Fairtrade: a voice from the African Diaspora in Wales

July 29, 2020

A guest blog from SSAP trustee Lillian Matovu-Oladebo:

Following your morning shower you probably applied your favourite shea butter vanilla infused moisturiser. Grabbed yourself a Columbian ground coffee or Kenyan grown chai; or the for the better of us, a banana smoothie with an added antioxidant punch of cacao powder.

Unbeknown to you, your love for chocolate and a satisfying breakfast contributes to the  UK being the seventh highest consumer of chocolate in the world and the overall consumption 95 million cups of coffee or 100 million cups of tea per day; and of over 5 billion bananas every year. Most of the produce we consume daily comes from the back breaking work of small-scale farmers in developing countries.


In my home country, Uganda, nearly 80% of the population relies on subsistence agriculture for a living and it accounts for a large share of its export earnings. Uganda is the largest exporter of coffee in Africa, and like almost all food crops in the country, the sector relies heavily on the work of millions of smallholder farmers who produce most of the country’s coffee.

A livelihood definitely not for the faint hearted, given the labour-intensive traditional production methods,  reliance upon the now erratic weather (due to climate change) as well as dealing with volatile market prices;  requiring a certain amount of heart, soul and resilience to produce for local and international consumers.

With so many factors stacked up against smallholder farmers, including the opportunities for them to compete fairly in global markets and earn enough to sustain a decent standard of living are often limited. And yet, they continue to feed the world.

Personally, farming has always been at the core of my upbringing. Though both my parents had illustrious careers within the (sustainable) development space, farming has and continues to be a central force in their lives. So much so that they retired and became full time farmers. We were fortunate enough that as children, food was never lacking and were able to consume a myriad of fresh fruit and organic produce due to their hard work and passion for farming.

To some extent this is the reason why Fairtrade is and should be of importance to the diaspora.

We often know people on a personal level, family members and others, who engage in farming as a source of livelihood.

Learning about Fairtrade

It wasn’t until I moved to Cardiff, that I got to learn and understand more about the Fairtrade logo and what it stands for. In trying to narrow the competitive disadvantage for a lot of smallholder produce, Fairtrade supports 1.66 million farmers worldwide by not only fighting for better prices for farmers, but also promoting the local sustainability of the communities were these products come from and securing their human rights in the process.

Fair Do’s, is a shop on Llandaff Road and I stumbled upon Ugandan hand crafted or grown produce with the name of the village that they were sourced from was indeed very heart-warming. I soon came to learn that as the first Fairtrade capital city in the world, supporting and advocating for fair prices of exports  and a better deal for smallholder farmers was at the forefront of a number of the capital’s businesses and institutions.

I was also fortunate enough to study at an institution with a strong Fairtrade ethos which was evident in the products made available within their Cafes and Student’s union. It felt good that even though I was so far away from home, the hard work of our farmers was being valued and appreciated

Cardiff has evolved significantly in recent years with a large growing multicultural community, which I am proud to be a part of. When it comes to development, diasporas play a very important role via the kind of support we send back to our communities back home including the first-hand lived experience we have that can influence development policy.

It goes without saying that as a diaspora, advocating for Fairtrade will always go hand in hand with any kind of  support that we already offer.

Supporting Fairtrade is also one of the surest ways in giving our brothers and sisters a further leg up.

It not only guarantees fairer wages for our farmers back home but also supports for a fairer environment, more sustainable communities, and the ban on the use of child labour. With the social change currently taking place, this is a call to get on board, make our voices heard and lend our support.

Call to Action

So how can we as a community apply Fairtrade ethos and values in our lives here as diasporas?

The first and simplest of things to do is make the conscious choice of purchasing more Fairtrade produce.

There are over 6000 products to choose from, varying from food, clothing and jewellery. Visit the Fairtrade website to get further inspiration other than the usual bananas.

The more demand there is for these products, the more local businesses will stock them, resulting in more investment in our communities and an expansion in products protected by the Fairtrade minimum price.

Secondly, how about reviewing the products sold at your work place or study and holding them accountable in taking on a Fairtrade ethos? To encourage your colleagues or acquaintances to support Fairtrade, what better way to educate them than by using our hospitality skills in hosting a cook off or a bake- off using Fairtrade products? Nobody can say no to mandazis/ puff puff made with Fairtrade sugar and vanilla!

Finally why not take action and join a local Fairtrade group and see how Fairtrade is supporting our home country farmers. Perhaps there are communities in your home country that would benefit from joining a Fairtrade group?

As the person with lived experience, your voice of influence could be the one to provide the links to these communities and more produce that can be made available to the market.

Whichever route you choose to follow, it is guaranteed that you will make a difference. So I urge you to join me and others in making a social stand in empowering our farmers.