Why is 2015 a landmark year for development and fair trade? by Kathleen Christie

On the 4th and 5th of July 2015, Bristol will host the International Fair Trade Towns Conference.

This two-day event will explore how Fair Trade works to protect the environment, works with farmers to adapt to the effects of climate change and supports sustainable food production. In the run up to the conference, Bristol Fairtrade invited local organisations to share their thoughts on the relationship between fair trade and sustainability.

It marks the first EU ‘European Year of Development’ and locally, Bristol’s tenth anniversary as a Fair Trade City.  Add to that the backdrop of the new global Sustainable Development Goals, and 2015 presents some exciting opportunities for debate and change.

Consider if the EU grasps the bull by the horns next year, and creates an opportunity for a dynamic Europe-wide debate on key development challenges.  It could address the devastating impact of climate change on the livelihoods of poor people while sending out a positive message about how poor people themselves – including small scale fair trade producers – are at the forefront of contributing to an environmentally sustainable future.

Leading the way in adapting their farming methods to the changing climate are Peruvian fair trade farmers including members of the APOQ banana cooperative in Sullana province. They found innovative ways to adapt to climate change after much of their banana crop was damaged by pests last year. Field schools are enabling more than 200 farmers to improve their knowledge on soil conservation and integrated pest management. They are also cooperating with a nearby university to develop an organic eco-friendly repellent, making the plants more resistant.  In this way, small scale farming protects the local environment and encourages sustainable development.

2015 is also a chance for people across Europe to understand that development starts within our own countries and within our own lives with fair trade.  From Spain to Sweden, the Fair Trade Towns & Cities movement plays an important role in promoting fair trade in local areas by supporting businesses that make trading fairly and putting people first part of what they do.

Bristol should be proud of its role as an active Fair Trade City and its opportunity to contribute to the debate when it hosts the 9th International Fair Trade Towns Conference under the theme ‘Fair Trade for Sustainability’.  Delegates will attend from many of the 1500 Fair Trade towns across Europe.   Workshops will explore the latest practical ideas and thinking in areas such as where the emerging markets are located, the impact of new EU rules on Fair Trade procurement and how Fair Trade contributes to the broader area of sustainable food production.

What a fitting way to mark Bristol’s tenth anniversary this year as a Fair Trade City and contribute to building a mass movement for change across Europe.

Kathleen Christie is an independent consultant for international charities specialising in influencing, reviews and research.  Follow her @kathchristie3