Celebrating a fairer future for South Africa

Our journey in South Africa is set against a backdrop of truly stunning scenery, but this trip is far more than just seeing the sights. As we discover the lingering impacts of years of apartheid, we celebrate the role of fair trade as the country works towards a more equal and fairer future.

Table MountainOur 14 day tour begins with a memorable visit to Robben Island, one of the Cape Peninsula’s World Heritage Sites, to visit the prison where Nelson Mandela was kept for 18 years. During the visit we understand why the island is described as the unique symbol of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, suffering and injustice, as our guide for the afternoon, a former political prisoner, provides a personal insight into what life was like in the prison.

In the Northern Cape we visit Eksteenskuil Agricultural Co-operative (EAC). Traidcraft’s relationship with EAC began in 1995 and with their support they became the world’s first supplier of Fairtrade raisins.  We also meet the growers at Heiveld Co-operative, an organic tea co-operatives. At Heiveld, the Rooibos tea is grown and processed in the traditional way with minimal use of machinery and is harvested carefully by hand.

Raisin FarmersAlong the way we also visit the botanical gardens at Kirstenbosch with its unique flora, the famous wine producing area around Stellenbosch, and of course, Table Mountain itself. A visit with a local guide to a township and a children’s HIV/AIDS project also highlight the realities of some people’s lives in this part of South Africa.

PellaThis holiday is perfect for anyone interested in fair trade looking for an opportunity to meet the people behind the products and see the impact of fair trade. For more information on our holiday click here or contact us in the office on 0191 2651110 or at info@skedaddle.com 

Cocoa, Bananas and Palm Oil…

Meet the People travellers Arton and Christine tell us about their experiences during our wonderful tour in Ghana.

Ten degrees in Lancaster in mid November seems very cold a day after returning from Ghana where the midday maximum was over 30 degrees. We were part of a group of twelve people whose interest in fair trade had caused us all to use our holiday money on a Traidcraft  ‘Meet the People’ tour to Ghana visiting  growers of fair trade cocoa, palm oil and bananas.

Divine Chocolate

Within twenty four hours after landing in Manchester we were in the Parish Hall setting out the Traidcraft stall which sold cleaning products that used palm oil, and Divine chocolate made from the cocoa grown in the areas that we had just visited. The contrast in weather could be felt but the direct link between us and the producers also felt very strong.

The fortnight included visits to cultural centres and Kakum National Park, a cruise on Lake Volta, and an exposure to the barbarities of slavery – inland at Slave River, and on the coast at Elmina Castle where, branded and shackled, slaves were forcibly embarked on ships for their transatlantic voyage. These visits are all part of any tourist holiday in Ghana, but our main purpose was to meet people at work on their farms and processing plants, in towns and in villages to see how fair trade was helping them improve their quality of life.

Ghana Beach

The cocoa farmers we visited in Amankwaatia are all members of the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative which has over 80,000 members and produces some 6% of Ghana’s cocoa. The farmers’ smallholdings are about eight acres (3.24ha) in area with about half growing food crops for subsistence and local markets, and the other half growing cocoa trees. When asked what was the main benefit of belonging to a Fairtrade group the answer was that they had been able to build  a school in the village so the children did not have to walk a long way to school.

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In the different areas that we visited we saw other schools built from the Fairtrade Premium which is an additional sum of money on top of the minimum price of the product. It is the people themselves who decide how this premium will be spent. There were also new boreholes providing the clean water which was head-loaded in large metal bowls (wider than the shoulders of the teenager carrying them) from the pump back to their home. Improvements to clinics and health services in the villages were other areas chosen for communal benefit.

The palm oil producers farmed in a similar co-operative structure to Kuapa Kokoo and we saw the processing plant on a dark wet evening with smoke and steam from the wood-fired boilers providing scenes reminiscent of a stage-set for Hades.

