Fairtrade Fortnight kicks off on February 27, encouraging shoppers to spend in more ethical ways that support producers, and help to protect the planet.

Championing the mission at a local level is Ipswich Fairtrade Streeting Group, which is proud to mark Ipswich's 15th year of Fairtrade Town status in 2023 -  recognition of its work encouraging Fairtrade sales, and spreading the word locally in schools, businesses and places of worship.

Group chair, Elaine Coltham first became heavily involved in Ipswich's bid for the status when she attended a council meeting in 2005 with her daughter, signing up to the town steering group. The collective have a shared interest, she says, in reducing poverty around the world.

East Anglian Daily Times: Elaine Coltham with the Mayor of Ipswich and members of the Ipswich Fairtrade Steering Group at The Fair Trade ShopElaine Coltham with the Mayor of Ipswich and members of the Ipswich Fairtrade Steering Group at The Fair Trade Shop (Image: Charlotte Bond, Newsquest)

 “We meet regularly to plan events and outreach to the community. We’re quite a small group for a large town, but we always welcome new members,” she says, adding that although gaining status in 2008 was an achievement, they "have to carry on building on those goals, inspiring people in Ipswich by doing outreach work."

This includes interviews with local radio, talking to students at colleges and universities, giving assemblies in schools, putting on exhibitions in libraries, and hosting film showings.  

East Anglian Daily Times: A Fairtrade Fortnight displayA Fairtrade Fortnight display (Image: Elaine Coltham)

“We have a relationship with Suffolk New College’s catering department, and whenever there’s a mayoral event they make the most wonderful cakes for us using Fairtrade ingredients. 

“One of the really exciting things we did a few years ago was give every primary school in Ipswich a Fairtrade football. Alongside that, we sent them a link to see how the footballs were made, and the difference it makes in those communities.” 

One of the best ways to fully understand the impact shopping Fairtrade has is to see it in action, and over the years those who have benefitted from it have visited Ipswich to show their thanks to the community. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Tea, cocoa, and coffee for sale at The Fair Trade ShopTea, cocoa, and coffee for sale at The Fair Trade Shop (Image: Charlotte Bond, Newsquest)

“We’ve had producer visitors from different parts of the world including Kenya, the Windward Islands, Pakistan, South Africa. They’ve all come here to talk about how fairtrade is making a positive difference in their lives.” 

One of the most recent visitors was Patrick Kaberia – a tea farmer from Kenya.  

“We met Patrick a few years ago when he came to the UK on a producer tour. He’s an amazing man and so enthusiastic, and a shining example of how fairtrade is benefitting his farm community. We took him to Copleston School where he inspired students."

Patrick is looking at ways he can adapt farming practices to help mitigate climate change, retaining water on the farm by planting more trees. 

With his Fairtrade premium, Patrick has grown three nurseries where farmers are given free seedlings, which they plant along the rivers. 

Thankfully, Elaine has noticed more and more people are shopping Fairtrade and thinking more ethically, in order to help people just like Patrick.

“Most of us, when we see the news, we want to do something to help, but besides giving money, we don’t know what to do. But people are realising if they buy Fairtrade, it’s helping those people. They may not ever meet them, but they will help them on a daily basis. If we can make that change, we are making a real difference.” 

East Anglian Daily Times: A cake made by Suffolk New College catering students with fairtrade ingredientsA cake made by Suffolk New College catering students with fairtrade ingredients (Image: Elaine Coltham)

Over the years the availability of Fairtrade goods has increased, with all major supermarkets stocking products carrying the now-familiar logo.

“We also encourage people to visit The Fair Trade Shop in Ipswich. It’s a not-for-profit organisation that has worked tirelessly over the years to provide the people of Ipswich with fairly-traded products. It really isn’t much more expensive, and there’s such a big range on offer. I’m sure people can find something they’d really enjoy.” 

This Fairtrade Fortnight, Elaine is focussing her efforts on making people aware of the effects of climate change, and how that’s affecting our food supplies.  

“I think a lot of people would be shocked to find out their favourite product is now a lot harder to grow.” 

Most at risk are cocoa, bananas, and coffee.  

“But with Fairtrade, farmers are getting the benefit of being paid better and having that premium means they can look at more sustainable ways of farming.” 

This year, Elaine and the group are also trying to increase the number of people flying the flag for Fairtrade in Ipswich.

“We’re looking for people to be Fairtrade champions, wherever they are. It might be their workplace, college, school, faith group, or leisure centre. The point of that is to be a point of contact with your group, so you can inspire people and show them the benefits of Fairtrade.  

“For instance, in your staff room, you could persuade people to try Fairtrade coffee, tea or sugar, or to join event meetings. If we could get more champions in their own corners, big or small, they could inspire others.” 

To find out more about Fairtrade in Ipswich, visit fairtradeipswich.co.uk and thefairtradeshopipswich.co.uk