Introducing Khoisan Salt to our South Africa Tour

At the same time as guaranteeing our next departure to South Africa we are delighted to announce a new fair trade group to the Meet the People experience.

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Khoisan Salt are behind the delicious flakes of Sea Salt in Traidcraft’s Eat Your Hat Milk Chocolate and will be welcoming us for a behind the scenes insight into their salt harvesting in October.

Traidcraft Sea SAlt Chocolate

With the welfare and development of employees at the core of their values, Khoisan employs people exclusively from the local community and we’ll learn how fair trade initiatives help them to support their team.

Khoisan

The enthusiastic team will be introducing us to the techniques they use in hand-harvesting salt crystals to produce natural, unrefined sea salt.

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We can appreciate the significance of working in harmony with the environment as we later visit the nearby West Coast National Park, home to around 250 species of birds and where we hope to spot zebra alongside the ostrich, flamingoes and penguins.

Khoisan Flamingoes

Following visits to farmers on the edge of the Kalahari and the unique ecosystems of the highveld, this is a great opportunity to understand the importance of fair trade in a coastal region before we head on to the lush vineyards of the Western Cape.

Tommy and Poppie

South Africa is a big and truly beautiful country with a unique history. Visits to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Table Mountain and Cape of Good Hope let us appreciate some of the incredible natural beauty whilst meeting fair trade producers, learning from development projects in Cape Town and taking a trip to Robben Island, help us to better understand life in this complex country.

Table Mountain and Cape Town, South Africa

Would you like to join us in South Africa? There are still 6 places available on this year’s tour and details of our tour in 2020 are available online. For more information visit www.meetthepeopletours.co.uk/SouthAfrica

To receive a detailed day by day itinerary or for up to date availability contact Hannah or Lizzie on info@skedaddle.com or by phone at 0191 2651110 

Sue meets the people behind our delicious Easter Eggs in Ghana.

Sue Fisher, a volunteer at Fair Do’s Fair Trade shop in Cardiff joined us on our Meet the People Tour to Ghana in October. She shares her highlights of meeting palm oil producers at Serendipalm, the people behind Divine’s delicious Easter eggs and discovering Fairtrade bananas with VREL: 

The 2-week trip to Ghana was a very varied and exciting itinerary with visits to Producer groups and many of their projects and places of work. These included several school visits, a clinic, wells, community centres, IT facilities and many instances of women’s groups. We also visited several craft enterprises where we took part in ‘workshops’, local markets, and historical visits to learn about Ghana’s liberation from its colonial past, the traditions of the Ashanti Kingdom and the horrors of the slave trade.

Of particular interest to Fair Do’s were the two visits to producers whose products we stock in the shop. The first of these was Serendipalm, the sustainable palm oil project which provides the oil for Traidcraft’s Clean and Fair range of soap products we sell. We turned off the pot-holed main road, up an even bumpier track, to pick up Sanaa, a young woman eco-horticulturalist who is employed by Serendipalm to advise on sustainable growth of the oil palms and other crops. Sanaa took us to a community hall where we met a farmers’ committee. They were keen to tell us about the benefits of a regular income they knew was part of the Fairtrade deal. In the hall were about eighteen computer terminals and while we were there a class from the local high school came in for a lesson. This IT resource is funded by the Fairtrade premium and the IT teacher, Samuel, told us what a difference it made to have this accessibility to modern technology. (Elsewhere we were to see a class crowded around one laptop).

Visiting SerendipalmSanaa then took us to a palm oil forest. It did not look like the regular plantations I had seen in photographs from Indonesia. There were several other species of tree, much bird song, and the trees were taller than I expected. We met a farmer there called Joseph, who demonstrated how he cuts down the bunches of fruit with a sharp knife at the end of a very long pole. The bunches of fruit were left in heaps at the side of the road to be collected for processing.

Sanaa also took us to a part of the forest where she was planting various other trees, notably cassava and cocoa, as shade for the development of the oil palms at different stages over a twenty-five year growing period. She told us how she was encouraging local farmers to adopt these sustainable methods. The other plants also gave their own useful crops, with cassava taking only six months to mature, and being replanted just from a single twig.

