Why I stopped advocating Fairtrade

Hey guys!

So it’s the middle of Fairtrade Fortnight, and what better way to celebrate than with a blog on why Fairtrade ISN’T that great yay!


Ngl, I really hate raining on people’s parade; I know how it feels being so passionate about Fairtrade, it’s purpose, how you’re changing people’s lives etc. Believe me, your girl was part of her borough’s Fairtrade group and used to go round selling Fairtrade Palestinian dates (they bang). However, to then be presented with a lot of fundamental issues revolving Fairtrade, how can I, as someone who wants to do right to workers around the world, ignore this and continue campaigning just to feel that satisfaction of doing ‘something’, regardless of whether it was effective?

By now I’m sure the ethical scene think I’m trolling them lol but honestly, I hope most of you will understand why I’m eager to address why Fairtrade presenting themselves as a solution to poverty reduction is problematic.

Anyways, I’m gonna end that monologue, and get straight into it. LEGGOOOO.

Conditions in Fairtrade farms aren’t that fair tbh

See the source image

Professor Christopher Cramer from SOAS university conducted research evaluating the impact Fairtrade has had on its producers in Uganda and Ethiopia to find some shocking results. 

So Fairtrade emphasise how we as consumers can help small-holder producers (farmers with small farms) out of poverty by increasing their income from crop production. However, Fairtrade tend to paint all small-holder producers with the same, romanticised brush (that’s the phrase right?), ignoring the fact that all farmers and their holdings are different, with different conditions, characteristics etc. (standard Western approach to the Global South). 

For example, some small-holder producers actually operate on land at least 20x larger than others, and even employ many workers. This goes against the stereotypical Fairtrade, romanticised image of a small-holder farmer working hard producing with his family on a small farm right? In fact, these capitalist farmers, with hired labour and particular farming methods, dominate production, and receive a lot of aid and support, due to their ability to produce more.

Farmers are part of a cooperative (association owned and run jointly by its members) where benefits and profits from Fairtrade should be shared equally. However, in reality, it is the small group of large producers just mentioned who usually occupy leading roles in the cooperatives, controlling distribution of resources. Instead of incorporating the poor, these cooperatives encourage elitism, with power at the top. And yes, they are usually men.

Another thing. You may be aware that Fairtrade adds a premium onto the price of their products, which is meant to be invested into development projects, to be decided democratically by producers or workers. However, these premiums usually go towards investments that benefit the largest producers and sellers. Several shocking examples are mentioned. In one case, the premium was used to build a health clinic, but only those who were employed permanently could use it, excluding many of the poor people living nearby who were hired temporarily (e.g. seasonal workers), and were required to pay a fee they could not afford. 

“James, is desperately poor and lives with his elderly father in an inadequate shack close to the tea factory. Although his father was once a temporary worker at the tea factory, James is charged fees at the tea factory’s Fairtrade health clinic. He cannot afford them and instead, although he only has one leg, he hobbles more than 5km to receive free treatment at a government clinic.”

In another case, flush toilets made with premiums could only be used by senior management. 

One finding that is particularly shocking, is the fact that workers in non-Fairtrade farms were actually getting better wages, and treatment, than those producing the same products in Fairtrade farms. For example, female workers in Fairtrade sites were paid 70% of the daily wage earned by those in non-Fairtrade sites, and were offered fewer days of employment. In addition, in Ethiopian farms, only 1% of those working in Fairtrade sites received payments for medical care compared to 11% in other sites and 56% in large-scale state farms. 

There are also reports of poor monitoring of conditions in the farms, allowing these practices to continue. In the only Fairtrade certified estate in Ethiopia, workers’ rights were ignored and management were able to avoid the half-hearted attempts of Fairtrade executives to promote the employees’ interests.

So considering Fairtrade’s passion for poverty reduction, you’d think they would be extremely concerned and grateful for such a report highlighting these alarming findings. APPARENTLY NOT.

