This is the shopping list that my flatmate Luki wrote on a post-it yesterday, which looks much the same as the lists of many other millenials.
It took him three minutes to walk to the nearest shop, where he filled his basket, went through the self-checkout and then headed back home. This morning, he sprinkled a few nuts and berries on top of his healthy instagrammable porridge, and it was ready for him to eat for breakfast. Easy!
A little too easy, maybe? We all think we're aware that something isn't quite right and that everything we do isn't as good for the planet or as easy for the majority of people as it was for Lukas (and for me and you). That's why we dutifully recycle everything we can, donate to a few charities and try to live according to a few legitimate-sounding principles about consumption and lifestyle. But we don't generally confront the realities of lives that, we think, are a long way from our own, but that are actually right in front of us on our plates.
A film tip for breakfast
An impressive short documentary series produced by young local film-makers from Peru, Kenya, and Indonesia gives us an exciting and authentic look at the bigger picture, but without moralising. Three people, who are all somehow involved in Luki's porridge, give insights into their lives, their work, their challenges, dreams, and struggles…
While the coconut blossom sugar is the equivalent of the cherry on Luki's cake, for Ponisih it represents her home, her capital, and her livelihood. Since she was small, her family has made a living from coconut palms. She climbs up to 15 coconut trees a day to harvest the nectar from the coconut blossoms. This nectar is then diluted with water, boiled and made into a syrup, which later crystallises into sugar. She is proud of her work and is actively committed to preserving the tradition and, at the same time, supporting and empowering women and future generations to offer them good prospects and a livelihood using the natural resource of coconut palms.
For the last 14 years, Roberto has been growing organic bananas in La Noira in Peru. He faces huge challenges every day. As if rising production costs and falling prices on global markets weren't enough of a problem, the pandemic has made life even more difficult for the father of two over recent months. He knows that hard work and solidarity can improve his living conditions and those of his family, and both the community and he are committed to acting responsibly during the pandemic, paying fair wages and ensuring that his fruit are of the best quality. With some success…
Caroline lives about 70 kilometres east of Lake Victoria in the Setek region of Kenya. Together with her husband, she has been growing Fairtrade-certified coffee for 10 years. In addition to the rewarding but tough job of growing coffee, Caroline has other battles to fight: against discriminatory traditions, against the stigma of childlessness and infertility and in support of self-determination. Going against all the conventions, she manages to do this in a community that supports and empowers her…
And what does all of this have to do with Luki's post-it list? The choices that he makes as a consumer when he's shopping – opting for Fairtrade coffee, bananas and coconut blossom sugar – can have a long-term positive impact on the lives of these three producers and of many others without a great deal of effort on his part. I think that after these insights, the beautifully prepared porridge now has a lot more nourishing ingredients. Almost worth an Instagram like.
The Fairtrade Max Havelaar Foundation works to improve the living and working conditions of smallholders, their families, and workers in economically disadvantaged regions It helps them to fight poverty, reinforce their position and improve their lives in the long term by their own efforts.
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