We were next taken to the headquarters of Serendipalm where several women were seated in groups in a large open shed, with substantial tin bowls full of the bunches of fruit, carried there on the head. The women were busy separating the individual fruits from the bunches, while others took away the remaining fibres for making into fertiliser. The women are paid on piece-rate and their individual sacks were labelled with their names. We had lunch with them in their canteen, which was a good chance to have a bit of a conversation.

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We saw the first stages of the pressing process to produce the palm oil. It was still very cloudy as it emerged from the machine. It is red in colour and a feature of Ghanaian cuisine, notably in the rice dish ‘Red Red’.

Later we were taken to two local projects financed by Serendipalm from the Fairtrade premium. The first was a maternity clinic where local women can receive check-ups and have the services of a midwife when giving birth. The second project was a bore well in a local village which had been built at the request of local people, with particular attention paid to an older woman’s report of a former well she remembered in a particular spot from her childhood. This was investigated and found to be a good source of fresh clean water and we were delighted to see that this woman had been placed in charge of the well, controlling flow and distribution of extra water.

I felt that the visit to Serendipalm had taken me back to the roots of the Fair Trade movement, first experienced back in 1981 when I saw women in Bangladeshi villages weaving the jute sikas that were one of Traidcraft’s most popular early products. Now here I was in 2018, seeing the same security of a regular income prized by workers, seeing pride in the community projects made possible by Fair Trade conditions, and feeling a real sense of women’s work being valued and their voices heard.

Our next visit, while staying in Kumasi, was to the famous Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union co-operative which supplies Divine chocolate. We started at the Co-operative House, a community centre in the village of New Koforidua, one of 200 communities supported by Kuapa Kokoo, where we met representatives of the local farmers’ co-operative. The Vice-chair and Treasurer were among several women farmers who had been delegated to meet us alongside their male colleagues. We asked each other questions and presented donations, predetermined by the tours in the cost of the trip, in thanks for their time. The village regards itself as Africa’s first Fairtrade Town after adapting the Fairtrade Foundation’s five critieria of FT Town status, influenced by links with Garstang, the UK’s first FT Town. We were able to chat to children in the community’s school as we left.

Divine ChocolateWe started the next day at the headquarters of Kuapa Kokoo (KK) with a Powerpoint presentation by Esther, KK’s Communications Officer. KK represents about 100,000 farmers in 57 Co-operative groups. Esther showed the detailed structure of KK and the many levels of representation for which elections are held. Of the Board of Directors, four of the seven are women. We also met Luke, the CEO of the organisation, who was very welcoming.

The structure of the co-operative allows for almost 500 long-term projects, including several wells, corn mills and schools. There is a range of committees, including welfare and gender. There is a Healthcare Programme with its own mobile clinic and medical staff. Importance is attached to a Child Labour Programme and a Labour Rights Project. A Productivity Enhancement Programme had involved the planting of 500,000 seedlings. All of these are financed by the Fairtrade Premium. The organisation also takes pride in its sustainable environmental interventions, including dynamic agro-forestry and diversification of crops. With heredity issues over passing on land, young women were being trained to take over from ageing farmers, a sign of the determination to empower women.

Ghana Kuapa

Esther took us to a beautiful forest of cocoa trees where we followed a farmer on an indistinct path through the dappled light, with the glowing yellow of the cocoa pods all around. On the floor of the forest were frequent patches of red petals from the ‘Christmas trees’, tall and protective of the much lower cocoa trees. We saw a patch of light in the distance and gradually arrived at a group of workers in a clearing busily opening up cocoa pods with machetes to extract the beans, which were covered in a white sticky sap.

There was much laughter and the rejected pods were flung into a heap with the discarded empty ones to be turned into compost. Some of the men demonstrated how they cut the cocoa pods from the trees with long-handled machetes. We were next shown how the beans are fermented for about a week in heaps in the forest covered by black plastic and branches. You can smell their location! They are turned two or three times in the week and at the end of that time the white covering has disappeared.

 The next stage is to dry the beans in the sun for about two weeks. This is done on racks in villages or on the ground – it is a common sight in the region. The beans are turned frequently and sub-standard ones removed – we had a go. Next, we saw where the beans are weighed and piece-rates worked out from a record book. We visited the local school in that particular village, where we presented a Welsh flag, well-received because of Ryan Giggs! Our last Kuapa Kokoo visit was to the depot where the 64 Kilo sacks of beans are stacked to the ceiling and loaded for export, up to 700 at a time.
salamatuandelvisdryingbeans- Kim Naylor

Kuapa Kokoo prides itself on the empowerment of women and its community projects. It is a highly-organised and structured company. Like many Fairtrade certified organisations, both Serendipalm and Kuapa Kokoo sell as much as they can to Fairtrade companies, both in the UK and in Europe, but there is never enough demand, so they also supply Rainforest Alliance and commercial outlets.

