winner in the Best Fairtrade retailer (Multiple products) category, and Sam Birtwistle from Voyage Fairtrade was one of several businesses selected in the coveted Gold category. Christine explains below:

“We were thrilled to be joint Winners of “Best Fairtrade Retailer – Multiple products” at these awards. This was one better than the Gold we received last year. The Annual Awards Ceremony took place at The Watershed, Bristol, on 6th March, and it was announced that applications for awards were up by over 40% this year.

Christine Snow with Award 6.3.15

Christine Snow (Kerala Crafts) with her Joint Best Fairtrade Retailer (Multiple Products) Certificate and Award 2015. Image from

Speakers included: Liz Zeidler, Chair of Bristol Green Capital Partnership; Sophi Tranchell, Managing Director of Fairtrade leader, Divine Chocolate; Chris Pay, Head of Shared Interest Foundation; Laura Daniel of Aardman Animations (Aardman are working with Divine Chocolate on the Shaun the Sheep Easter Egg); and Angela del Socorro Zelaya Jarquin, coffee producer from Nicaragua. There were 8 categories for ‘Best Fairtrade':

Accommodation/conference centre; Cafe/restaurant; Office; Retailer – single product; Retailer – multiple products; University/college;  Advocate award; Best Fairtrade Business.

The Best Fairtrade Retailer of Multiple Products was the most hard fought of categories. The joint winners were ourselves, Bath based Kerala Crafts and Bristol based The Better Food Company. Chris Pay, Head of Shared Interest Foundation, who presented the engraved Bristol Blue Glass Award to Kerala Crafts said ‘The winner only sells fair trade goods, sourcing from some of the most disadvantaged communities in India thereby transforming the local economy, particularly the lives of women. They clearly communicate their fair trade ethos to customers and other retailers they provide goods to. They take part in local Fairtrade events and use every opportunity to promote fairtrade locally and nationally’.

Posted in Fair Trade

Hadeel Open Evening with Zaytoun and Palestinian Farmer 4.3.2015

It may only have been for a few hours, but Kathryn, our BAFTS’ Marketing and Membership Coordinator, could not resist a quick dash up to Edinburgh to attend the Hadeel Open Event which welcomed Zaytoun’s Palestinian Director Taysir Arbasi, and Palestinian olive and almond grower Mohammad Irsheid, to talk about how Fairtrade, the Fairtrade premium, and fairly-traded products (most, but not all of their products carry the FAIRTRADE Mark) are helping growers in Palestine survive on trade, not aid, and permitting glimpses of a future working with dignity.

Taysir pointed out that the Israelis want to keep the Palestinians dependent on aid, and distort the facts eg how long settlements have actually been there. He worries about the Settlers’ party getting voted in at the next election, and whether there will be more evacuations of Palestinians from their land. With the help of Fairtrade, the growers would rather stay on the land, and produce the highest quantities of quality products possible.

He introduced Mohammad Irsheid, from the Sir village Co-operative, in Jenin, and a member of the Palestinian Fair Trade Association who discussed problems caused by the separation wall, checkpoints preventing easy access to his family lands, and the incidents of olive trees being cut and burnt by the Israeli army and settlers. He did not speak English and had an interpreter. He was proud of growing olives, almonds and corn.  Thirteen other families worked alongside him. He was keen on organic production, explaining that all work was done by hand. He prided himself on the quality of their olive oil and explained that the Fairtrade premium was 2.5 shekels per every kilogram sold, with 1.5 shekels going back to the farmer, and the other to the co-operative.

Hadeel event in Edinburgh: L to R Translator, Mohammad Irsheid Canaan Fair Trade grower, Alistair MacLeod. Chair of Palcrafts and Hadeel Councils, Taysir Arbasi, Zaytoun Palestinian Director

He enthused about the interest-free loans which the PFTA provide, and the “Trees for Life” scheme which they run (please refer to their website for more detail). He told of them providing bursaries for their children to go to University and that they were going to develop a Research Centre for Organic Farming. Zaytoun had been one of the first companies to buy their products,  one of the biggest olive oil exporters, and the first company to have their olive oil certified with the FAIRTRADE Mark.

Despite great restrictions as to which family member got to tend their crops for a limited amount of hours (which seemed to be decided on a whim), the physical obstacle of the separation wall, the draining of water out of the West Bank, the increasing settlements, the cutting down of olive trees to enable further land confiscation by the Israelis, and the prohibition on using cameras and ‘phones, he was thankful for his lot: grateful to be a member of the PFTA, aware of the improvements which fair trade terms had brought, sad for those who hadn’t yet joined, and pleased that helpers who had come to Palestine had taken photographic evidence of the real situation. He was the youngest of the farmers and very grateful to visit Britain and have the opportunity to tell his story.

