March 29, 2009

Fair Trade Banana Wars

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Fair Trade Banana Wars there.

Since we're on the subject of fair trade, you may well ask: how the heck can buying a banana change the world?

It's worth finding out in "Fighting the Banana Wars and Other Fair Trade Battles" by Harriet Lamb.

As one reviewer on Amazon UK wrote:
I was inspired by the way that the book illustrates how Fairtrade provides stability to the farmers, and also gives them new power and hope. They decide whether to use the Fairtrade premium to build a school or wells or to provide healthcare. It gives them back their pride and voice - as one banana worker puts it - 'the banana worker is the poorest person in our society, managed and exploited by multinational corporations... I was someone that took a box and loaded it onto a train...In this new system I have become an international businessman'.
We'll be exploring these issues in more detail over the coming weeks.

Part 2 of our fair trade fashion article coming very soon!

March 25, 2009

Fair Trade Series + Ethical Fashion (Part I)

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Fair Trade Series + Ethical Fashion (Part I) there.

I'm starting a series of articles on the topic of fair trade that will run over the next few weeks.

Some of the issues that will be discussed include:
what is fair trade, anyway?
why bother?
issues in fair trade
purchasing power
lobbying power
resources - sites and books
labeling confusion
fair trade tourism
fair trade cotton
fair trade craft
fair trade food
Ghana and fair trade
-to name a few

To kick it off, I dug up an article on fair trade fashion that was published in New Consumer, a fantastic site on all things relating to ethical purchasing, a few years ago (around 2005/06, I believe).


As big name designers join the cause to make fashion fairer, Ros Davidson questions whether it’s just a trend.

‘Big name’ catwalk crusaders are giving a new meaning to the old adage, you are what you wear. This spring Ali Hewson launched her stylish and ethical EDUN collection. The art nouveau-inspired but edgy fashions, created in small factories in impoverished countries such as Lesotho, are now flying off the racks in shops in Britain, Ireland, Spain and the United States from Selfridges to Saks.

Some of the profits are reinvested in local communities in the developing world, for example for fixing a well at a school or providing day care, and the collection will eventually use Fairtrade certified cotton, says Hewson.

British designer Katharine Hamnett, hardly new to progressive causes, will unveil her ethical men’s in February 2006. Her women’s collection, also under the Katharine E Hamnett label – the ‘E’ stands for ethical and environmental – will follow soon after. The t-shirts, sweatshirts, knitwear and tailored suits will be “as environmental and ethical as we can get it,” she says. The textiles are as organic as possible, and 15 per cent of net profits will be re-invested in local communities.

Ali Hewson, when reached at her home near Dublin, says: “I don’t want to make clothes that are made from someone else’s despair.” The time is right, she says, with increasing awareness of worldwide poverty and that communities in the developing world prefer trade to aid: “Shopping is becoming politics.” Hewson’s husband, rocker and activist Bono, said at the New York launch: “This is the equivalent of mothers looking at the back of a can to see exactly what she is going to feed the kids.”

Katharine Hamnett, at her busy Islington base, talks rapid-fire and scathingly about exploitation in the fashion industry: “Most people in the fashion industry do not give a f***” – and about how she will never again work in conventional fashion. “It’s been incredibly hard and uphill but it’s better than aid. It’s on the ground.”

Out of disgust with mainstream fashion, she had severed as many contracts with conventional suppliers as possible in 2004. And finally, after years of unexpectedly hard slog, she will show her ethical men’s collection, for the first time, in late July at the Berlin Premium. Much of the foundation for ethical clothing was built, painstakingly over decades, by smaller companies. People Tree, Bishopston Trading Co, Gossypium and Chandni Chowk, among others, pride themselves on sustainable, transparent relationships with artisans and collectives in the developing world.

“In terms of raising the profile of ethical issues in fashion, these collections will be invaluable,” said Safia Minney, founder of People Tree, based in Tokyo and London and which has branched out into Selfridges and Italy and counts actress Sienna Miller as a customer.

Fiona Thomson of Traidcraft, one of Britain’s oldest fair trading companies, agrees: “This will increase stability and output for cotton growers in India. We cannot buy everything they supply.”

Rosalind Price of Chandni Chowk, which designs and produces garments and soft furnishings of hand-made, natural Indian textiles, also welcomes their arrival: “There are certain people who only buy fashion labels, and they’ll probably never come to us anyway. It’s exposure to a different market.” Or as Hewson says, “The more the merrier. We can be in this business and not damage others. The fashions are quite different, and the customer is very discerning.” Indeed the newcomers say there’s a gap in the market for ethical clothes that are less – to use the memorable words of the outspoken Hamnett – worthy, hirsute and eco.

Hewson and Hamnett can boost standards throughout the industry, because of their size, says Judith Condor-Vidal, economist and fair trade activist and who markets traditionally dyed Bangladeshi silk in the UK. “We welcome them!” More specifically, EDUN and Katharine Hamnett could help establish the Ethical Trading Initiative more widely in the fashion industry, says Helen Osgerby, spokesperson for People Tree. The initiative is a code of conduct for working conditions; members range from Monsoon, Levi Strauss and Marks and Spencer to Oxfam, CAFOD and the Fairtrade Foundation.