Our third Fair Trade visit on the holiday was to the Volta River Estates Ltd Banana Company, which supplies FT bananas mainly to UK supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, M&S, and the Co-op. Again, they sell their surplus as non-FT, sometimes to Fyffes. Their pride in their community projects, particularly supplying IT equipment and new buildings to schools, was very evident, as was their encouragement of women. We were particularly pleased to meet one woman tractor driver who had been recruited from the banana-washing section in the processing plant and given training to become manager of the compost plant producing fertiliser from left-over banana tree stalks, wheat stalks, and chicken manure. She was turning the drying heaps of these and mixing them as she drove along.

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This trip was a re-affirming experience for me, showing strongly the roots of the Fair Trade movement still in action in people’s lives, particularly in the empowerment of women and projects to benefit whole communities.

For more information on our Ghana tour and to find out how to visit click here to browse our website and download a detailed tour dossier. Alternatively contact Hannah by calling 0191 2651110 or email info@skedaddle.com

Where to go when? Our guide to a year of fair trade holidays

If you are looking for a fulfilling journey to inspire and invigorate ,then browse our guide for holidays you don’t want to miss:

Early escapes with a warm welcome: Start the year with inspiring stories from communities and cooperatives in Latin America! Our tours in Cuba and Chile journey through stunning landscapes and cultural capitals visiting farmers whose ingenious techniques and fascinating histories are full of inspiration. Book now to ensure you don’t miss out!
More spring options in: Nepal and Western India

Summer’s in sight: As the warmer weather reaches the UK we head to Africa where the cooler (but still very pleasant!) temperatures in Malawi and Eswatini attract incredible wildlife. In between the fabulous fair trade visits we can often be found rhino and elephant spotting.
More summer options in: Peru and Thailand

Autumn Adventures: October is the perfect time to head to two of our favourite destinations for a celebration of culture and tradition. In Northern India we take a boat trip on the Ganges and meet weavers in Varanasi, whilst in Ghana you can put the cocoa pods to one side and try your hand at traditional Ashanti printing.
More autumn options in: South Africa and Vietnam

In search of winter sunshine: For those planning ahead, join us in Costa Rica for the coffee harvest, or travel with us to the heart of fair trade in Bangladesh where we meet paper makers, embroiderers and communities pioneering organic farming.
More winter options in: Sri Lanka and Southern India

To browse our full programme of holidays click here. To check availability, have your questions answered then you can call us on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.com

Discover Malawi

It’s for good reason that Malawi is often described as the warm heart of Africa, and the friendly welcomes and inspiring stories make for an unforgettable Meet the People holiday.

Our tour explores the north of the country where the land rises from the warm shores of Lake Malawi up into hills perfect for cultivating delicious coffee, and levels out at the Nyika plateau where we go in search of zebra, elephants and the elusive leopard!

Beautiful Views The first stop on our journey north gives us a delicious taste of what is to come as we settle down in the local café for a delicious mug of Mzuzu coffee. In the coming days we meet smallholder coffee farmers like Martha who shows with pride her plot of organic coffee bushes and explains how she cares for the plants and ensures that only the best quality cherries are taken for harvest.

As we travel from place to place, the team of local guides make every stop an experience as we shop at village stalls to stock up on essentials of fresh tomatoes and bananas and learn a few greetings along the way. You might even want to try your hand at making nsima using the traditional technique to pound the flour!

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No trip would be complete without taking time to enjoy Lake Malawi. Formed by a fault in the Great Rift Valley, the ancient lake is always a highlight. On the northern shores we join farmers as they gather their harvest of Kilombero rice. A speciality grain known throughout Malawi for its quality and taste, at this cooperative it holds a special significance as the fair price they receive is making schooling accessible for farming families and funding scholarships for children in the community.

KarongaIf you’ve been captured by the delicious aroma of Mzuzu coffee or want to see the rice harvest for yourself then join us in June as we travel to meet the people!

