Abergavenny Shared Learning Event with Fair Trade Wales & Hub Cymru Africa


I attended this afternoon event, having been invited to speak on behalf of BAFTS by Aileen Burmeister, Programme Manager at Fair Trade Wales, and Liz Rees, Grants Support Officer from Hub Cymru Africa. Aileen joined Fair Trade Wales after three years in the third sector, working on Wales-wide projects and events for Citizens Advice Cymru. Since completing her degree in International Politics, Aileen has been involved with two local Fair Trade groups in Wales, in Aberystwyth and Cardiff, with an understanding of different groups and geographies in Wales. Liz deals with Hub Cymru Africa’s grants scheme which enables individuals, community groups and organisations throughout Wales to access funding for small-scale Wales-Africa projects. Up to £180,000 is available per year, including an annual minimum of £50,000 for health activities involving the Welsh NHS or Public Health Wales. Funding is allocated under four thematic areas: Health, Sustainable Livelihoods, Lifelong Learning, Climate Change and Environment. The invited participants were Eighteen Rabbit, Fair Dos, Ananuca, Tools For Africa, Love Zimbabwe, and Sarah’s Coffee and the event was held at Abergavenny Community Centre.

The purpose of the event was to invite representatives from groups and organisations (mainly fair trade shops, suppliers or trading arms of charities) to look at how best to support fair trade producers. Three of the organisations represented were BAFTS members, and the other three were not. One of those did not currently use fairly-traded products but was hoping to. The main aims of the event were to bring together organisations and businesses based in Wales, and (wanting to be) involved in fair trade, plus better understanding of fair trade, and networking. The image below shows (L to R) Liz Rees, myself, and Aileen Burmeister in the Abergavenny Community Centre setting up for the event.


After an initial introduction, I spoke about BAFTS, what we do and offer as a membership organisation, explained the differences between fair trade versus FAIRTRADE, and conventional trade, then looked at some of the challenges currently facing both wholesalers and retailers – Brexit, increased exchange rates, the costs of suppliers being passed on to a degree to shops, and therefore shops’ customers, plus the challenging nature of high street retail. I then expanded on some adaptations in light of the current climate which BAFTS has made as a result eg accepting a wider bracket of fair trade certifications used by suppliers which serve our shops, and which we feel are equally rigorous but offer flexibility for members and applicants; and reducing the percentage of fairly-traded goods required by our shops to 60% which is still fully in line with the criteria laid down by WFTO, of which BAFTS is a member. We of course keep a close eye of the remaining percentage to ensure that diversity into eg environmental, green or local products is still appropriate.

Eighteen Rabbit (below) then spoke on product design, and explained that they were a business, not a not-for-profit organisation like many of the other attendees, and that they were based in Hay-on-Wye. As a fair trade retailer, they felt that unique products, packaging and presentation were key – such as their animals made from flip flops, although others questioned whether the use of packaging, either at all or if it wasn’t fairly-traded, was appropriate plus raised the difficult question of the poor reputation of some courier companies and how that should be approached if we are aiming to show fairness towards workers in UK businesses too. Many felt that educating artisans on designs eg animals they had never seen, such as dragons and badgers, could be tricky and did sometimes lead to quality control issues.


Martha from BAFTS’ member organisation Love Zimbabwe was keen to promote the 11th Wales Fair Trade Festival which took place on 7/8th October. She stated that she had started as a charity initially, and struggled to find places to sell her goods. She goes into schools and finds that school fairs are good places to sell her products. Glastonbury had not worked for her. She goes for ethically-minded markets, where products from Zimbabwe tend to sell themselves. She is so relieved personally to have had the chance to come out of poverty that fair trade is close to her heart. There is no internet or markets there. She has had students experience the poverty in Zimbabwe first hand, so they can now be her voice piece and do talks on the producers. When she travels back to Zimbabwe, the places she goes to can be violent and risky. Changing lives can be hard, as she often buys goods out of pity, whilst not being certain if they will actually sell.

Liz from Hub Cmyru Africa talked about future proofing organisations to minimise the effects of shocks and stresses in future events. Sustainable organisations needed clear goals, succession planning, clear monitoring and evaluation systems, compliance with national and local regulations, strong partnerships and they need to engage with the community, plus employ a full range of markets. Strong partnerships need to be collaborative with mutual understanding, trust, equality and with a specific goal. Community ownership must be ongoing, cumulative, and enable all to participate, not just the leaders, Succession planning needs to be implemented early, with shared responsibility and tasks, key skills, and look forward with new strategies.

Networking revolved around mainly looking at setting up a Wales Fair Trade Regional Network including both BAFTS and non-BAFTS members to help shops share ideas in difficult times.

Posted in Fair Trade

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