April 16, 2009

World Fair Trade Day

We have a new site www.g-lish.org where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read World Fair Trade Day there.

There is so much happening in fair trade right now. It's World Fair Trade Day on May 9 this year.

In the UK it will go something like this:

BIG BANG!! A WAKE-UP CALL FOR THE PLANET. the WOrld Fair Trade ORGANIZATION presents 110 million artisans, farmers, producers and THEIR supporters including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Annie Lennox, Eddie Izzard, STOMP, Sigur Ros, Dudu Sarr, SUZANNA OWIYO, CARLOU D, THE ZAWOSE FAMILY AND ISMAEL LO in BIG BANG!! - A WAKE UP CALL FOR THE PLANET ON WORLD FAIR TRADE DAY 09 MAY 09.

Check out the huge number of events you can get involved in by clicking here: "Find an Event".

In Ghana, there is a fair trade event in Bolgatanga (where I happen to be right now) educating the public about fair trade.

April 15, 2009

Maker Faire Africa: Ghana

We have a new site www.g-lish.org where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Maker Faire Africa: Ghana there.

Make a date for this in your Accra calendar:
"Maker Faire Africa (MFA) is a new event celebrating the innovation, ingenuity and invention within Africa - happening August 13-15 of this year in Accra, Ghana."

Up there that is a recycled metal crocodile, by the way. Check out Simon Mwangi's story: Where the World Sees Junk, Africa Recycles.

Fair trade series: Why bother?

We have a new site www.g-lish.org where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Fair trade series: Why bother? there.

If no one had clued on to the idea of fair trade sixty years ago, we wouldn’t have over 1 million small producers around the world engaged in fair trade today. According to WFTO there are more than 3000 organisations spanning more than 50 countries.

One billion people around the world live in “extreme poverty”. Another 2.5 billion live in “poverty”. Our affluent western lifestyle is the global exception, not the norm.

The reason to bother is because by buying fair trade you can be assured that you’re assisting someone out of poverty and towards a future where they have options.

It’s hard to describe the difference one more dollar makes to someone who earns a dollar a day in a few words. It’s the difference between getting medical treatment and not. It’s the difference between subsistence and saving. It’s the difference between being able to send your kids to school and not, even if they can’t afford shoes. As my Ghanaian fiancĂ© said of his impoverished childhood: “my head was learning, not my feet; I could still attend school without shoes”.

Campaigns like World Vision’s dollar a day to help needy children are clichĂ©s these days, but they’re not kidding; it really does make a difference.

But, imagine if those communities had the opportunity to earn the money legitimately, themselves, instead of relying on foreign aid organizations for "handouts".

I think these are persuasive arguments for bothering with fair trade.

Incidentally...1: NYC parking tickets processed in Ghana

We have a new site www.g-lish.org where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Incidentally...1: NYC parking tickets processed in Ghana there.

I bet you didn’t know that if you get a parking ticket in New York City it is processed in Ghana? Yes. It’s cheaper and more efficient to outsource data processing of the parking tickets to this little West African nation than to process them in the Big Apple. If you did get a ticket, you probably don’t care about that. Anyway, AT Kearney ranked Ghana as No.1 in global outsourcing destinations in 2007.

I must admit that that really surprised me. Mostly because the power cuts out at least ten times a day; I just can’t imagine how the data processors do it. Generators, I guess.

April 8, 2009

Ethical Fashion (Part III)

We have a new site www.g-lish.org where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Ethical Fashion (Part III) there.

Ethical Fashion article published in www.newconsumer.org (following Part II of the article: http://gisforghana.blogspot.com/2009/04/ethical-fashion-part-ii.html)

Marks & Spencer is adding organic cotton to its garments. And in a key development, clothes made of Fairtrade certified cotton from West Africa – Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Cameroon – and Pakistan are now in shops in France, Belgium and Switzerland. Certified cotton is already a hit: within one month, Mali’s Fairtrade suppliers sold out, said Harriet Lamb. Certifiers are also currently working with farmers in India and Peru. In the UK, clothes made from Fairtrade Mark cotton will appear in shops within a year.

Ethical fashion has clearly been tough going for both Hewson and Hamnett. Finding enough organic cotton has been impossible. EDUN had to compromise, for example, by only using about one-third in its garments, though that proportion should jump to about 60 per cent in spring 2006. “We’ve also had to recognise the capabilities of the factories and use more local products,” she says. “But it’s two-way.” Apart from the obvious social benefit, she says they are using materials uncommon in haut couture – such as alpaca because one of their factories is in Peru. “It’s give and take,” she says.

For Hamnett, getting enough organic cotton has also been a nightmare. But, she says proudly, she is now the proud owner of 140,000 metres of organic tape for zippers. “Has that been done before? God, no.” She has been frustrated to find that the Fairtrade Foundation, in working to get certified clothes, favours small producers who cannot handle the volume she needs. “It’s really well-intentioned, but we do need people with capacity. They’re shooting themselves in the foot,” she says.