For more information about our holidays in Malawi and around the world visit: www.meetthepeopletours.co.uk email: info@skedaddle.com or call us on 0191 2651110.

Sunset over Lake Malawi

Carrie meets fair trade Swaziland

In June, Carrie from the Marketing Team at Traidcraft joined the Meet the People tour to Swaziland (now Eswatini). Often described as Africa-in-a-nutshell, Swaziland not only boasts incredible wildlife and spectacular scenery but also a thriving network of fair-trade producers. Carrie observed this phenomenal culture for herself and here she describes her experience meeting the people behind the traditional handicrafts of this tiny African kingdom.

‘Creative Swaziland. One of the smallest countries in the southern hemisphere but what it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in experiences.’ This was the description I read before the trip. “Sure, they all say that. Right?”

Swaziland

The experiences began on day one when we crossed the border from Johannesburg into Swaziland. The flat landscape immediately grew into mountainous valleys with rural charm. Every winding turn revealed more breath-taking views than the last and on our first night we were soothed to sleep by the sound of Phophonyane’s gushing waterfalls. Our accommodation throughout the trip was unique and diverse – we resided in comfortable tents, beehive huts and huts with no walls! Each had their own extraordinary appeal. We stayed inside safari parks amongst animals, watched warthogs warm by the fire, met rhinos, ate authentic food, star gazed and watched traditional dancing. One day-trip lead us to a rural village where we learned some conversational phrases to chat to the locals and were invited to listen to great stories, inside our guide’s homestead, about the culture of Swaziland.

RhinoThe unforgettable experiences were never ending, but the real purpose of my visit to Swaziland was to learn the stories behind the products and get a better understanding about fair trade and its effects in developing countries. It was incredible to see some of the products being made on some of our visits. We encountered great quality and imagination, exceptional skills, ingenuity, courage and determination.

IMG_0988 2On Day 3, the visit to Tintsaba was inspirational. To see the Sisal plant being stripped, washed, spun, dyed and woven into beautiful jewellery and homeware was fascinating. Over 800 women work for Tintsaba, often from their own homes whilst caring for their families. We learned how mohair is brushed, rolled and spun into yarn to make gorgeous fabrics at Coral Stephens; products that will last a lifetime and amazing skills that are being taught to younger generations.

Gone RuralOn Day 5 we visited Ngwenya Glass, who are renowned for their sustainable credentials. They considered every aspect of their business and reused or recycled everything they could. We met Black Mamba’s partner group, Guba, who teach permaculture and sustainable farming in village communities. All of the herbs and spices that are used in the sauces are grown by graduates of the Guba training courses. On Day 9 we met Gone Rural, who provide work to hundreds of women in the surrounding areas. They drive to and from each community collecting and swapping raw grass for dyed grass, for women to then weave into homewares for a fair price.

Guba

“It’s fascinating to see the incredible products made in Swaziland. The producers are so inventive, intuitive and efficient with the resources they have. I feel privileged to have met them. Swaziland, I hope to see you again.”

Carrie, Senior Graphic Designer at Traidcraft

If you’re interested in experiencing Creative Swaziland for yourself click here for more information or please call our office on 0191 265 1110 or email hannah@skedaddle.com

Phophonyane

Why Buy Fairtrade? Christine reports from Ghana

Christine joined our Meet the People Tour to Ghana with Traidcraft in November 2017. Combining her tour with an opportunity to visit her church’s Twinning Partners, Christine shares her experiences of meeting Fairtrade producers.

Picture1I have bought Fairtrade products for some time, and was interested to see how Fairtrade goods are produced, and to learn more about what Fairtrade means for individual producers. My Ghanaian friend Rev Josephine Mate-Kole Ankrah was interested too, and as I was visiting her congregation in Ghana, I thought a Meet the People Tour would be a good opportunity for us to visit some Fairtrade producers.

First of all we visited a group of cocoa farmers whose produce is used to make Divine Chocolate. Not only are these farmers paid a fair price for their cocoa beans (as you probably already know), but they also receive a Fairtrade premium. It was the use they made of this premium that was of real interest to me.

Cocoa farmers live in very rural areas, and we travelled a few hours along bumpy and windy roads to meet with them where they live and work. Working as a cooperative group, the farmers come together to agree what they will do with their Fairtrade premium. Usually they save it until there is sufficient money to do something that will make a real difference to their community. Their first priority is to improve the education of their children, through enhancing the education provided by the government. They have erected a solar light at the entrance to the school and put solar panels on the roof so that education need not stop when daylight ends. Currently they are saving to build a clinic and a house for a nurse, as their nearest clinic is a two hour drive away.

