WFTO Conference in Delhi

Back in November our Business Manager, Rachel, took the trip across to Delhi to take part in the WFTO Conference. The WFTO is the largest global network of fair trade organisations in the world. You can read more about what WFTO does on their website.

Landing at the airport in Delhi on Mon 6th November came as a bit of a shock as it coincided with a thick smog that had enveloped the entire city just a few days earlier. It was caused by a variety of factors including farmers in neighbouring states burning the stubble from their rice fields, the colder weather and the increasing pollution from cars and brick factories. The sun had disappeared behind the haze and breathing in the toxic air amounted to smoking 50 cigarettes a day!

However, it didn’t hinder things drastically as there was just so much to do and people to meet and we carried on with business as usual like everyone else. I soon met up Jeremy Piercy, founder of Shared Earth, Hazel Dobson Manager of the Gateway World Shop in Durham and Febry Tressor, a young handicraft producer from Bali.

We spent the next few days together visiting producer organisations that Shared Earth buys from, these included Tara Projects, Bali Mantra, Karm Marg, Aspiration and a jewellery supplier for Asha. Each visit was a fascinating insight into the workings of a fair trade supplier. Vikaz from Tara took us to two jewellery workshops in a crowded slum in the southern part of the city. They were making beaded necklaces and bracelets which we were familiar with from our shops. We received such a warm welcome and had a good chat with the workers there. We also visited a Tara-funded medical centre in the same part of the city that was providing vital care for the local people, treating dengue fever, respiratory problems, diabetes and other ailments.

After these visits we attended the World Fair Trade Organisation Conference and AGM which was the main reason for my trip. There were 250 delegates from 50 countries attending and I was representing the Scottish Fair Trade Forum. This biannual conference is the world’s most significant gathering of the global Fair Trade movement; it brings together delegates from producer organisations, buying and supplier groups, networks, support organisations and friends of WFTO to discuss important issues on the way forward for Fair Trade. The theme this year focused on the changing market environment and trading your way to sustainable development.

For me, although the lectures and workshops were stimulating, it was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and new who the One World Shop has traded with for over 30 years. It was a joy to meet Ghuyasuddin from Action Bag in Bangladesh who supply our jute bags, Roopa Mehta from Sasha Handicrafts in Calcutta, Kirin from Gospel House Handicrafts in Sri Lanka who supply wooden toys, Shampa from Silence, Calcutta who supply our wallets and cards and Tomy from Fair Trade Alliance Kerala who supply cashew nuts, and many others. The producer organisations had brought along samples of their new products to the large Craft Market so we could all see a wide variety of exciting items that will hopefully grace our shelves in the coming year courtesy of Traidcaft, Shared Earth and other UK fair trade wholesalers.

It was also great to meet up with our retail counterparts from New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada, Japan and Europe to share stories. Their organisations are experiencing similar changes and challenges to the market as we are and there were many helpful discussions on how we can improve and stimulate trade. The conference finished with the AGM which lasted all day! Everyone had a chance to contribute and vote on new policies and the strategy going forward. Unfortunately, the smog had not lifted by the time we departed, but at least our hearts were warm and our brains filled with new ideas to take back home with us.

- Rachel Farey