Yeh, Fairtrade were pissed. They were extremely defensive, attempted a smear campaign against the researchers, even making a legal threat against them and sending hostile letters. 

It continues a relationship of dependency 

Related image

Agro-ecology is a new means of production on farms, applauded by many. It refers to the transition of farming methods from those that focus on producing food to export (send to other countries i.e. the West) using fossil-fuelled methods, to those that encourage production for personal consumption and the local market via more sustainable practices e.g. recycling nutrients. By using such methods and by producing for local consumption and local markets, this reduces farmers’ reliance on external inputs (e.g. fertilisers) and income (e.g. producing solely to make income by exporting produce to the West). Indeed, by producing in a way that allows farmers to actually consume their own produce as well as sell it in their local markets and export, this reduces their dependency on Western markets to help them survive. Fairtrade relies on farmers producing for export purposes, and does little to support farmers in reducing their dependency on the West, in particular, prioritising food sovereignty (the right of people to produce, distribute and consume healthy food in and near their territory in a sustainable manner). Instead, it relies on the very export-production system that encourages dependency, and denies farmers the right to expand beyond small-scale production for Western consumers.

I mean, imagine the abundance of food produced in the Global South, yet the very farmers producing these crops are impoverished and malnourished. Does that not sound ridiculous to you?

Colonial roots


Image result for fairtrade parliament

 In Ian Hussey’s anti-capitalist critique of Fairtrade, he argues that Fairtrade marketing reinforces colonial distinctions between the poor Global South farmer and benevolent Global North consumer, failing to address the structures that produce the impoverished state of farmers in the first place. 

He explains that the distribution of power in fair trade is similar to colonial divisions of the globe, with Fairtrade’s focus on former colonies, to be sold in mainstream markets, where decision-making is concentrated. In 2011, 19 of the 24 members that composed Fairtrade International were based in the Global North, with producers having little say in policies, structure and direction of the Fairtrade movement. By producing a system to ‘save’ workers, where most of the decisions are made by the Global North with little say from the very workers its supposed to save, there is literally a red alarm going off screaming neo-colonialism (control of less-developed countries by developed countries through indirect means). 

Fairtrade, therefore, cannot be a means to end poverty, because it continues the global power imbalance of workers in the Global South as dependent on the global North, and most importantly maintains this dependency through perpetuating these divisions, allowing and justifying further control from the North.

Supports the richest

Image result for greed mr krabs

So lets not deny that the West benefit more from profits made by Fairtrade. Fairtrade is a multi-billion pound business with executives in the UK earning around 500 times the annual amount earned by the workers who produce its commodities. Most of its expenditure goes towards public education and awareness, with its branding and advertising contracted out to a company with clients including Nike and Coca-Cola. The company is loaded. In 2008, with an income of £7.2m, more than £2.1m went on public education and awareness. 

Moreover, while advertisements tend to focus on African and Asian farmers being ‘liberated’ by Fairtrade, the truth is, most of their business is done with Latin America. This is not to undermine Latin America and the need for investment, but Ndongo Samba Sylla argues that by favouring Latin America, Fairtrade are favouring richer producers at the expense of the poorest. She argues that since Fairtrade aims to help those already on its ‘path’, the poorer countries it advocates are often neglected as a result. In doing so, Fairtrade is serving and trading with the rich, supporting wealthy farmers at the expense of poorer countries.

Let’s not forget the costs of membership, which entail the cost of certification, annual inspections and compliance with Fairtrade organisational structures. In one cooperative, an executive admitted that after paying for the cooperatives employees and programmes, there was nothing left for individual farmers.