Divine ChocolateWe saw the current crop of cocoa beans drying in the sun ready to be packed into bags and sent on for processing (processing into chocolate that the farmers have never tasted!). They took us to visit one of the farms where we are able to harvest a pod from the tree, and to see how they work with their trees and crops.

One of the other organisations we visited was Global Mamas which concentrates on enhancing the lives of women in the community by providing them with training and opportunities for meaningful and sustainable livelihoods. They also invest money in business development, education, health, and life skills training. During our time with them we spent an afternoon cooking Ghanaian food and a morning making a batik tablecloth.

Ghana BatikThis is only a fraction of what we were able to see and experience during the 10 days of our Fairtrade experience. In returning to the question “why buy Fairtrade goods?”, after my visit I would say: to give individuals and communities the respect and dignity of a fair price for their products, which leads to life changing opportunities.

Many thanks to The Church of Scotland and to Christine Osman for sharing this article with us.

For more information on our trips to Ghana please call us on 0191 2651110, email us at info@skedaddle.com, or visit www.meetthepeopletours.co.uk/ghana

Ghana Top 9

Caroline Meets the People in Nepal

In March, Caroline and Kate from Traidcraft’s Digital Marketing and Product Development teams joined our Meet the People tour to the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal. Here, Caroline tells us a little bit about the special places she visited, and the people she met…

I haven’t travelled all that much really. I’ve been around Europe and the US, but I’d never ventured across to Asia or Africa, and I’d always regretted not travelling more when I was younger and had fewer commitments. Though everything always seems easier in hindsight!

When the opportunity came up to go along on a Meet the People tour I was initially a little bit nervous. I didn’t really know what to expect on an organised tour – would I like it? What would my fellow travellers be like? The world is a huge place, and the range of countries and tours was mind-blowing – there’s so much to see and do!

But when I read the Nepal itinerary, something clicked. Starting in magical and vibrant Kathmandu, we’d travel west to relaxing Pokhara, south to the forested Chitwan National Park, and then east to watch the sunrise over the mountains from Dhulikhel, before returning again to Kathmandu. Everything would already be organised, and a local Newa: guide would be there to meet us and show us the real Nepal. I signed up, and before I knew it, I was on my way!

Nepal

Nepal is a country of colour, spirituality, and warm welcomes. Hardly a moment passed by when I didn’t have my camera in my hand, ready to take a quick snap of a golden temple, pagoda, or palace – not to mention the distant glint from snow-capped mountains, and the otherworldly lavender mist each morning at dawn. From feeding elephants and crocodile-spotting to listening to traditional folk musicians and seeing living heritage in action in old Bhaktipur – I can hardly believe all the different sights, experiences, and flavours I encountered.

Rice FieldsDuring the tour our group got to meet a range of traditional artisans, from paper-crafters and ceramicists to expert weavers and knitters. My job requires me to write about Traidcraft producers a lot, but it’s a completely different experience to visit them in person. The first group we visited was the Women’s Skills Development Organization in Pokhara. We were given a tour around the site and the chance to watch the artisans at work, from the spinning and dyeing to weaving and finishing. Since 1975, this not-for-profit programme has been supporting women facing significant social and economic hardships, offering them free training and employment opportunities in a social and safe environment.

Meeting PeopleNext, we visited Kumbeshwar Technical School (KTS), an inspirational organisation offering training and employment to craftspeople in Kathmandu. Since starting out, Kumbeshwar have set up a primary school to educate local disadvantaged children, and even an orphanage! It was incredibly moving to see how happy the children were and to hear stories about the craftspeople who started out with very little and ended up working for Kumbeshwar long-term, supporting families of their own with their income. We’ll be selling a few woven products from Kumbeshwar in our Autumn collection, so you can look forward to hearing lots more about this organisation.

GPI SchoolAnd of course, a trip to Nepal wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to Get Paper Industries! Fair Traders and Retailers who’ve been with Traidcraft for even a little while will have heard of GPI – a handmade paper products co-operative which uses waste cotton, paper, and agricultural materials like banana fibre, straw, and water hyacinth to craft home accessories, gifts, cards, and packaging. We visited the artisans at work and visited the Anita Milan International Academy – set up with GPI’s aid to educate local children. Our welcome at GPI was phenomenal! I won’t spoil the surprise for any of you who visit in the future, but I’ll just say that it was an experience I’ll never forget.

