ASHBOURNE is one of a cluster of five towns in the Derbyshire Dales area with Fairtrade accreditation, where shoppers can choose from a huge variety of products, from gifts to groceries, to show their support for improving workers’ conditions and pay in developing countries.
Fairtrade is a trading agreement which guarantees a minimum price to farmers that reflects their production costs.
Producers also receive a Fairtrade Premium for them to invest in community development - which is often used to fund healthcare clin ics, improve school facilities or even just bring basics we take for granted, such as clean water and electric, to their village.
Ashbourne gained its recognition as a Fairtrade town in 2005 and since then the number of shops and businesses offering accredited products has increased substantially, with more than 40 organisations, pledging support for the initiative.
Other accredited towns in the area include Bakewell, Darley Dales, Matlock and Wirksworth.
When shoppers see the instantly recognisable logo they know that the product has been certified to offer a better deal to the farmers and workers involved.
But it takes a lot of hard work and commitment for a town to become accredited, with five very specific goals to be met.
A local steering group must be convened to ensure the Fairtrade Town campaign continues to develop and gain new support.
The local council has to pass a resolution supporting the scheme, and agree to serve products in meetings, offices and canteens.
At least four product ranges have to be readily available in the area’s retail outlets such as shops, supermarkets, newsagents and petrol stations and two products served in local catering outlets including cafés, restaurants and pubs.
Local workplaces and community organisations, including churches and schools, have to support the scheme and use its products whenever possible.
Finally, the steering group needs to work with local media to ensure regular coverage and organise events to raise awareness and understanding of Fairtrade across the community.
Stuart Green, who was part of the original committee set up to gain the town’s accreditation, and who continues to campaign tirelessly to raise awareness and support for the programme said: “Ashbourne Fairtrade Town Initiative has been promoting Fairtrade in the area for several years, and Ashbourne was the first town in rural Derbyshire to gain Fairtrade Town status.
“There are over 20 shops, cafes and restaurants in and around Ashbourne that stock Fairtrade, with many local organisations and businesses offering its products to their members and staff.
“The Fairtrade Fortnight, an annual UK-wide initiative, will be running from Monday, February 24 to Sunday, March 9, and the focus this year is on bananas.
“In the last 10 years, the UK supermarket sector has almost halved the shelf price of loose bananas while the cost of producing them has doubled, trapping many of the farmers and workers who grow them in a cycle of poverty.
“Happily, Fairtrade bananas are now available from many of our local supermarkets. We encourage all shoppers to look for the logo when they’re buying bananas – and if they’re not available to ask for them.
“Fairtrade provides a vital safety net for banana farmers and workers, by paying a minimum price that aims to cover the costs of sustainable production, and an additional premium that farmers can use to invest in community projects or to improve their businesses. In fact, in 2011, Fairtrade Premiums delivered an additional £12 million to banana producer organisations.
“Of course, there’s much more to it than bananas. Tea, coffee, sugar, chocolate, wine, spices and much more are available locally.
“You can find a map showing local supporters on the Ashbourne Fairtrade website www.ashbournefairtrade.org.uk and if your business would like to pledge to support the scheme, please get in touch.”
One of the first supermarkets in the area to get heavily involved with the label was the Co-operative.
Andrew Ball, Ashbourne Co-operative store manager, said: “As an ethical retailer, Central England Co-operative is firmly committed to supporting Fairtrade with a range of fairly traded food and drink and activities all year round.
“The Co-operative was the first major retailer to stock Fairtrade goods in the early ‘90s and Fairtrade Fortnight is very much an important time of year for us to celebrate within the local communities.”
A wander round the town reveals plenty of other places proudly showing off their certification.
Natural Choice, in St John Street, has a range of items on sale including some beautifully carved wood products, with mango wood from Indonesia and olive wood from Bethlehem.
In addition to this, there is a range of food products, including chocolate, with many being organic as well as Fairtrade branded.
The Village Rainbow, also in St John Street, has a bright and colourful array of jewellery and trinkets on offer, from exotic locations such as Guatemala, India, Colombia and Nepal.
If it’s clothing you are looking for, then the Equatorial shop, on Victoria Square, is a veritable treasure trove of skirts, tops, jackets, hats and handbags.
Pachacuti, in Dig Street, has won several awards for its range of cotton, and is well-known for being the place to go for ethically sourced Panama hats. (Which actually originate from Ecuador.)
More information on Fairtrade is available online at www.fairtrade.org.uk