2 Conclude

Image result for fairtrade poverty

For me, the problem with Fairtrade is the fact that it acts as a means to reduce poverty and implies that we as individuals can be part of that change through our consumer actions. While we can probably make lives a bit better, once again we are drawn into the neoliberal ideology that we as individuals and our individual actions are responsible for the worlds problems, taking our attention away from the systematic issues of capitalism and dependency that perpetuate the exploitation of workers.  While workers are often the face of the movement, the research above shows the reality of Fairtrade for many workers, and the response from Fairtrade indicates a corporate mindset. Through alternative methods such as agro-ecology, this emphasises the importance of workers sustaining themselves and reducing dependence on the West for survival, which would create a more long-term impact on the lives of workers as opposed to Fairtrade.

Most importantly, I want us to change our stance towards Fairtrade as the means by which we will achieve justice, review the colonial connotations of movements that try to ‘save’ workers without acknowledging the agency of workers themselves and their rights, and the need to go beyond dependency on the West. This isn’t an attack on anyone. This is an attack on the system that is allowing such rhetoric to blind us from the structural problems that continue the extraction of commodities at the expense of workers’ rights, in the name of ‘philanthropy’.




Cramer, C. et al (2017). Fairtrade cooperatives in Ethiopia and Uganda: Uncensored. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03056244.2014.976192?journalCode=crea20

Cramer, C. et al (2017). Fairtrade and Labour Markets in Ethiopia and Uganda. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00220388.2016.1208175?needAccess=true

Altieri, M. A. & Toledo, V. C. (2011). The agroecological revolution in Latin America: rescing nature, ensuring food sovereignty and empowering peasants. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03066150.2011.582947





The Shy Activist- “When people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh.”

I’ve already highlighted some of the issues that are connected with the chocolate industry in previous blog posts including child labour, milk production and palm oil. 

I suppose this is a post to highlight the issues we face with this product which is a staple and an addiction for many of us.

It isn’t a surprise considering the state of the industry that child labour and unfair treatment of workers is prevalent in cocoa farming. Cocoa is mainly grown in Ivory Coast, Ghana and Latin America where farmers are paid $2 per day. You don’t need a huge imagination to think what workers get paid. In fact research suggests children are imprisoned on farms after thy look for work or their relatives sell them to farm owners.

These farms supply the biggest chocolate companies including Mars, Hershey and Nestle. These three companies are in the top 10 leading confectioners in the world. I just will never understand capitalism and the concept of being mega rich but not paying your workers enough to live, if anything. If we buy a bar of chocolate which is now around 60p we’ve already used almost half of a farmers daily wage.

The confectioners hide behind the layers of industry, the government, chocolate dealers and farmers, in their bid to stay ignorant. Food Empower Project have written a lot about the issues in the chocolate industry and you can read it here. They have highlighted that although some confectioners certify that they are fair trade and do not allow child labour undercover investigation has found this to be greenwashing. Companies are slow to make changes to ensure that workers are treated with dignity.

If you want to make sure that your money is going to people who deserve it here’s a list that the Food Empowerment Project put together based on companies they recommend to least recommend. The list is extensive and it includes the following that I can recommend in taste. I am REALLY fussy about chocolate because I sadly am a chocoholic.

  • Vego- My favourite
  • Coop brand
  • Divine
  • Montezuma
  • Plamil 

The good shopping guide also made a list based on environmental impact, animal welfare, political donations and many other factors. Read it here. The only company to get a score of 100 is the seed and bean company which I have yet to try, but I will make sure to!


“For something to be truly beautiful, it has to be beautiful inside & out..so we set about finding a team of ethical manufacturing partners around the globe. With children & families of our own…ethical production was the only way to go!  Our clothing range is made by a sedex accredited, government regulated business in India – an assurance that people are not being taken advantage of & that they are entitled to the working conditions which most of us just take for granted.”

la cirque trapeze tunic bleu

darjeeling kimono

byzantine nightingale earrings gold

trinidad button down maxi dress

Sources and further reading






Soomaiya Saturday- Don’t be a cow.

Have you ever wondered how on earth we produce 11 BILLION litres of milk in the UK per year?

The question has crossed my mind!