PapermakingAnd finally, we visited the HQ of Mahaguthi, who market a range of handcrafted Nepalese wonders to the world. From weavers and embroiders to leather-workers and jewellery-makers, Mahaguthi offer traditional artisans a global audience for their heritage crafts. A highlight of the visit was meeting some of the traditional potters in their workshop on the outskirts of Kathmandu.

I returned to the UK at the end of March, and I’m still remembering all the places I went and the emotions I felt. Taking part on an organised tour meant I saw so much more than I would have going it alone, and I didn’t have to worry about the logistics of transport or finding somewhere to eat. It was wonderful to share the experience with so many different fellow travellers too, hearing different perspectives and stories along the way. Some of my group had been on lots of Meet the People Tours before – a sure sign that the tours all have something different to offer. I know if I get the opportunity to go on another tour I will. But the question now is, where to next…?

You can find more information on our tour to Nepal by downloading the tour dossier here. The tour dossier contains a day by day itinerary and more travel advice on the holiday.

MTP NepalTo browse the full range of Meet the People holidays have a look on our website www.meetthepeopletours.co.uk or order your copy of our brochure by clicking here. You can also call Hannah in the office on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.com if you have any questions or want to check availability on any of our departures.

Meeting Inspiring Communities in Peru

Exploring a new culture through the stunning sights, captivating history and delicious food all makes for a great holiday, but it’s meeting the people that takes our experience of Peru to a whole new level.

Our warm welcome starts with the greeting from Yannina at Manos Amigas. At their ceramics workshop in Lima we see beautiful figures being created and painted with intricate detail and meet the skilled people making them.

Peru Turumaki_craft_group

Traidcraft’s joyful nativity set is made by artisans working with Manos Amigas and it’s a great time to share stories of how these pieces are treasured by families back home. There’s a great sense of pride in making something that’s to be so loved by people on the other side of the world.

Whilst no trip to Peru would be complete without an opportunity to explore the spectacular Inca ruins at Machu Picchu and in the Sacred Valley, it’s combining these with visits to communities that makes for a really special trip. Following a fantastic visit to the quinoa farmers at Coopain, we make our second visit to Manos Amigas. A world away from bustling Lima, this visit is to a Collasuyo community high in the altiplano.

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With a backdrop of mountains and flamingos feeding in the distance, we meet women spinning and knitting alpaca fibre into the black, white and grey scarves we recognise from the Traidcraft range. Life here is very different to home, but the connection through fair trade is strong, and with a greeting of local music and dancing it’s a fitting celebration to end this journey.

Peru

Come and join us in Peru! To to find out more about our holidays visit: meetthepeopletours.co.uk/peru email: info@skedaddle.com or call us on 0191 2651110

Discovering fair trade in Sri Lanka

Following their tour earlier this year, David and Ann share with us their experiences of meeting the people in Sri Lanka 

What does fair trade look like at the sharp end where tea is picked, toys manufactured, and fabric woven? Who are the people who create the fair trade products we buy in our local fair trade shop and sell on the Saturday morning fair trade stall in our Church? What would it be like to meet them face to face and see their country through their eyes rather than through the eyes of the tourist?

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These were some of the questions which prompted us to book for a Traidcraft ‘Meet the People’ Tour. We decided on the one to Sri Lanka because David had for many years wanted to find out about the land where his grandfather had been a missionary a hundred years ago. It proved to be absolutely the right decision as we explored this beautiful island meeting the people as well as visiting some of the places any visitor must see such as the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa and the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. We even spent half a day on a beach!

But for us fair trade was the priority. What did we learn about the process of producing the fair trade products we buy in the UK? We learned first of all, of course, that it is about work! We were familiar with the pictures of smiling workers standing in flourishing fields; and we found that they do smile! But they also have to work very hard, as we discovered when we visited the Greenfield Tea Estate where Ann tried her hand at tea picking. She says: “I was left full of admiration for the women working in quite difficult conditions on steep hillsides using their skill and knowledge and accepting the intruders we were with such grace”.