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We also saw banana processing, and a secondary school built with Fairtrade premium funds. The Fairtade banana growing is large scale with four sites cultivating 600 acres (approx 250ha) of bananas and producing 5000 to 6000 tons of bananas a year. The growing and processing is meticulous with the workers even having pillows on their shoulders so as not to bruise the stems  of bananas as they carry them to the conveyor system.

Trashy Bags Sewing

Other producers we visited included Trashy Bags, who made all sorts of goods from plastic bags, Cedi beads making bangles and necklaces from local materials, and Global Mamas which sells beautiful printed materials and clothing produced by women in their own homes.

So back to the Autumn Sale where by buying fairly traded products from the Craft Aid or ESME stalls (over £700 was taken on the day) you will have helped people much less well off than we are. By continuing to use fair trade goods in your regular shopping throughout the year you can make a real difference to people’s lives.

For more information on our tour to Ghana click here, call Hannah in the office on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.com

Chicuchas Wasi School for Girls in Cusco

Our introduction to Chicuchas Wasi
We were first introduced to Chicuchas Wasi, School for Girls by our guide Efrain Valles who is an active board member and advocate for the school. Providing an education for young girls in the Cusco region, Chicuchas Wasi is a charity really close to Efrain’s heart and we always make a visit during our tours.

Efrain at Chicuchas Wasi(2)Alternative School for Girls, Cusco
Chicuchas Wasi began in 1987 creating a safe space offering nutrition, health care, school, life skills to abandoned children, some as young as 6 years old, surviving alone on the streets of Cusco. Whilst there was a need to provide emergency care for these children, there was concern that it did not address the many reasons for their suffering.

In Peru, public education up to 16 years is free, but in reality many families living in poverty cannot afford uniforms, books, and transportation, thus making it impossible for many children to attend school. In poor families the priority is to educate the boys, and many girls are relied upon for domestic chores and are brought up to depend on men for survival. Chicuchas Wasi were seeing girls become pregnant as early as 13, and with no education or skills, those finding themselves without male support were totally unprepared to provide for their families and their children were being abandoned through desperation.

In 1997, recognising the need for female education, Chicuchas Wasi reorganised to prepare and educate poor girls to become future leaders for social change, and to end gender inequality, abuse and child abandonment.

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Chicuchas Wasi provides free, primary education, emphasising personal development, empowerment, and academics. They stress personal values, integrity, self-esteem and social responsibility for an adult life of quality, dignity, and financial independence. Chicuchas Wasi School maintains a big presence in the community with cultural celebrations, supporting social and women’s issues and to spread the value and importance of education for girls.

Visiting Chicuchas Wasi
Our visits to Chicuchas Wasi are always a memorable and celebrated experience as we see for ourselves the amazing work that is being pioneered in their community. You can find out more information about our tours to Peru and Chicuchas Wasi by clicking here.

Friends of Chicuchas Wasi
The charity Friends of Chicuchas Wasi was set up in February 2011 by a group of travellers from the 2010 Meet the People Tour to Peru to support the school and share news of its progress. Following Efrain’s visit to run the London Marathon in 2012, the charity became the vehicle for giving for many of Efrain’s ex-tour friends and so far over £40,000 has been collected and transferred to the school.

The charity holds an AGM for members once a year, which is an opportunity to hear more news on the school, to meet with fellow Peru Tour friends, and to hear about other Traidcraft Meet the People Tours. This is normally held in Birmingham on a Saturday in the spring or early summer.

Becoming a Member
Membership of the charity is open to all who would like to donate to Chicuchas Wasi. There is a similar but larger support group in California who share news and pictures from Cusco which are circulated through the Friends of Chicuchas Wasi to members in the UK.

If you are interested in becoming a Member or Associate of the Friends of Chicuchas Wasi please email Michael Tunnicliffe at mtunni@sky.com

Donating to Chicuchas Wasi
The Friends of Chicuchas Wasi welcomes regular or one-off donations from supporters of the school and there are a number of ways to donate:

paymentPlease notify Michael (mtunni@sky.com) of any BACs payments. The charity is registered for Gift Aid so please indicate if your donation is eligible for this to Michael, either in your email or in a note along with a cheque. He will then send you the Gift Aid form to complete and return to him.

