Sweet success of supporting the Fair Trade movement

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With more than $100bn estimated to be spent on chocolate globally this year, Emma Halliday explains how volunteers and staff at The FIG Tree @ St Johns in Lancaster are using bean to bar chocolate making to raise awareness of the growers who devote their lives to producing luxury items we often take for granted.

“Chocolate making activities are run as part of centre’s education programme, building on a long standing friendship with cocoa farmers in New Koforidua, Ghana. During the workshops people of all ages get involved in the process of roasting and dehusking beans (purchased directly from New Koforidua), and then turn the beans into bars of their own chocolate. Most members of New Koforidua, a Ghanaian farming community, also belong to the cooperative Kuapa Kokoo which helped to create and now partially owns the Fairtrade Company - Divine Chocolate Ltd.

“The Fig Tree Centre also supports the International Fair Trade Towns movement and promotes awareness of Fair Trade by using the transatlantic slave trade and abolitionist movement to draw attention to trade injustices both now and then. The centre recently relocated to St John’s Church, North Road in Lancaster, after three years in its previous home of Garstang – the world’s first Fair Trade Town.

“Following a Santander SEDA Award in 2013, enabling the purchase of specialist equipment, The FIG Tree has been working on developing its own chocolate making enterprise. Bars for sale in the centre’s café and shop at St John’s are packaged in Fair Trade hand-made paper from Nepal and where possible, use Fair Trade spice drops from Kerala to flavour the chocolate. Unlike many chocolatiers who buy in ready produced couverture, handmade bars are made directly from the ‘bean’ by a growing team of volunteers.

“Whether its milk brought from dairy farmers in the UK or cocoa sold by farmers overseas, Fair Trade is what trade should be - mutual beneficial relationships for the seller and buyer. Bruce Crowther, director of The FIG Tree explains, ‘it’s not only immoral that farmers don’t get a fair price to provide us with cheap luxuries, but it’s not sustainable. The planet can’t survive when the people who grow our food are not even paid the cost of production.’

Visit www.fairtradecentre.org for more information. In other news: One Planet Festival events are in full swing. Upcoming events include a Forest Garden tour on October 23; a Forest Market on October 30 and a seed saving workshop in Lancaster Library on the October 31. Visit www.lessuk.org for more details.