What grinds my gears about the milk industry is that:

1. Cows are continuously impregnated. 

2. Male calves are useless so they’re sold into the meat industry (as veal, apparently often to halal slaughterhouses).

3. According to this PETA article cows produce up to 5 times amount the milk than a cow in 1950. Through artificial insemination and drugs to produce more milk we are producing milk in an unnatural and immoral way.

4. Even though cows can live up to 20 years, they’re killed after 5 years, after they have been worn out and are of no use anymore.

It bothers me because as a compassionate human person (whose religion orders them to take care of the world and everything in it, as we will be accountable for every action we take) I hate to see living creatures being exploited and just becoming a commodity.

I understand that milk is halal (permissible in Islam) and that we CAN drink it but sometimes people raise the point that we are drinking another animals milk. No other animals drink another animals milk. 

I can understand that male calves may not be useful to a business owner, and is a liability to care for. But I don’t understand how there is no value for their life at all. 

In an ideal world there would be more value for a calves life. There would be an option where they can grow up and still be useful. Like Ahimsa, a slaughter free milk company. You may not get milk as often as you’d like but it seems to stay in line with the natural order of things. 

Milk is now produced, in my opinion, in an unnatural way. In many ways we have taken the laws of nature into our own hands. 

It CAN be used for good but it IS used for exploitation.


Something else that is quite interesting is how information about milk production is presented on an anti-milk article compared to a pro-milk website.

Instead of rebuking or providing extensive information the pro-milk website provides worryingly short explanations about animal welfare. You can click the names of the websites above to see for yourself.



This weeks favourites are from a fair trade shop called Bibico. I really appreciate their small collection which consists of essentials. I love minimal, easy clothes that you can’t go wrong with.







I used the following sources-






Soomaiya Saturday- Exposing “Made in Britain”

Dispatches did a report on the price of cheap clothes made in Britain on Monday.


The report exposed the factories in Leicester where they paid employees £3-£4 per hour, where employees worked 12 hours a day. It appeared that most of the people employed in these factories were immigrants. It’s possible they have assistance from the benefits system in which case the businesses are using the benefit system to their advantage. But it’s also possible that they don’t. A lot of immigrants have no recourse to public funds and no right to work. In my job, where I help vulnerable people with financial issues, I come across people in this situation all the time. So this could all be under the radar. 

These factories supplied chains like River Island, Misguided and New Look. One of the factories owners, Shahir (I have to admit it was quite sad to see a muslim factory owner contributing to this unjust system), explained to the undercover reporter that the reason the pay was so low was because  "We don’t get paid much for our clothes, and we need to compete with China and Bangladesh… If we pay everyone £10 or £6, then we will make a loss.“ which I think shows that the big brands need to invest more in the factories they source their stock from if they really have ethical standards. The undercover reporter also found that there were many fire hazards in a factory. This included making people work in front of a fire exit that doesn’t even open in the right direction.

New Look and River Island were notified of the issues and suspended the use of the factories as they did not fulfil their ethical standards. The report appeared to show these factories as ones that slipped through the net as the big brands were part of the Ethical Trading Initiative-  “a leading alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOs that promotes respect for workers’ rights around the globe. Our vision is a world where all workers are free from exploitation and discrimination, and enjoy conditions of freedom, security and equity.” 

Although I fully support this initiative, I can’t help but think that if so many factories slip through the net here, it’s hard to imagine that things will improve much faster in other countries. Just in December, after demanding an increase in their wages, 11 garment union leaders and activists were detained, security forces raided their homes, trade union offices have been vandalised, 1600 workers have been fired and police have filed cases against 600 workers. Read about it and send a letter from here to ask the Prime Minister to release those that are detained. 

Just this yesterday a 20 year old man who worked in a footwear factory passed away from burns when a “fire broke out from a mosquito coil and quickly spread across the factory in the presence of chemicals around 2:00am while the workers were at work. The flame was put out by locals and factory workers by the time fire fighting units arrived, he added.” You can read about it here.

