On March 25th, the Co-operatives for Development programme hosted a lively and stimulating forum: Fair Trade and Co-operatives: A Match Made in Heaven? The event brought together over sixty professionals who are active in both the Fair Trade and co-operative movements along with academics and NGOs to debate and discuss how the two can work together to bring something unique to Fair Trade and to overcome some of the challenges they each face. Delegates had lots of ideas about how consumer-owned co-operatives can involve their members in the issues associated with fair and ethical trade and how Fair Trade buyers can better support the producer co-operatives they work with.
There were speakers from a range of Fair Trade and Co-operative organisations, including representatives from producer co-operatives in Uganda and Kenya, who provided the audience with insightful accounts of the on-the-ground challenges faced by co-operatives and the support needed. In the afternoon, delegates participated in group workshops to think of practical ways they could implement some of the ideas generated during the morning.
The highlight of the final plenary was the announcement by Gareth Thomas MP, Minister of State for International Development, of the second phase for the CoopAfrica programme, with £3 million funding from 2011, and up to £5 million in addition. Gareth Thomas MP also launched a briefing paper on DFIDs work with co-operatives.
This was the first such forum to be held in the UK, aimed to build a relationship and understanding between the two movements at a time of both co-operative revival and ever-increasing growth in Fair Trade sales. It was an exciting and timely discussion which it is hoped will stimulate some exciting future collaboration between the organisations which attended.
A publication summarising the ideas generated during the event will be available by Summer 2010. If you would like to receive a copy or be kept updated about the activities of the Co-operatives for Development team, please email us at email@example.com or click here to join our mailing list.