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Explore Costa Rica on our new 2017 tour!

From the white sands of the Caribbean, our journey takes us past geothermal springs, lush cloud forest, and includes visits to inspiring fair trade groups.

In a country where roughly a quarter of land is protected in parks and reserves we’ll meet farmers whose passion for fair trade and working in harmony with nature is protecting their future.

We meet the proud growers of a whole host of delicious goodies. Tasting pineapple and mangoes fresh from the fields and enjoying the rich aroma of fair trade coffee brewing on the farm, are only some of the highlights of this new tour.

Our tour also takes us on a journey through stunning natural scenery as we explore volcanic craters, relax in hot springs, watch the weather as we pass over the Continental Divide, spot monkeys and sloths hanging about in the National Parks!

For more information about our November tour visit our website by clicking here. Or contact Lizzie and Bex in the office by calling 0191 2651110 or  emailing us at info@skedaddle.co.uk 

CHILE TRAVEL ALERT: DIRECT FLIGHTS TO SANTIAGO

Calling all fair trade enthusiasts! South America just got a lot closer…

Our Meet the People Tour to Chile has always been a firm favourite for Skedaddle. As well as being the birthplace of our company, we’re lovers of MiFruta’s raisins, Lautaro’s wine, and Apicoop’s honey of course! So news that the first ever DIRECT flight from the UK to Chile has finally arrived has us beaming ear-to-ear.

How to get there?
Thanks to BA, as of the first week of 2017, you can fly direct from London Heathrow to Santiago – yippee! Telegraph Travel tell us more:

“Chile is of enormous appeal to leisure travellers, especially those looking for adventure, exploration and experiences, thanks to its outstanding and diverse natural beauty and attractions and its great food and wine.”

For more information see the Telegraph travel’s article in full by clicking here.

Feeling inspired?
For us, visiting Chile is about more than simply enjoying the stunning landscapes and tucking in to delicious local food and wine (although that’s always part of the experience too!). Our Meet the People Tour of Chile is about getting under the skin of a seemingly well-developed and comfortable nation. It’s learning about the challenges that you don’t hear about, it’s hearing from farmers and activists striving for better. It’s hearing inspiring stories of fair trade, solidarity, empowerment and overcoming adversity.

Thanks to BA’s direct flights, it has got a whole lot easier and quicker to make all this happen and we would like to invite you to join us!

Find out more about our trip to Enchanting Chile by clicking here.

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

Southern India: An Insider’s View

Rachael and Simon enjoy a Taste of Southern India!

Traidcraft’s Product Manager Rachael Colquhoun and Key Account Manager Simon Pickersgill set off on our Meet the People Tour of Southern India in January. Rachael reports on the first week of their tour, revealing just how much of an adventure they are having…

When I was first asked if I’d like to be part of the India Meet the People tour I didn’t hesitate in saying yes and Simon was exactly the same. Meeting the people behind products is something we’ve both wanted to do since joining Traidcraft and we couldn’t wait to be on our way. When writing this at the end of our first week, the trip has been everything we hoped it would be and more.

After a long journey of 26 hours we finally arrived in Kalpetta which is a town in Wayanad district in the Indian state of Kerala and since then it’s been full steam ahead. It’s still quite surreal that we are actually here and experiencing this whole new vibrant culture and I am loving what each new day brings. Curry at every meal time is talking a bit of getting used to, but when in Rome!

On our second day we visited coffee farmers from Fair Trade Alliance Kerala (FTAK) who produce our classic blend coffee. The two hour drive up the mountains flew by as I gazed out of the window taking in the breath taking scenery. I was surprised to see that you don’t go far in India without coming across a village decorated with brightly coloured houses and shops selling an array of items – everything from fruit, mostly bananas, to sheets of shiny roof metal!