It’s one of those things that makes people feel hopeless because it’s such a wide issue in the establishment and the government. People do not have rights and they are used as commodities. I watched a John Pilger documentary recently. It was made in the 70′s about oppression in Mexico- The Mexicans. One of the discussions he had with a journalist was quite directly related to this topic. The issue of American factories in Mexico, paying workers 40p per hour and then selling the clothes back to them at retail price. The journalist also points out that corruption has been made so smooth working, it is no longer a bad thing but a way of life.

When I discussed this show with my colleague the next day she was very shocked about this poor treatment and poor wages happening in the UK. A few years ago I read about the poor treatment of workers in UK farms in the ecologist’s guide to food. I’ll do a post about this soon and find out the state of things now, as the book I read came out about 4 years ago. 

Corruption, it seems, really is a way of life.

Although I’m ending on a downer, I’m not on a downer. There are so many businesses that support workers rights and we have the ability to contribute to this system instead of the corrupt one. We can also show solidarity and use our privilege to speak out against injustice.

So smoothly moving from one topic to another, please find below my fair favourites of the week!


I’ve chosen Women Worldwide this week! Women Worldwide empower women around the world. You can read stories about the people who made the products on the website too.



WRISTLET CLUTCH BAG NAVY– This isn’t really my style but I can imagine my friend Eleanor would love it






Soomaiya Saturday- The Vegan Chicken Shop. Too Pricey?

People hate vegans.


Recently a new vegan chicken shop opened in Hackney and I’ve read a few reviews that while admitting the food is good, complain about the price.

I’ve heard this a lot about vegan food and while vegan food does tend to be pricier it really grates me that people complain about it. 

At the Vegan Chicken shop people have problems with the price of the seitan chicken and the drinks (which are fair trade- Karma Kola).

The thing is people would have no issue if they were buying meat. They would happily spend more if they were getting meat. People value meat so much. People are MEAT OBSESSED. I know people who are offended when I tell them that I avoid eating meat to the point where I don’t even want to tell people. I just don’t want to have an argument about why…

It might sound like I’m exaggerating but I’m not. I have literally argued with almost every person I have made the mistake of telling that I avoid eating meat. 

Sure it would be nice if there was a cheaper vegan chicken shop but there is an alternative for those that would prefer to spend less- Quorn chicken nuggets which are delicious. For those that complain that Karma Kola is too expensive- that’s how much it costs to make something that is fair trade. This is the current price of eating out without leaving a bad footprint on the world. If you think it costs to much then you can choose an alternative. Personally I probably wouldn’t buy the Karma Kola- I’d wait and get something later. It is possible to spend within your means and be vegan.

People would rather spend more on a meat dish than the same price for a vegetarian/vegan dish. And whilst thats their prerogative, the reason a person buys a vegetarian/vegan dish isn’t based on price for the customer. Eating vegetarian/vegan is based on the price of the environment and the living things in our planet.

*Chris Crocker voice*– LEAVE VEGANS ALONE


I’ve decided to share my favourite items from an ethical shop every week! This week I have chosen a few items from People Tree. Just click the names to buy!

Selma Flared Skirt- £45 (on sale)


Livia Jumpsuit- £90


Respect Tee- £32


Star Charm Bracelet- £26


Moon and Star Necklace- £25


That’s all folks!

Female Tea Workers In One Indian State Fight For Their Rights

Female Tea Workers In One Indian State Fight For Their Rights

New Year New Ethical You- Be Effortlessly Ethical

So lot’s of people make fun of the idea that you should become a different person in the new year. It is true that we should always strive to become better people but hey sometimes we need starting point. If new years is yours then that’s fine! Just take that first step!

So we have put together a few extremely easy ethical lifestyle tips. These are designed to make your soul and the planet better. The best thing? It’s not difficult and you feel the great results.