Posted in Fair Trade

FSPs (Fairtrade Sourcing Programs): what they mean

As news breaks today, just ahead of Fairtrade Fortnight, about Mars Chocolate UK being the first UK company to enter into a Fairtrade Sourcing Program for cocoa, we have shortened an article from the Fairtrade Foundation to explain the differences between products sourcing only one ingredient under fairtrade terms, and “all-that-can-be” Fairtrade products, plus looking at changes to labelling. The whole article can be found at

“Fairtrade Sourcing Programs for cotton, cocoa and sugar were introduced by Fairtrade International in January 2014 to boost the volumes of cotton, cocoa and sugar that Fairtrade certified farmers are able to sell on Fairtrade terms so that greater impact can be delivered for small-scale farmers in the developing world, who rely on Fairtrade to earn a fair price and work towards a more sustainable future.

Over the years, with the support of businesses, we have made significant headway in making trade fairer for farmers and workers in the developing world. But currently just 1.2% of global cocoa sales and less than 1% of global sugar sales are Fairtrade.

Fairtrade Sourcing Programs are an additional way for businesses to source Fairtrade, and runs in parallel to the existing FAIRTRADE Mark. Under the new scheme, businesses can source Fairtrade cocoa and sugar as raw commodities, and communicate their commitments through the FSPs.

FSP explained

Fairtrade Sourcing Programs were launched in some international markets earlier in 2014 – including Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Holland and Japan. As a result, global volumes of producers’ sales of Fairtrade cocoa are set to increase by over 20% in 2014, leading to an extra $1.8m in Fairtrade Premium for cocoa farmers.

We are now looking to work with UK businesses in key product categories with the explicit focus on securing new and additional commitments for sugar and cocoa farmers, alongside the range of products certified by the familiar FAIRTRADE Mark.”

Posted in Fair Trade

A retrospective on the BAFTS’ Spring Fair Panel Discussion

It doesn’t seem like a week already, but it is indeed seven days since the first ever BAFTS’ Panel Discussion at Spring Fair. The theme picked out several strands of successful fair trade retail: Kathryn, our Marketing and Membership Co-ordinator, chaired the discussion and introduced the five speakers in turn: Jo Pollard (Aztec Arts) on effective display in a small space, and getting the message across about the benefits of fairly-traded products; Robert Colquhoun (Myakka) talking about effective Direct Marketing; Ali Clifford (Myakka) on effective social media; Laura Cave (Just Trade UK Ltd) on the story behind the products, and Barb Wilson (LoveThatStuff) on a general overview.

The whole discussion lasted 45 minutes and was spread quite evenly between speakers. It was great to see up to 60 people seated and standing, to listen to the seminar. Some of the audience consisted of BAFTS’ suppliers who had taken time off their stalls to support us, BAFTS’ shops who were following our Trail (some had come especially on the day to hear us, thank you very much!) and some customers of our supplier members. Joanna and I worked out that we recognised about half of the audience, and we were thrilled that so many others had stopped by to listen.10981401_801866533182179_2076462712106278411_n

Spring Fair had in part dictated the scope of the talk and asked that we use minimal visuals, which caused a few problems in trying to depict eg effective displays, but Laura Cave was able to show some producer images which really helped to get across the message of what a difference fair trade can mean in the way of helping families and communities, by paying a better wage and teaching them skills to create marketable items for the Western world.

The seminar was very well received and there was a minor Twitter flurry when I got back home. Thank you to everyone who posted their support. It was a very proud moment to stand back and realise that BAFTS was taking the stage and raising the profile of our organisation, our members and fair trade in general in an essentially mainstream Trade Fair. With our bright new banner and leaflets at the ready, it was indeed an excellent chance to up our game.

We were very grateful to members who gave us feedback and made suggestions for future tweeks and improvements. Whilst we are very thankful to Spring Fair for the opportunity to take the stage, we realise that one session of forty-five minutes is insufficient to cover all aspects relating to BAFTS and fair trade, and will continue to seek out more awareness-raising opportunities to promote the benefits afforded to marginalised producers in developing countries.

Posted in Fair Trade

New information on website 8.1.2015

Happy New Year to all our readers!

Recently we have uploaded new versions of the BAFTS’ DSRs (Direct Sourcing Retailers) to our Resources page (item 8), and uploaded the BAFTS’ Trail for Spring Fair 1-5 February at NEC, Birmingham there too (Item 15). We are delighted to also be hosting a Panel Discussion on Fair Trade Retailing on Tuesday 3rd February 13-15-14.00 in the Trends Theatre, Hall Six, and look forward to seeing you there!

