Fair Trade cities key to food crisis
The challenge of feeding a growing population with fewer resources will only increase, but ethical initiatives like making Nelson a Fair Trade City can make a difference, Oxfam says.
Oxfam New Zealand executive director Barry Coates was in town this week to speak to a group of businesspeople at a Fair Trade breakfast talk organised by Trade Aid Nelson and the Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce.
The talk was titled A Table for Nine Billion: The role of consumers in food, poverty and fair trade, a reference to estimates that the world population will exceed 9 billion by 2050.
Mr Coates said there were three main challenges facing the world: the plight of the small-scale producer, resource scarcity amid a growing population, and the threat of climate change.
Small-scale producers in the developing world were often the ones with the least resources, with the majority of the money from the crops they grew going to larger players up the supply chain.
They were also vulnerable, with crop damage from poor weather, civil unrest, or just one poor-performing crop enough to ruin them.
Resource scarcity brought its own challenges - how to improve the lives of the poor while reducing the human's overall footprint.
The poorest 20 per cent of the world's population had little access to resources, and helping them was vital but would put extra strain on the planet, he said.
The poor were also most susceptible to extreme weather caused by climate change, and the developed world needed to use existing technology to reduce its emissions now, he said.
But despite the challenges, Mr Coates said he was optimistic about the world's future.
"What I'm trying to impart is the urgency, because if we don't act it's so much harder, so many more people suffer."
Mr Coates, on the board of Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand and formerly on the Fairtrade UK board, said he supported the bid to make Nelson a Fair Trade City, announced earlier this month.
If successful, Nelson would become the fourth such city in the country.
Mr Coates said Fairtrade had 2300 towns and cities worldwide, with only three in New Zealand.
The growth of Fair Trade meant there could be real progress for small farmers who are among those most affected by hunger and rising food prices.
"Fair Trade is a way for them to get the better price for their products and to get more of a say in supply chains."
Nelson becoming a Fair Trade City would mobilise the residents, getting people involved and pulling in a common direction, he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News