Friday, May 2, 2014

Community support of Fair Trade

Sometimes you plan, sometimes things just happen…

Our first couple of weeks have been really busy but successful. We’ve managed to pull off quite a lot regardless of adapting to the new environment, with the help of the national volunteers. We are realising the enormity of the task in hand but also what our individual skills & abilities can bring to benefit the ongoing work of INCOME Project with TradeAID. The previous cohort did a great job getting the ball rolling on Bolgatanga becoming a Fair Trade town and emphasising the benefits of Fair Trade and international export to Bolgatanga and the Upper East Region. We’ve been stepping into their shoes by organising the second Steering Committee meeting, which has fallen right at the start of the placement.

Sometimes you plan and other times things just happen…just be ready when they do!

Appearance on the radio
We had barely stepped into the office when an appearance on local radio was in sight. So Carla, Desmond, Conrad & Emily headed over to Ghanaian Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) - URA Radio (87.5 fm if you’re in Northern Ghana) - to get the word out about fair-trade and the campaign for fair-trade town status. It was a surreal mixture of economic commentary and reggae, think BBC Radio 1 Extra spliced with Radio 4. Emily’s dancing between sets earned her the title ‘Reggae Queen’ from our host, DJ Kimo. We had no need to be nervous, he made us very welcome (as do most people in Ghana), and asked us questions to get TradeAID’s message across to his listeners. It was encouraging to respond to their questions, which showed that there was real excitement around the prospect of international interest in the traditional crafts of the region, like our very own ‘Bolga Baskets’.

Discussing Fair Trade on URA Radio

Meeting the Regional Minister and Deputy Regional Minister
The encouragement from the Regional Minister and Deputy Regional Minister in support of the Fair Trade Town campaign has been one of the highlights of our work so far.  He showed real interest and was really pleased with the concept. He was on board as he is into projecting a better image of the region, and fair trade will raise the income of the craft workers and reduce unemployment among the youth. He’s particularly keen on one of the Fair Trade goals which is inserting local co-operatives of craft workers into the global Fair Trade market and getting more businesses certified to do so.

The Steering Committee for Fair Trade Town Status
The Deputy Regional Minister
Chairing the Steering Committee
Our work so far culminated in the first full meeting of the Fair Trade town Steering Committee (after the inauguration last month), chaired by the Hon. Deputy Regional Minister Daniel Syme. We gave a short presentation which showed fairly equal input from everyone in the team – a really rewarding aspect of the work so far – followed by an agenda which raised pertinent questions and issues from the Committee. There were a diverse group of individuals who have a stake in improving the local economy, regional politicians, and other trade officials as well as craft workers themselves with us. 

We are lucky to have been able to host such a gathering so soon in our time here, with pretty much anyone who is anyone involved with promoting the culture and economy of the Upper East! It proved to be an excellent chance to promote Fair Trade and encouraged networking between the organisations present. 

The Regional Minister addressing the Steering Committee members

 By the end, the precise role of separate parties, such as the Centre for National Culture, the Municipal Assembly, and the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (for example) were discussed and delegated by the Chair. The objectives of the meeting were met and there was a successful handover of responsibilities to the community representatives.  We very much look forward to working on our designated priorities and meeting again for the next meeting in a month.

Next steps
After the drama and ‘just letting things happen’ it will be brilliant to get our heads down and do focus on what is feasible over the next few weeks. But it’s worth being open to the occasional power cut and loss of internet in the process. Just think what else might turn up? This week will allow us that time, as we’ve been quite rushed. Each of us have a ‘chunk’ of INCOME we are prepared to take forward in time for the next cohort. So we have to know our limits and our capabilities well as we move on. The real challenge is to set and reach some finite goals which will benefit the work of TradeAID and raise the profile of Fair Trade in the local area. I think it’s important to remember who you have around you and to put your faith in the team rather than run the race on your own. I commend the national volunteers Desmond, Mathilda and McDavies again as without them we would all literally be lost (in life and in work!). 

And that’s it for now. So I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and we look forward to sharing more with you soon, peace.


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