We visited three farmers at FTAK who were incredibly friendly and welcoming. Whilst coffee is their main crop they also have others on their land including pepper, oranges, coconut, pineapple, tapioca and rubber to name but a few.

It was interesting to find out that a number of the farmers are moving into organic coffee as pesticides are expensive and they receive more for organic beans. The majority of the beans grown by FTAK are Robusta, as it is more suited to the land and yields higher crops for the farmers. It was great to see that all of the farmers that we visited had electricity and their own well.

FTAK is clearly an innovator in the fair trade movement, going above and beyond fair trade by developing a strategy called ‘fair trade plus three’. The strategy focuses on biodiversity, food security and gender equality. In three years their goal is to go from 4,000 farmers to 10,000 – for farmers to become more self-sufficient and bring women to the front line and empower them. They are also encouraging biodiversity which is encouraging.

After a busy morning FTAK were very kind and hosted us for lunch which was welcomed after a busy morning in the farms and we were not disappointed. Lunch was served up on a banana leaf, a good way to save on washing up! It was beautifully presented and tasted delicious with a stark contrast of fresh and crisp coconut and spicy peppercorn. All finished off with some cardamom water. It certainly beat my usual lunch of soup at Traidcraft HQ hands down!

 

IMG_3835 (2)On Tuesday we met a cashew nut farmer and some members of his family. Like many farmers they have diversified and are now growing rubber trees, although it will take 7 years before a harvest. Simon made lots of new friends when a group of children from the neighbourhood took a shine to him, amazingly they are now adding Simon on Facebook!

In the afternoon we visited the coconut processing factory which was something I was really looking forward to and I was not disappointed! We saw how they make dried coconut, coconut oil and virgin coconut oil which was a very long, hot and noisy process! We also met Tommy Matthews, founder of FTAK, a truly inspirational leader and fair trade pioneer that described fair trade as ‘an iceberg in a sea of poverty’. A definite highlight of my trip so far!

Today we’ve visited a church and synagogue and museum and have a free afternoon to have a look around Kochi, an old port which is very different to our last destination and is far more catered to tourists and back packers. I quite liked being off the beaten track but it’s nice to have cold water again and pancakes for breakfast!

An incredible first week in India and if this week is anything to go by I have high hopes for the rest of the trip!

For more details on our A Taste of Southern India Tour then you can click here to view the holiday page or you can request a tour dossier here.

For more photos from Rachael and Simon and from all of our Southern India Tours you can browse our Flickr Gallery here.

For more information about any of our tours and to ask questions please contact Lizzie or Paul at Skedaddle on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.co.uk

Western India: A sneak peek…

Alison Marsh headed off to Asia to explore our Western India tour. We caught up with her to find out how she got on:

Few are strangers to the pearly white majesty of the Taj Mahal, just one of the amazing features you can discover during our Western India Tour. Whilst one of India’s most impressive historical gems awaits in Western India, even greater national treasures can be discovered here as we explore some of the country’s best crafts, as well as the people behind these exquisite creations.

Having heard of the amazing experiences up for grabs and with the exotic sights of India on her travel bucket list, Alison headed off on our Indian adventure to soak up the sights for herself. Here’s what she thought of our tour:

The best bits…
India has always held a fascination for me so I was delighted when I had the opportunity to accompany the Western India tour. It was amazing! We visited Traidcraft producers including Creative Handicrafts, Aravali block printers and Tara stone works was truly inspirational, and possibly the most heart-warming highlight of the tour for me was St Mary’s. We also visited other projects, which included Shrujan and Qasab, where exquisite hand embroidery and textiles are produced using traditional techniques. I was totally captivated by the skill and commitment of the women in the villages, who produce the finest embroidery I have ever seen.

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Other highlights…
We also visited Agrocel to learn about their organic farming methods and the Vivekananda Research & Training Institute where we were treated to a delightful cultural show by the school children. Let’s not forget about the tourist visits which included spectacular temples, historic buildings, the amazing Amber Fort at Jaipur (my personal favourite), the Red Fort at Agra and of course the Taj Mahal, which needs no introduction!

