1 March 2002

Getting a fair deal for Third World farmers

Comedian Harry Hill and Devon organic farmer Rodney

Hall travelled to Ghana to promote Fairtrade

Fortnight. Johann Tasker reports

WHAT does a celebrity comedian have in common with a Devon farmer? Not much at first glance, perhaps, but TVs Harry Hill and organic producer Rodney Hall go back a long way – the two men are brothers.

They got together recently to promote Fairtrade, a system which guarantees that farmers in the developing world get a good deal for what they grow and sell.

Fairtrade Fortnight – the annual two weeks when Fairtrade promotion reaches its height – begins on Monday, (Mar 4). In preparation, Harry and Rodney travelled to Ghana last month as guests of AgroFair, a Fairtrade fruit company co-owned by banana and cocoa farmers who help decide how the business is run and receive a major share of the profits.

"People in Ghana are not starving but they are poor," says Rodney. "Fairtrade enables local farmers to retain some of the money they make and spend it on something which benefits the whole community. Villagers where we went once had to walk 10 miles every day to fetch water. Fairtrade enabled them to save up and buy a well-pump which has completely transformed their lives."

&#42 Banana plantation

Rodney and Harry visited Volta River Estates, a Fairtrade plantation which exports bananas to the UK under the Oké brand. They also visited the Kuapa Kokoo, a Fairtrade cocoa growers co-operative which supplies cocoa used in the Divine chocolate bar and the Comic Relief Dubble bar.

British consumers spent about £50m on Fairtrade goods last year and it is thought that figure will rise to £100m in the next two years.

Back home, Rodney farms on a smaller scale with his business partner Ben Moseley at Bickham Farm, near Exeter. It is the home farm to Bickham House and Garden, one of the countrys finest examples of a traditional Victorian garden. The farm, 43ha (106 acres) of deep red soil in the village of Kenn, produces organic livestock, vegetables and arable crops.

&#42 Herbs and veg

Together, Rodney and Ben produce more than 50 types and varieties of herbs and vegetables, including peppers and aubergines, as well as potatoes, carrots, onions, beans and salad crops. They have two flocks of Maran hens and 20 beehives help pollinate the crops and supply honey.

Like the Fairtrade Foundation, Rodney believes that consumers and farmers can come together to everyones benefit. Most of the produce is sold locally through a box scheme. At the last count, there were 200 customers/week. The farm hosts open days and all customers are invited to spend at least one day a year at Bickham seeing how their food is produced.

"Its amazing to think that so many people dont know where their food comes from. When they see the scale and complexity of what we do they become much more understanding. It makes the link between the farmer and the customer and often they become your friends."

Rodney Halls farm can be seen on the internet at www.rodandbens.com

Brothers for Fairtrade… Comedian Harry Hill with Oké

bananas and Rodney Hall (above) with cocoa shell

compost produced by farmers in the Fairtrade scheme.