Read Part II of the article at:

March 7, 2009

15 Facts About Ghana

EDIT: This was written in 2009. Numbers 1, 7 and 8 are rather outdated :).

1. The Chief Justice of Ghana is Ms Georgina Theodora Wood (born June 8, 1947). Ghana’s first female Speaker of Parliament is Joyce Adeline Bamford-Addo (born 26 March 1937).

2. Samia Nkrumah, daughter of Kwame Nkrumah, “the father of Independence”, is the only CPP (Convention People’s Party, founded by Nkrumah in the late 1940s) representative in Parliament.

3. Ghana produces around 17 % of the world’s total cocoa production. It is second to the Ivory Coast, the largest producing nation, which produces just over 40%.

4. According to the Global Peace Index, Ghana is the most peaceful nation in Africa and ranked 40th internationally, just after Latvia, Malaysia and Vietnam. (By the way, Iceland is ranked No. 1 and Iraq, Somalia and Sudan, last, at 140, 139 and 138, respectively.)

5. Ghanaians speak over 40 languages throughout its ten regions. English is the official language, but most people speak several languages as well.

6. Ghana has held four democratic and peaceful elections since, and including, the 1996 election.

7. If you’re name is not John, don’t even think about running for President. All Presidents elected (or instated) since 1992 were “Johns”: Jerry John Rawlings—1992-2000; John Agyekum Kufuor—2000-2008; and John Evans Atta Mills—2008 and counting!

8. And if it’s not Mahama, forget the Vice Presidency. Since 2001, Ghana has elected two Mahamas as Vice Presidents: Mr Aliu Mahama—2001-2008, and Mr John Dramani Mahama—2008.

9. Freedom of Worship is a constitutional right in Ghana and there is virtually no conflict between Christians, Muslims, Traditionalists and other minority religions. In fact, if you visit a school, you’re likely to see teachers instruct their students, in big letters on the board: “Love your Muslim brothers and sisters as you love your Christian brothers and sisters…”

10. In terms of corruption, Ghana is ranked 67th in the 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International. (By the way, Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden are equal first (least corrupt), and Somalia is last at No. 180, just after Haiti, Iraq and Myanmar.)

11. The Ghana Cedi is the official currency. 1 GC = about US$ 0.80. Although the currency redenomination happened in July 2007, most street traders still talk in terms of the old Cedi, quoting prices in thousands (to the chagrin of new arrivals). 10,000 now equals 1 Ghana Cedi. 100 pesewas (think cents to the dollar) equals 1 Ghana Cedi. The old 5000 is now 50 pesewas, 1000 (or “thousand”, as you’ll hear on the street) is 10 pesewas. If a trader responds, “hundred…” to your question about a price, and you don’t expect the thing to cost about 80 dollars (100 Cedis), then they’re probably talking “hundred thousand,” as in about 10 Cedis—they habitually drop the “thousand” (while talking in old thousands!). So you’ll hear “twenty” for “twenty thousand” (2 Cedis), “fifty” for “fifty thousand” and so on.

12. Oil was discovered off the coast of Ghana in 2007 by Kosmos Energy (USA) and Tullow Oil (UK). First oil will be produced from Jubilee Field in 2010. In a lay person’s language, Ghana may take about 38% of oil to be pumped, in cash or in oil. A daily production of 200,000 barrels which could be achieved in about 5 years after commencement of production could give Ghana a total revenue of approximately US$1.6 billion per annum. Ghanaians and observers hope that Ghana’s administration can learn from other African nations’ mistakes.

13. Ghana boasts the “oldest” European building in sub-Saharan Africa, “Elmina Castle” sits on the Atlantic shores in the Central Region and was built in 1482 by the Portuguese. The Portuguese dubbed it Elmina (The gold mines), because of the abundant gold supply found along the coasts of what is now Ghana, although Ghanaians, especially Fantis, still refer to the town as “Edina”, its Fanti name. Sadly, the “castle” became the centre of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in West Africa under the Portuguese and Dutch (and, for a short time, the British), and is now a UN-listed memorial to the darkest chapter in African colonial history.

14. Ghanaians’ favourite food is (arguably!) fufu, a sticky ball of pounded cassava, plantain or yam, plopped in a bowl of spicy palm, light or ground nut soup, usually taken with goat meat, fish or chicken.

15. Kejetia market in Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti Region, is West Africa’s largest open air market. There you can find everything under the hot Ghanaian sun, from local crafts—beads, cloth, and sandals—to second-hand jeans and clothing, and every kind of made-in-China plastic kitchen accoutrement you probably won’t ever need. There is also an overwhelming variety of fruit and vegetables and a meat corner where young boys balance roughly chopped hunks of meat on wooden plates on their heads.

Two Travel Tips

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Two Travel Tips there.

Two travel tips for good measure:

1. You cannot use Mastercard in Ghana! Only Visa card is accepted (if this has changed, please let me know). Traveler’s cheques are difficult to change. It’s much easier and it's quite safe to bring cash and change at the multitude of forex booths scattered around the country and major cities and towns.

2. You can get a tourist visa on arrival at the airport in Accra, however you will need to show your return air ticket to immigration. I have, however, heard of people being refused entry onto (Delta) flights in the USA for not having a visa before traveling even though tourist visas are issued on arrival.
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