Posted in Fair Trade

Closure dates over the Christmas period 2014-2015

Please note that BAFTS will close at 12 noon on 24th December 2014 and re-open on Monday 5th January 2015 at 9am. Wishing all our members, enquiring businesses and supporters of fair trade a very prosperous trading period this Christmas, and a peaceful start to 2015!

Posted in Fair Trade


Never before have I (Kathryn, BAFTS’ Marketing and Membership Coordinator) attended an event where a carpet was laid out before me – a carpet of aromatic, crisp olive leaves sent by a Palestinian grower whose visa had been delayed and could not be with us in person to celebrate Zaytoun’s 10th Anniversary event. I felt humbled to tread upon them but was warmly welcomed to do so. This welcome set the tone of warmth, generosity and sharing for the whole evening; a tone which I now understand to be typically Palestinian. Read the whole article about this delightful heartwarming event here…Zaytoun 10th Anniversary 

2014-11-28 19.20.45

Posted in Fair Trade

BAFTS’ “Gateway World Shop” wins Independent Category, Durham City Retail Awards 2014

I am delighted to announce that Gateway World Shop, long-term BAFTS’ shop based in Durham, and managed by BAFTS’ Company Secretary, Hazel Dobson, won the “Independent Category” award in the Durham City Retail Awards 2014. There were 21 nominees, and Gateway World Shop won out of a short-list of six nominees. As Hazel is currently out of the country on a Traidcraft “Meet the People” Tour in Vietnam, we would like to wish her and her Board of Directors and Staff team all the very best and sincere congratulations!

Gateway World Shop Board and Staff, L to R Colin Cuthill, Chair of the Board, Ruth Kell, Shop Staff, Helen Lewis, Shop Staff, katy Scott, Casual Staff, and kathryn Sygrove, Casual Staff with the award at the Ramside Hall Hotel, Durham

Gateway World Shop Board and Staff, L to R Colin Cuthill, Chair of the Board, Ruth Kell, Shop Staff, Helen Lewis, Shop Staff, katy Scott, Casual Staff, and kathryn Sygrove, Casual Staff with the award at the Ramside Hall Hotel, Durham

Posted in Fair Trade

Social Enterprise day 20th November 2014 Facts and figures

BAFTS decided to join Social Enterprise UK a couple of months ago, after referring this matter to its membership. We have joined as a supporting member, as BAFTS does not fit the criteria of being a Social Enterprise which earns more than half of its income through trading (one of the points quoted on their website).

20th November is Social Enterprise Day and as some of our members are also Social Enterprises, we thought we would quote some facts and figures from the above source, about the extent of Social Enterprises in the United Kingdom today.

Social enterprise – business with a social or environmental mission – in the UK is thriving. Social enterprises have a higher start-up rate than traditional SMEs (Small to medium Enterprises) and 1 in 5 start-ups is now socially-driven. There are 180,000 in the UK alone, contributing £24 billion to the economy.

Key stats about UK social enterprise:

  • More than a third (38%) of all social enterprises operate in the UK’s most deprived communities, compared to 12% of traditional SMEs
  • Half of social enterprises (52%) actively employ people who are disadvantaged in the labour market, including ex-offenders, people with disabilities and the long-term unemployed
  • More people are moving from the private sector than any other sector to work in social enterprise (35%, compared with 33% from the public sector and 17% from charities and the voluntary sector).
  • Social enterprises are far more likely to be led by women than mainstream businesses. 38% of social enterprises have a female leader, compared with 19% of SMEs and 7% of FTSE 100 companies.
  • The majority of social enterprises (57%) draw 100% of their workforce from the local areas in which they operate.

Reference: The People’s Business report (2013)

More points on the UK social enterprise movement:

  • Social enterprises have a primarily social mission – but they do business and turn over profits to achieve it – think  Divine Chocolate.
  • On September 13th, the UK saw its first Social Saturday – a day to buy from social enterprises, gathering support from celebrities and politicians including the Prime Minister and Jamie Oliver.
  • Private companies are increasingly getting involved social enterprise. Close to half of all social enterprises now trade with the private sector. Corporates are rethinking how they do traditional Corporate and Social Responsibility by incorporating social enterprises into their supply chains.
  • The UK’s social enterprise sector is one of the country’s most successful exports. Countries around the world are looking to the UK example to discover how they can build social enterprise into their economies.
  • The UK is also now home to the world’s largest social investment market – a new and growing financial market where investors seek social as well as financial returns. Research estimates the market is growing by 20% a year, making around £200m worth of deals.
Posted in Fair Trade
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