So here goes…

1. Animal Welfare

Animal welfare is very important. The effects of fast food, supermarkets, cheap meals are bad for the planet and for animals. We are stewards of Earth. We have power but that power is being abused. Factory farming is churning out chemical ridden produce while billions of people are consuming it, without giving a second thought to what they are actually doing. Before it was food, it was a living creature. Why don’t we have the same compassion for them as we do with pets? They feel pain too. Our planet is also suffering. You can click here to find out 11 facts about factory farming and the environment.

So how do we combat this?

Becoming a vegetarian could be a way to show your stance against factory farming and unethical practices. You may find that becoming a vegetarian isn’t your thing. But cutting down on the amount of meat you eat still has an effect. You will definitely come to realise that you do not need to have meat for up to 3 meals a day. You’ll feel lighter and healthier. Once you realise that you don’t need to eat meat you won’t miss it! I think it’s a psychological thing- if there is a rule, you’re more inclined to want to break it! So don’t limit yourself completely but treat yourself here and there. Just keep in mind where the animal came from. A factory farm, pumped with drugs, filled with illnesses, killed within weeks and living in unsanitary conditions. Take this quote-

Devote thyself single-mindedly to the Faith, and thus follow the nature designed by Allah, the nature according to which He has fashioned mankind. There is no altering the creation of Allah.
(Surah 30:30)

Are we not altering nature to suit our greedy consumerist society? 

Just because we are human and they are animals, doesn’t mean they do not deserve respect. There are places that produce ethically raised meats and this is what we need to see more of.

“Eat and drink from the provision of Allaah, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.“ (Qur’an, 2:60)

Everything we have should be in moderation. The Prophet PBUH lived in a time when meat was a luxury and emphasised the importance of caring for our animals with great compassion.

So maybe this year you can only purchase ethically raised meat and cut down on it too. Let us know how it goes!

2. Shopping ethically- Fashion

We tirelessly post pictures of all the beautiful clothes we find in second hand shops and swapshops.

Behind all the cheap and even expensive clothes is a person struggling to pay for food and a home. Garment workers spend most of their time at work and have little to show for it. 

“And give full measure when you measure out, and weigh with a true balance; this is fair and better in the end.” (Quran 17:35)

Maybe next time you go shopping you can really take a look at the item of clothing you want to buy and see that perhaps the person who made this was involved in the Rana Plaza collapse. Try not to contribute to fast fashion culture and venture out to all the alternatives! So many wonderful fair trade products that benefit society. So many second hand clothes that have plenty of wear left in them. And your own clothes. Make the most of them! Get creative. Or share it with your family. We don’t need to be in fashion, what do we have to prove?

Give a charity shop or a fair trade shop a chance. 

3. Shopping ethically- Groceries

It might seem impossible but you can be a more ethical consumer when it comes to food. There are some supermarkets to avoid that support injustice. If you give them your money you are telling them that their behaviour is okay. You will be part of their immoral profit making scheme. Make shopping more fun by scouting out ethical alternatives! Learn where your food comes from and appreciate the work that goes into making it. We have advanced so far that we don’t care where anything came from! 

Going to the local supermarket is easy. Doing the right thing, and finding an ethical alternative is hard. But what a small change it would be in your life and what a great impact it would have. We need less Kardashian information and more where did this milk come from, where did this meat come from, where did these vegetables come from. 

These tips are so simple. All it requires is giving a second thought to every choice your make. This is a great place to start- with the basics. 

Not only will you benefitting your own health and wellbeing but can also contribute to a society and stand up against injustice.

We’ll leave you with a few quotes to remind you that we all are compassionate beings. We’re all brothers and sisters and we need to care for each other and all the things we have in our posession. Somehow we have forgotten that but it’s never too late to love.

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

If there is but one tree of flowers and fruit within a village, that place is worthy of your respect.

“When God created the first human beings, God led them around the Garden of Eden and said: “Look at my works! See how beautiful they are—how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.” (Midrash Kohelet Rabbah, 1 on Ecclesiastes 7:13)