It is Fair Trade Fortnight. That always takes me back to Sonop Wine Farm near Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa. There I saw what a business person can do when they think about their workers as well as their profit. When a Swiss businessman took over Sonop he made it Fair Trade. He gave the workers a fairer wage, he gave them their own land as well as health and education for them and their children.
That was transformational. His workers now had the security of their own homes, which they developed and too pride in. They had their own land to plant their own vines to sell back to the farm that they work on with more diligence than before. Their children were being educated and they too were developing their skills. Lola, once uninterested and drinking too much was now behind reception, the first friendly face you meet at Sonop. When she talks about her son’s education her smile is wide as the ocean!
It makes you want to buy Fair Trade! BUT there is more at Sonop. The village, that is now owned by the workers, is beside a fence that divides the farm from the neighbouring one. On the other side of that fence is the unfairly traded village. Dilapidated houses, children looking more disheveled. The contrast is startling. What I now do is make sure I never buy wine from places like South Africa and Chile that has not a Fair Trade mark in case I am investing in an unjust village like the one beside Sonop.
On this Fair Trade Fortnight let us pray for business people that they would see prophetic change above profit. Let us pray they make decisions as far reaching and transformative as the owner of Sonop.
Let us pray too for ourselves. Every day as we shop we make decisions that change the world. Let us be knowledgeable and strategic about what is in our cupboards and wardrobes.
One last thing. My friend Martin Wroe is an Arsenal fan and has been campaigning that his beloved Club start paying all the staff at the Club a Living Wage. A Living Wage is more than the legal minimum wage. It asks clubs that pay their players and managers exorbitant wages to pay their kitchen staff, cleaners etc a wage that is up with cost of living. It doesn’t seem much to ask when most Premiership clubs pay obscene wages to the star striker. On this Fair Trade Fortnight I am preaching and praying about that too. I believe only Chelsea are paying that Living Wage to all staff. Come on Manchester City!
Ordinary people campaigning can change things. Twenty years ago we signed the back of receipts in supermarkets to get the stores to stock Fair Trade coffee. We wondered if it would ever happen. Now it is everyday ordinary. Let us keep campaigning because we have seen that it works. Let’s use Fair Trade Fortnight to critique our habits and up our game.