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Shining a Spotlight on International Resilience


The Resilience Spotlight is an initiative of the Bristol Resilience Network, which is part of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership. Every month in 2015, we have invited nominations for someone in the city who demonstrates how we can work at a local level to develop Bristol’s capacity to respond to shocks and stresses.

This spotlight blog was written by Kim Dowsett – Climate Change Advisor at Environment Agency.

jenny 1This theme for November was ‘international’ and we were looking for someone who helps Bristol take part in the resilience of the planet through relationships with those in other countries. Jenny Foster from Fairtrade is such a person and led me through the key ideas of Fairtrade and how Bristol participates.

Jenny’s aim is to raise the use and awareness of Fairtrade in the city and the South West, benefitting farmers in developing countries – Africa, Asia, South America and Caribbean – and ultimately benefiting all of us through more sustainable and person centred business practices.

What resilience means to Fairtrade

jenny 2As well as social impacts, Fairtrade has strong environmental criteria helping farmers become resilient through diversification, choosing crops which don’t need as much water and moving away from crops which are unsustainable. Climate change is having a disproportionate impact on the poorest of the world, disrupting crops because farmers don’t know when the rains are coming.  Finding local crops for local markets can mean a more reliable and year round income.

It’s some of the unintentional benefits of Fairtrade which have an impact on resilience too – women are able to play a full part in the Fairtrade system with equal access to training and promotion. There are more female leaders and more of the money earned is now going directly to families, building more resilient communities.

jenny 3An astonishing and long-term goal has recently been met – that of creating Fairtrade gold.   Gold mines have been famous for decades as one of the most dangerous, polluted and badly governed in the world.  It was a long path, but it has now been achieved, first in Peru and now at a first mine in Africa.  The first things the miners bought with their fair trade wages were hard hats!   Josephina Aguttu, a female miner who worked on that project recently came to the UK and told many inspiring and transformational stories of a change which had seemed impossible in the mining sector.  They are now working to eliminate the use of mercury and cyanide from the mining process which has such damaging effects on human health, water supplies and the local environment.

Fairtrade and Business

After much success with individuals – many people now make the choice to buy Fairtrade coffee or chocolate – it was noticed that the practices were not transferring to businesses, so the Fairtrade Business Awards were started in Bristol.  Its an incentive-based award – organisations can win bronze, then with each level of engagement the levels increase.

Also there is a new scheme for buying Fairtrade carbon credits – meaning that companies can “buy” the means for farmers in developing countries to convert to carbon neutral methods, ensuring better, greener farming around the world.

How we can all help

Apart from looking for and buying items with the Fairtrade symbol you can become a volunteer by contacting Jenny on Or sign up for the newsletter which lets you know of the various campaigns and events at It’s inspiring to know that so many people in Bristol already support Fairtrade and that keeping the pressure up to get more and more products can help the poorest farmers and their families.

Jenny dreams of a time when Fairtrade is not an option, it’s the way things are done.   We wouldn’t dream of not recycling nowadays – well then… how about making a real difference with your shopping. Fairtrade really makes that difference.

Did you know…. ?

  • The Fairtrade mark has being going for 21 years
  • 80% of the word’s food is produced by smallholder farmers
  • 50% of farmers around the world can’t afford to send their children to school
  • 99% of Fairtrade imports are by sea
  • 4500 products have the Fairtrade mark
  • Beauty products, cereals and footballs are all available Fairtrade – the most recent addition was Gold
  • 55% of Fairtrade products are also organic
  • The Bristol network has 50 volunteers, from individuals to business groups
  • Jenny is the only member of staff in the area and works part time
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