buy right eat well-home
buy right eat well-home
The Fairtrade Foundation had a good year in 2008, capped by the executive director, Harriet Lamb, being named businesswoman of the year in the UK. And for thousands of farmers and small-scale food producers around the world, Fairtrade continued to be the most important factor in being able to achieve a decent living standard.
In a nutshell, what Fairtrade does is set ethical standards within the food industry, including a guaranteed market price. This means that farmers selling bananas in the Dominican Republic, for example, are sure of receiving a minimum wage for themselves, while part of the proceeds go toward a social fund that contributes to developing schools, sanitation and health care within their communities. What sets Fairtrade apart from other similar organisations like the Rainforest Organisation and Bio Equitable (a French scheme for organic produce) is that Fairtrade’s main aim is to tackle poverty, rather than to supply gourmet or organic foods. And what began as small outlets for t-shirts, bananas, coffee and chocolate is now spreading to supermarkets, cultural centres, cafés and restaurants.
Certification is key to ensuring that your euros are going towards these good causes, and the only authentic mark—audited by an independent company called Flo-Cert in Germany—is Fairtrade’s logo, a green and blue yin and yang (presumably suggesting water and land in balanced harmony). The rule is, if it doesn’t bear the distinctive hallmark, then don’t trust it to be Fairtrade. And if Fairtrade doesn’t always get it right, such as when a Fairtrade farm in Peru was discovered to be paying under the minimum wage in 2006, it is on the whole a trustworthy name and these glitches are sorted out promptly.
In Spain, fair trade is called comercio justo (in Catalan, comerç just), and its branding is rather more oblique. There are a myriad of labels to sift through, though on the whole trusted sources can be found at www.consumosolidario.org, which gives a reliable list of products, where they come from and who makes them. As to where to find those products here, the Fairtrade Foundation’s Spanish website, wwww.sellocomerciojusto.org, provides a long list of places that stock comercio justo products.
In 2007, sales of these products soared here by 105 percent over the preceding year, according to La Asociación del Sello FAIRTRADE-Comercio Justo, demonstrating a clear desire among people in Spain to buy items with a social and environmental conscience. Increasingly, fair-trade tea, coffee and chocolate is present in supermarkets and health-food stores across Catalunya, but actually people have embraced the concept as a much larger whole, using it to springboard their own actions.
La Xarxa de Consum Solidari (XCS) was established back in 1996 to promote fair trade in agriculture, and responsible consumerism. They work specifically with women, small producers around the world and ethnic groups using the Fairtrade model.
In addition, XCS strives for as much organic production as possible and is active in supporting projects from the production or growth of a product, right through to its final sale. The headquarters, located in La Ribera, is as much a cultural centre as a shop, offering a mine of information on the various projects it supports from ecological coffee from Chiapas, grown by indigenous Indians in the southeastern cordillera of Mexico, to locally-made organic turrones. It’s also a good place to find out about courses in the area, or stock up on books about alternative lifestyles.
The cult book, Supermercados, No Gracias, by Xavier Montagut and Esther Vivas, while a little dry in its textbook style, does provide thought-provoking insights on the impact that our weekly shops in the big chain stores has on the little guy further down the food chain. The message comes through loud and clear: if we use our markets and small shops just a little more often, we can make a difference. Barcelona is one of few European cities still boasting a significant number of municipal markets, one (more or less) for each of its neighbourhoods. We should protect them by using them.
Up the road from XCS, the diminutive Mescladís takes things a step further by not only supporting the Fairtrade concept, but by funnelling its resources directly back into the community. Proceeds from the café ultimately support the work of the Fundació Ciutadania Multicultural, which aims at the social and cultural integration of immigrants with a specific focus on women and children. Professional cooking classes are offered for young, disadvantaged people looking for opportunities in the workplace. The café also hosts cooking workshops for kids and pensioners, and craft workshops. They are generally free.
Founded three years ago by Argentinean Martín Habiague, the idea is to create a place where ideas are welcomed, and where social and cultural barriers are torn down. Volunteers are welcomed to help with cooking classes, work in the café or generally just help out where needed (see website below for details). Food and cooking were chosen, said Habiague, because they constitute a universal language that can bring the community together and get people talking to one another. “It’s a place to lose our fears and learn to live together.”
Initiatives for kids are particularly relevant at a time when the obesity epidemic is out of control (Spain currently ranks 12th in world obesity statistics, with 13.1 percent of the nation severely overweight, according to www.nationmaster.com) and people have forgotten how to cook. It’s a small step for mankind, a giant one for immigrant communities in Barcelona.
Mescladís is also a small, sweet space offering a tasty range of healthy, home-cooked food, eminently affordable, especially in these tough financial times. The menu changes weekly offering dishes like tabuleh (€5) or fish baked in a bag (€7.80). The house special is a wide range of golden, succulent empanadas with an assortment of fillings (beef, chicken, ham and cheese, vegetarian, Catalan spinach with pinenuts and raisins) and fabulous home-made cakes and fruit pies. Feeding your conscience has never tasted so good.
TOP FIVE COMERCIO JUSTO PRODUCTS
Café de Chiapas
A rich organic coffee from the Montañas de los Pájaros in southeastern Mexico. Made from 100-percent Arabica beans, it’s guaranteed to put a spring in your step in the mornings.
Campolandai Miel de Bosque
Made by a Rioja-based company these organically certified honeys are intensely flavoured, rich and aromatic.
Comerç Just Torró
A creamy textured turró made with unrefined sugar, Ecuadorian cocoa beans and organic fruit and nuts from agricultural cooperatives in Tarragona. It is made by the family firm Chocolates Solé, based in Barcelona.
Sodepar Muesli Cruncho
A slow-release energy breakfast that includes local organic oats, Ecuadorian cane sugar, sesame seeds and cashew nuts.
Vinagre de Manzana Ecológico, Vinagrerías Riojanas
One of nature’s super foods, vinagre de manzana (apple vinegar) has untold benefits thanks to its unusually high potassium content. Great for combating the onset of diabetes, aiding weight loss and improving digestion; many Japanese swear by a couple of teaspoons a day, mixed in water, as a health tonic.
Mescladís, Plaça Sant Pere 5 (La Ribera);
Tel. 93 295 5012; www.mescladis.org
XCS tienda y cooperativa; Pl. Sant Agustí Vell 15; Tel. 93 268 2202;
Tienda Racó de la Natura; Roselló 42 bajos; Tel. 93 419 3562
Supermercados, No Gracias, by Xavier Montagut and Esther Vivas
(Icaria Editorial, 2007; €16.50)