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.

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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 Divine’s delicious chocolate 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.
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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

Discover Malawi, the warm heart of Africa

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

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.

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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

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. 

Meet Get Paper Industries, our friends in Nepal

Following the fascinating journey along Kathmandu’s crowded roads, and past temples and busy shops, we arrive to the warmest of welcomes from the team at GPI (Get Paper Industries). Coming from the bustle of Kathmandu, there’s a sense of calm at GPI, but what also comes across quickly is the strong work ethic, and a palpable sense of pride in producing only the best quality paper products.

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Established in 1985 as a family papermaking business, GPI’s aim is to provide decent, sustainable employment for people in the local area. We listen intently as Milan Bhattarai speaks plainly of the challenges they see around them in Nepal, and be it business, inequality or environmental, there are many. But Milan’s focus is not on the challenges, it’s on the solutions and it’s inspiring to hear the sense of fun and daring in some of the imaginative solutions they have pioneered.

GPI has been recognised with several environmental performance, social achievement and business excellence awards. They provide a very friendly and comfortable working environment, with a meal provided at lunchtime, and with tea and tiffin facilities for breaks. Approximately 50% of the employees are women, wages are above the national average and around double the government’s legal minimum wage. There is also a profit sharing scheme, production bonuses, and workers have access to advances and interest free loans from GPI. As we walk through the production rooms we see the skill and speed at which the beautiful coloured paper is made and finished, and meet the amazing people behind it all.Brushing_the_paper_26301

And it’s not just about the people, GPI embraces an environmentally friendly approach to producing handmade paper and paper products using waste materials like cotton rags, paper, banana fibre, straw and water hyacinth. The paper is dried in the sun and there is a waste water treatment plant in place.Drying_paper_26294

As well as the Body Shop being a supportive buyer of paper for many years, Anita Roddick herself had an enormous influence on GPI and her presence is still felt throughout the organisation. The school closest to GPI is named the ‘Anita Milan school’ after her and the founder of GPI. One of the highlights of our visit is meeting the teachers and children, learning about the scholarships provided for local families and celebrating the successes GPI has achieved in supporting access for girls in the community to a good education.Pupils_at_Anita_Milan_International_School_26261

In 1993 GPI formed General Welfare Pratisthan (GWP) to deliver development activities such as girls’ education, HIV / AIDS awareness, and environmental projects. Human trafficking, particularly of young women, is a major problem in Nepal where up to 15,000 people are trafficked each year. GWP has a number of successful projects giving women and their families alternative income generation schemes in the most affected areas and continues to raise awareness of the issues.

DSC_8929_44444Rather than allocating a percentage of profits, GPI dedicate 4% of the total of all their invoices to GWP to ensure a higher level of financial support even in years where profit is low.

On Traidcraft’s website you can find giftwrap, cards, gift bags and writing sets from GPI and learn more about their product development support which has enabled them to work with other buyers and diversify into new areas like felt-making.

GPI are one of the amazing producer groups we meet as we discover Nepal. For more details of our visits the you can find lots more on our Nepal Holiday Page or by contacting us in the office on 0191 2651110 or info@skedaddle.com

Nepal Temple

Honey, Blueberries & Dreams: The life of a Chilean Beekeeper

Under different circumstances Chino Henriquez would be described as a natural leader; however, this would conflict with the ethos of the co-operative of which he is General Manager. Instead, Chino sees himself as a cog in a system, incapable of completing his work without his team to back him up.

Founder of the Chilean honey and blueberry co-operative Apicoop, located in the city of Paillaco, Chino has steered the organization through some life-changing challenges, like diversification from honey into blueberries and even natural disaster. Recently Calbuco volcano erupted and wiped out a substantial amount of their crop, and could have been fatal to so many of the bees they so lovingly nurture. Sadly this latest natural disaster is not an isolated incident; Apicoop workers face constant adversity with frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Hardships For Agriculture In Chile

Chino faces these hardships head on, explaining that it’s simply part of local life. Yes, they lost 5,000 hives in the disaster. The fact that they’re a co-operative, though, means they don’t just rely on one area for production.