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Food for thought…
Everyone loves food and no-one more than me! The choice in India was amazing and simply delicious, especially the lunchtime buffets that were prepared for us by the producers. The options were mainly vegetarian, particularly in the more rural areas we visited, with meat and fish more widely available in the bigger cities. Full of spices, of course, but there was always a choice from mild to really spicy, and, if you wanted a break, then pasta, noodles and pizza were usually available too.

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My top tips
Hey I could wax lyrical all day, but you have to see it for yourself to truly appreciate it. Having sampled the delights of this extraordinary country I have two pieces of wisdom that I think could help make your experiences that little bit better:

  1. Travel with an open mind
  2. Allow yourself to be immersed in the sights, sounds and chaos that makes India truly unique.

I’m sold and I’m sure you will be too.

Whilst away Alison managed to lend her hand to some videography and for a real flavour of this tour, check out our first ever Meet the People video below:

Alison took on our Crafts and Cotton of Western India tour. For more information about this tour click here, call us in the office on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.com.

Producer Highlight: St Mary’s Embroidery and Tailoring

Where: India
Trip: Crafts and Cotton of Western India

How did the project start?
This embroidery project was set up up in 1970 in the slum area of Gomtipur, Ahmedabad. It grew from work of the Spanish Dominican sisters who arrived in Ahmedabad in 1954. The sisters of St Mary’s are therefore both Indian and Spanish.

How does it work?
Production began, leading to the sewing and embroidery centre, where women use traditional skills to make beautiful handicrafts. Today there are 400 women embroidering in their own homes and 50 working at St Mary’s.

How does this benefit the community?
St Mary’s employs disadvantaged local women and provides income and social support in an area where opportunities are scarce and women can be disempowered. Work also gives the women a sense of identity and helps the break -down of cultural rivalries.

St Mary’s also has an associated clinic, maternity unit and nursing home – with a mother and child care programme. In addition it has a social programme based in the surrounding area. Based in a mixed Hindu, Muslim and Christian area has provided a tough history in the past with riots forcing many to leave their homes. St Mary’s was a place of refuge during troubles and has worked with other agencies on re-housing and rehabilitation for the future.

An example of their amazing work…
Traidcraft contributes to approximately 10% of the company’s sales and St Mary’s crafts can be found on their website. Click here to see an example of their products which you can purchase.

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Feeling inspired? If you’d like to meet the inspiring women behind this project join us on our Western India tour where you get the chance to visit St Mary’s and watch the creation of these incredible crafts. For more information click here.

Celebrating Women around the World

In celebration of World Fair Trade Day we wanted to share the stories of some of the most amazing women behind the products you’ll visit with us. So, time then to check out our top 4 fairtrade products and the women behind them:

  1. Vietnam – Crafts. We visit Mai handicrafts, an organisation set up in 1990 by two women, which aims to help poor, disadvantaged women in Vietnam by helping to sell their local handicrafts both internationally and locally. The women’s work here is incredibly diverse, ranging from lovely fabric purses to the popular crochet items.
  2. Peru – Alpaca knits. The women of the Collosuyo communities in the high Andes always provide a fantastically warm welcome when we visit! Having been mastering this dramatic landscape for years, they know a thing or two about spinning a fine fabric from the Alpacas that they live alongside!
  3. Thailand – Hand-made silk products. Travellers to Northern Thailand will have the pleasure of meeting the inspiring women from the Panmai cooperative, who have masterfully developed and shared their traditional silk-spinning, natural dyeing and weaving skills. This is an inspirational effort ensuring their rural community can help support their young people.
  4. Swaziland – Chillis. One of our new tours for 2017 is an incredibly exciting tour in Africa, visiting the chilli grandmothers of Swaziland! For the past five years, these ladies have been growing chillis for Black Mamba’s range of sauces and pestos. Keep your eyes peeled for more information!

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