The foundation’s Harriet Lamb insists that they must exclusively work with small producers, as they did with Fairtrade coffee and tea. The smallest are most vulnerable, she says. The Foundation also targets small producers – coops, weavers, and sewers – who have already worked with established fair trade companies in the UK such as Bishopston Trading Co, because they have experience with fair trade procedures. But eventually, she says, the Foundation will start the process of certifying larger “hired labour” producers.

Despite the challenges, Hamnett is infectiously enthusiastic about consumers’ ability to change the world, from the grassroots, when governments are too timid. She says that ethical clothing is now her sole livelihood.

“I’m not going to be doing anything else. It’s reassuring in a darkening world. You feel as if there’s a chink.” That’s quite something from the woman who made headlines in 1984 when she shocked Margaret Thatcher with a political fashion statement. When the prime minister shook hands with Hamnett, at an official reception, the designer suddenly opened her jacket to reveal a t-shirt emblazoned with the anti-missile slogan: “58% Don’t Want Pershing.”

Ethical Fashion (Part II)

We have a new site www.g-lish.org where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Ethical Fashion (Part II) there.

Part II of Ethical Fashion article published at wwww.newconsumer.org (following from Part I: http://gisforghana.blogspot.com/2009/03/fair-trade-series.html)

"There is some concern, however, that headline-grabbing high fashion – style-led but which happens to be ethical – will cloud the complexities of the global issues. “There is a danger that publicity for the glamorous, fleeting designer fashion labels does not give consumers a fully balanced understanding of the issues,” said Tamsin Lejeune of the Ethical Fashion Forum. “Dedication and knowledge is not enough,” cautions Abigail Garner, co-founder of Gossypium. She says that real change only occurs if an ‘alternative fashion company’ cares deeply about three things: the final product, those who made it, and the raw materials used. “As soon as [fair trade] is fashion, it’ll disappear,” said one insider who preferred anonymity. “It’ll be replaced by the next fashion and god knows what that will do.”

Clothing is a risky business; it might be worse to raise expectations. Another said cautiously: “I hope they can sustain what they’re doing so it’s not a fad.” Fashion is notoriously fickle and cut-throat; and even for classic clothing the supply – including growers, dyers, weavers, designers and sewers – is far more complex than for tea or coffee. Fair trade fashion also has an extremely long lead time, because of the size of producers and the process. People Tree, signs three or five year contracts, says the company’s Helen Osgerby, which is highly unusual in the clothing industry.

The company is thus predicting fashion trends well in advance. “We don’t have the luxury that French Connection or the other high street shops have [of a fast turn-around], as we’re hand-making the whole collection,” she says. “We aim to be fashionable, but we don’t aim to be just trend-led and disposable. There is a human cost to speed.” Fair trade goes further than ethical trade – which focuses on decent working conditions and environmental standards – fair trade builds sustainable and long-term relationships with producers, builds on traditional skills and by definition invests in communities.

Fashion is overdue to be ripped apart at the seams. “If clothes had to list their real ingredients, bad labour standards and toxic chemicals they would need their own symbols”, say the organisers of RE:Fashion. Clothes are becoming ever cheaper and more disposable; factories move from country to country for the cheapest labour and loosest regulations; and more textiles are made of pesticide-drenched or genetically modified cotton or increasingly sophisticated man-made fibres. In the UK, we spend £30 billion yearly on clothes, or about £500 a person. Yet most of the millions who produce our increasingly cheap clothes live in dire poverty, according to Tearfund’s Lift the Label campaign.

Some 40 million people work in clothing and textiles worldwide, or about 14 per cent of jobs; and many are young women in developing countries who work in sub-standard conditions.

Wages in China may be as low as 17 pence an hour, according to the National Labour Committee. Indeed China, notorious for appalling human rights, is increasingly dominating the industry.

Guaranteed quotas – under the so-called Multi-Fibre Agreement – for less-powerful countries such as Bangladesh expired at the start of 2005.

Mass-produced cotton is especially egregious, although the main alternative is polyester, made from oil and which is now in more than 80 per cent of clothing.

Global cotton prices are half of what they were in 1960, in part because of the huge subsidies given to US cotton producers. In fact, America’s cotton subsidies were worth almost £2 billion in 2002, says Oxfam, nearly twice the US’s foreign aid to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Yet an estimated 100 million rural households depend upon cotton worldwide. The World Health Organisation estimates that 20,000 people die from pesticide poisoning yearly; and cotton is the most heavily sprayed crop. “What’s happening in cotton is completely scandalous,” says Harriet Lamb of the Fairtrade Foundation.

The shift towards ethical fashion is long-term, trend analysist Roger Tredre told the Financial Times. Spending on ethical fashion rose by 17 per cent to £273 million in 2003, according to the Co-op Bank. In another sign of the times, the second Ethical Fashion Show will be held in Paris in October during fashion week.

As many as 40 designers are expected, compared with 25 last year from Bangladesh, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Madagascar, South Africa, Philippines, Brazil, the UK and France. And early in 2005, the RE:Fashion event in London, featuring fair trade, organic and recycled clothing, was not only hosted by hip broadcaster Miranda Sawyer. It sold out."
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