By Ed Robinson Co-op, Fairtrade Wine Buyer

My experience of Fairtrade wine began back in 2010 with a visit to one of the Co-op’s Fairtrade wine projects in the Breedekloof Valley, South Africa. As I stepped off the plane in Cape Town I wasn’t really aware of what I’d let myself in for, but it became a visit which I would never forget – and the start, for me at least, of a journey which would completely change my perception of sourcing responsibly and empowering local communities.

I was taken to a pre-school facility which was developed through the Fairtrade system. The children gave me a warm welcome, which has left a lasting impression on me. I saw the facilities which were there for the children and, basic as they were, they offered safe surroundings and healthy nourishment. I also saw the community centre which had been built in 2008, funded through both sales of Co-op Fairtrade wine and the Fairtrade Premium, and I saw the real difference that sales of Fairtrade wine was making to people’s lives.

But the sad reality is that I also saw things which were far less heart-warming. The standard of living for many farm workers in South Africa is poor, housing is woefully inadequate, access to healthcare could be described as patchy at best and education for youngsters was in many cases sadly lacking.

Over the next ten years or so I made many more visits to South Africa, and Argentina and Chile too – seeing how projects progressed and farmer incomes grew from increased sales of Fairtrade wines. Farm workers and their communities were able to build schools and community centres, provide clean water and open health clinics. All of this has been possible through the increased sales from Co-op’s Fairtrade wine, and the safety net of the Minimum Price and Premium and year by year the positive impact was clearly visible – and making a real difference to the lives of thousands of people.

This Fairtrade Fortnight marks a significant milestone in our involvement in Fairtrade wine; from this point onwards, I am proud to announce that ALL the wine we sell from South Africa will be Fairtrade. This means that anyone who buys South African own-brand or branded wine from the Co-op can now have full confidence that the wine producers are benefiting from a Minimum Price and community projects funded by Fairtrade Premiums generated by the sales of Fairtrade wine. This is an industry first commitment and Co-op proudly continue to be the largest seller of Fairtrade wine in the world.

Join me for a Fairtrade Wine Tasting on Thursday 3 March during which I’ll show you some of the delicious Fairtrade wines, tell you about some of the amazing projects which they fund and – most excitingly of all – introduce you to Mambo Kaunda, a vineyard worker in South Africa who’ll be able to tell you first-hand how it feels to benefit from ethical trading. You can sign up to this event here.

It all makes that trip in 2010 seem very worthwhile!

This wouldn’t be possible without the support of our members and customers. Thank you for choosing Fairtrade and helping us change lives. Find out more about our legacy on Fairtrade wine here