TV personality Aggie MacKenzie joined local councillors and students as part of Fairtrade Fortnight in Hackney Town Hall.
The Hackney resident and star of ‘How Clean is Your House’ took part in a debate which seeks to raise awareness of Fairtrade products in the borough.
MacKenzie said she first became interested in the products after filming a section for the morning show GMTV. She was invited to Malawi where she met local farmers and witnessed the benefits of Fairtrade.
“Most of the farmers I met were women because so many of the men had died of Aids. Fairtrade farming meant they were earning a good wage and being in the movement give them a real sense of stability for the future,” she said.
She added that people are now part of an “international community” who should be working together for the greater good.
Sixth form students from Skinners Academy in Hackney have just returned from a trip to Turkey, where they met Fairtrade cotton farmers.
The school managed to secure £22,000 of funding through the EU Comenius to form a partnership with a school in Denizli, Turkey.
Teacher Selda Kurtuldu, who headed the scheme, said: “It was good for the pupils to see people enjoy their jobs and now they’ve come back they are getting their parents involved too by changing their usual product choices.”
Kwame Banson, coordinator of West African Fairtrade Network, also spoke and was keen to stress the importance of the Fairtrade Premium. He said: “This allows farmers to invest in their communities, midwives can now be deployed to some villages, roads to hospitals can be built, they are counting on you.”
Fairtrade Fortnight ends on March 13. Fairtrade’s estimated global sales in 2009 was $3.9bn, with more than 4,500 products certified to carry the Fairtrade mark in the United Kingdom.
Fairtrade works to ensure that disadvantaged farmers and workers in developing countries are paid fairly, have long-term trading relationships and have access to training to enhance their businesses.
Along with MacKenzie, comedian Harry Hill has been supporting Fairtrade by putting his name to a brand of Fairtrade nuts. “Harry’s Nuts!” are available at Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose stores across the country.
If you would like more information or to get involved in Fairtrade Fortnight, visit the Hackney Fair Trade Blog on: www.fairtradehackney.wordpress.com.