With 28 permanent employees and 400 seasonal blueberry pickers to oversee, there is no time for sadness or hesitancy. Instead, Chino notes a need for hard work and perseverance to get things back in order. First of all, he asks co-op members in turmoil how he can help so they don’t feel alone. No matter the loss — bees, hives, honey — the co-op creates a plan for rejuvenation. Chino found one solution was to pay beekeepers in advance for the next year’s crop.

“They belong to a family,” Chino says. “There is no need for them to feel alone.”

To be honest, the whole “creating a plan” aspect wasn’t so easy during the recent volcanic eruption. Within four hours the hives and surrounding landscape were covered in hot ash. Amazingly, though, the hives that were dug out still had living bees.

Chino believes the miracle has to with the ash, explaining, “It was like a stack of small marbles. This meant there was air between one marble and another, so no lack of oxygen. If the ash had been denser they wouldn’t have survived.”

The hives were moved to a neighboring area and are now fully recovered, though it will take far longer for the landscape to return to its former state — 10 years at the very least. Sure, in a couple of centuries that area will be highly fertile again; but in the short term Chino and his team will focus on getting trees growing again.

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Making Dreams Come True

Apicoop farmers diversified into blueberry production almost a decade ago, financed by a UK organization called Shared Interest. Another loan followed to buy machinery to help with packaging.

And Chino’s dreams don’t just stop there. Along with honey and blueberries, he wants a brand new purpose-built facility stretching over 4,000 square meters. Designed by the workers themselves, Chino explains how it has been a labor of love.

“Everybody in the co-op had a say in this project; every single department was consulted in the design of the building which is due to open in October 2017.”

In the meantime, Chino is keen to let Shared Interest investors in the UK know their support really is changing lives. He concludes, “Please do trust that you are directly supporting development in different parts of the world, in areas that need it even more than ours. After all, the dreams of an entire community may never see fruition just because of a lack of funds. Thanks to Shared Interest, we can work together to create livelihoods and make dreams a reality all over the world.”

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Get Involved

If you live in the United Kingdom and would like to become an investor in Shared Interest, please click here to find out more.

Want to learn more about the life of a beekeeper and blueberry farmer? You can visit Chino’s community on our Meet the People Tour to Chile

Highlights of the tour include:
– A glass of local beer in Valdivia made with honey from Apicoop.
– A tour of Santiago giving insight into General Pinochet’s regime.
– Heading to the district of Paillaco to see Apicoop again, this time to learn about their production of blueberries, which can be found in Traidcraft’s GeoBars. You will spend a little time hearing about the organization of the co-operative before meeting some of the workers who process Apicoop’s blueberries.

It’s a cultural experience not to be missed, especially as it benefits the community you’re visiting.

Meet the People Chile Group

By Stina Porter of Shared Interest Society

Mzuzu coffee in Malawi

Malawi is a little known gem in the heart of Africa, a small country of diverse beauty, friendly people and amazing wildlife. We spend our time in Northern Malawi viewing game and relaxing in one of the country’s incredible national parks before visiting smallholder farmers growing coffee, rice and peanuts. 

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Our first fair trade visit will be to the farmers who produce the delicious coffee from Traidcraft’s single origin Malawi coffee and we’ll enjoy a cup of coffee while learning about coffee production and the benefits Fairtrade has brought to the cooperative. Moving on to Karonga, we visit rice farmers who have been working with Just Trading Scotland and we’ll visit a school involved in the 90kg of rice ‘send a child to school’ project. We then spend a few days on the shores of magical lake Malawi before our tour draws to a close with a visit to Liberation’s peanut producers close to the border with Zambia.

Malawi (60) LiberationWe work with local partners in Malawi who help us develop our itineraries and provide local guides and logistics for all of our tours. Alongside keeping all of our travellers safe and comfortable, our priority is also to support the local tourism initiatives and businesses, and as we travel and we will visit communities engaged and benefiting from these projects. Our holidays run in June each year during the coffee harvest – the perfect season for travelling as temperatures are warm but not too hot and there is little chance of rain. Malawi is often known as ‘the warm heart of Africa’ and on this tour we can expect beaming smiles and welcoming handshakes everywhere we go!

Click here for more information about our Malawi Holiday and click here to request a tour dossier with a day by day itinerary.

Alternatively contact Lizzie for more information:
Email: lizzie@skedaddle.com or Call: 0191 2651110