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New book: The Fair Trade Revolution edited by John Bowes

Over the past twenty years Fair Trade has grown into a worldwide movement, with the FAIRTRADE Mark recognised by over seventy per cent of adults in the UK. It’s a familiar presence not just on the high street but also in towns, schools, churches, synagogues, mosques, town halls, universities, and even prisons across the country which have opted to convert to Fair Trade. It has been helped along the way by the actions of individuals, business, charities and NGOs.

The Fair Trade Revolution cover

As The Fairtrade Revolution states, there are now 879 producer organisations in 58 developing countries participating in Fairtrade, and it has ‘helped change the lives of millions of people in the developing world’.

The book brings together some of the inspiring individuals, as well as representatives from these varied businesses and organisations, to share the stories, both personal and commercial, behind the extraordinary success of Fair Trade.

The Fair Trade story is told at home and abroad, with interviews, photos and producer case studies from around Africa and Latin America, including the New Dawn women’s coffee co-operative in Nicaragua, as well as eye-opening descriptions contrasting the production of traditionally-grown goods and Fairtrade crops. The global context is set with background information on events such as the Nicaraguan revolution.

Broken down into clear sections, the book is easy to read and informative and benefits from taking into account the effects of Fair Trade not just on producers and their families, through benefits such as improving access to education and pensions, but also producer organisations, governments, consumers, business and the environment.

It has not been a journey without a few bumps, and the book outlines the frustrations and challenges that have been, and are still, faced by the Fair Trade movement. These go from changing consumer perceptions to sometimes uneasy alliances with big businesses right up to the threat posed by climate change on a global level.

An effective range of contributors include Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation, Bruce Crowther who established the world’s first Fairtrade town in Garstang, Lancashire, former Sainsbury’s supermarket buyer Matt North who instigated the conversion of all the supermarket’s bananas to Fairtrade, Cadbury’s corporate responsibility managers Alex Cole and David Croft, who oversaw the introduction of Fair Trade cocoa in Dairy Milk bars, and John Bowes, who helped convert the Co-operative’s own brand range to Fair Trade.

The thing that stands out after reading the book is the sheer range of Fair Trade products available. The future looks bright, with future goals including the establishment of a Fair Trade college. And the message to take away from the book? As Pedro Haslam and Nicholas Hoskyns note in their chapter: “One day in the future, we will look back and ask: ‘Why was trade ever unfair?’

The Fair Trade Revolution is published by Pluto Press and through the Co-operative College we can offer an online discount on the book. Order the book for £8.99 + free UK P&P here.