Fair trade 'will not stop poverty'

Indira Das-Gupta

A film denouncing fair trade, made by volunteers from the education charity Worldwrite, has been selected for screening at the Raindance Film Festival.

Worldwrite hopes the film will challenge the belief that fair trade is a panacea for poverty in the developing world. It claims that western consumers have been duped into thinking that fair trade is an effective poverty-alleviation tool, when in fact it does nothing to address the root causes of poverty.

The Bitter Aftertaste was made by a group of students from Northern Ireland and is their first film. The group spent six weeks filming in Ghana and produced the 17-minute film on their return.

The screening took place in London on Sunday. Worldwrite is now looking for funding to transfer the film from mini-DV to DVD so that it can be shown in schools.

An increasing number of schools incorporate fair trade into their curriculum as part of their citizenship classes on consumer responsibility.

The Department for Education and Skills' website, the Standards Site, includes guidance for teachers who want to talk about fair trade in their classes and carries links to the Fairtrade Foundation website.

Ceri Dingle, director of Worldwrite, said: "The group originally planned to make a film about education. But when they were in Ghana, they spent a lot of time talking to cocoa farmers and were appalled at their working conditions.

"They might get a few pence more under fair trade, but they are still essentially being used as cheap labour and forced to eke out a meagre existence.

"The Fairtrade Foundation doesn't even have a mechanisation policy, so its farmers are still reliant on hand tools."

She added: "We believe pupils are entitled to the truth - there are two sides to every story. The Bitter Aftertaste shows that changing your coffee preferences or buying a bar of chocolate might make you feel better, but it doesn't lift farmers in the developing world out of poverty."

The annual Raindance Film Festival is described on the London website Londontown.com as the "rebellious younger sibling of the London Film Festival". It is now in its 13th year.

- See Corporate Responsibility, page 19

KEY POINTS

- A film made by volunteers from Worldwrite has been selected for screening at the Raindance Film Festival

- The Bitter Aftertaste was produced to dispute the view that fair trade is a panacea for poverty in the developing world

- Worldwrite hopes the screening, which took place in London on Sunday, will attract funds to enable transfer of the film onto DVD.

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