Ann picking tea

At the top of the hill where the tea bushes grow is the factory where the tea is processed, from the drying of the green leaves to getting the tea ready for dispatch. This estate is certified organic and fair trade and has recently created its own ‘Organic Life’ brand for sale in London and on the internet (http://www.organiclifeteas.com). Compared with the huge tea estates which cover the Sri Lankan hillsides as far as the eye can see, fair trade is only 2% of the Sri Lankan tea market, but this farm is a sign and symbol of what can be achieved when workers and management work together.

We had the privilege of meeting the ‘Joint Body’, which is elected by the workers and is made up of some twenty people, women and men, young and more mature, some well-educated and some who have had little educational opportunity. After they had greeted us with singing, dancing, and cake, we sat with them to hear about their life and achievements. We noted at the time that this is a ‘well-focused and thoughtful group of people’. They are certainly enterprising: with the fair trade premium (that bit extra we pay when we buy a fair trade item) they have built a substantial community centre, they support the community’s children in their education, and they plan to buy a bus which will run on the route to Colombo, some eight hours away, thus improving the bus service for the community whilst at the same time making a useful profit.

Continuing the theme of work, we made a number of factory visits where we were able to see how fair trade products are made and talk with leading people in each company.

At Selyn (www.selyn.lk) we were stunned by their beautiful colourful fabrics and toys – we bought table mats and David bought a shirt. Equally stunning is their close attention to caring for the environment (great care taken to render non-toxic the waste product of their dying plant) and their care of the workers (we saw the nursery where the children of the weavers are cared for and shared their excellent meal). We visited a huge warehouse now full of people working hard making toys, cushion covers, and much more. It was stifling and conditions seemed poor, but we learned that fair trade accreditation encourages firms constantly to improve their working practices and conditions will be transformed when they shortly move into a purpose-built air-conditioned factory.

Sri Lanka 01We could go on the write about: the compost coir block factory where the waste husks of coconuts are transformed into peat-free compost for UK gardens; the Maximus elephant dung factory where elephant dung comes in at one end and beautiful paper products come out of the other; and Ma’s Spice Factory where we saw the production process and sampled the end product when they served us lunch. They even persuaded us to try our hand at cooking!

So are we still fair trade enthusiasts? We certainly are! But of course there is a lot more to it than the brief explanation of the back of a packet of fair trade tea. We became aware of how much there is still to do to bring working and living standards to the level those of us who buy their products enjoy, and of the importance of the standards set by organisations like the World Fair Trade Organisation and Traidcraft in encouraging organisations to achieve their standards.

Sri Lanka 02Perhaps most of all, we became aware of the hard daily work done by thousands of people so that we can enjoy products so well-designed, well-made, and beautifully packaged that they are attractive to us in the West who have such a wide range of goods to choose from. It is certainly worth paying that bit extra to buy fair trade!

Our many thanks to David and Ann for sharing with us this article which was originally published in the Methodist Recorder

For more photos, information and a day by day itinerary on our tour to Sri Lanka visit our website at www.meetthepeopletours.co.uk/srilanka, call us in the office on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.com

Celebrating 30 years – Ngwenya Glass in Swaziland

It has been 30 years since the Prettejohn family came to Swaziland and brought life back to the Ngwenya Glass Factory. Today Ngwenya Glass is still run by the Prettejohn family, employs over 70 people and supplies customers with its creations worldwide.

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For Ngwenya Glass ‘green’ is a way of life. Environmental considerations are integral to its production values. All products are made from 100% recycled glass, old engine and KFC oil is purchased, purified and used to fuel the furnace, effectively disposing of used oil. Old newspaper is used for packaging and rainwater catchments are used within the production.

Ngwenya also donate a percentage of worldwide sales to wildlife conservation in the Mkhaya Game Reserve, as well as supporting numerous orphanages and charities in Swaziland and South Africa.

Ngwenya

We visit the Ngwenya factory on our Swaziland tour which gives us a great opportunity to watch the art of glassblowing from the overhead balcony above the roaring furnace. We’ll hear of the importance and the benefits of fair trade and in the gift shop we can appreciate the finished works of art that have passed through 11 sets of skilled hands belonging to craftsmen and quality control.

Watch this video of the Ngwenya story…

For more information on our tours in Swaziland click here for our website or contact Hannah in our office on info@skedaddle.com or 0191 2651110.