By Martin Spencer, Co-op Fair Trade Charcoal Buyer – Ambient team

World Fair Trade Day is organised every year to raise awareness of alternative solutions to our planet’s economic and ecological challenges.

What better time to talk about our pioneering Fair Trade partnership which continues to support the livelihoods of workers, burners and their communities in Namibia. I’d like to share some stories of how you’re continuing to make a difference when you buy our Co-op Fairly Traded charcoal and barbecue products.

The first of its kind

In 2009 we partnered with Traidcraft – one of the UK’s pioneering Fair Trade businesses – along with our charcoal importer (Rectella International Ltd.) and our producer (Jumbo) to launch the world’s first Fair Trade charcoal!

Co-op’s charcoal is made by burners who work in the bush on two farms in Namibia where there’s a huge problem from invader bush that’s very dense and prevents farming. Whilst invader bush reduces biodiversity by taking up a lot of the ground water, it actually grows so fast it’s easy to make charcoal from this bush sustainably.

The Jumbo Premium Committee

Since we launched our Fair Trade charcoal in 2009, over £550,000 has been raised to fund projects which benefit charcoal producers and their communities in Namibia. With support from Traidcraft, the workers and burners at Jumbo have decided themselves how they want to spend the funds and this is managed by a Fair Trade Premium Committee. The committee is made up of elected workers and burners at Jumbo’s teams in Okahandja and Walvis Bay. Their role is to work with burners and workers to develop a strategy and to identify, develop and implement projects.

The premium’s intended beneficiaries are Jumbo’s workers, their families and their communities, and also the burners working on the farms. The premium is being used for some fantastic projects which are making a real difference to lives and communities.

A huge impact

Here are some projects and stories of how the premium is helping to benefit Jumbo’s workers, burners, and their communities in Namibia:

Back to school – the Premium Committee bought the workers packs of stationery for the children:

Thanks to the donation from Fair Trade, I was able to send both my children to school with exercise books and stationery. It is for a lot of kids and the benefits will last for a long time. Maybe even my granddaughter will benefit.” Miriam Immanuel

I am very happy about the premium committee – what it has done and what is it doing to support the workers and the communities. I am most proud of the school text books project. The schools lack so much, and I feel that we are helping the children learn more and have successful lives.” Taimi, Premium Committee Secretary

Miriam Immanuel
Taimi, Premium Committee Secretary

Toilet and Washroom Repairs at a local Secondary School, the bathroom facilities had no functioning toilets, urinals or washing basins and the sewage pipes were a hygiene risk. This changed when the Premium Committee upgraded these facilities:

We are very thankful to Fair Trade for the new facilities. When I came to the school in 2019, my students had nowhere to go for their bathroom breaks. Everything was backed up and completely broken.” Headmaster Nuugulu Teofilus

Water taps – water taps were installed near where the workers are located and the Premium Committee provided wheelbarrows so that people could more easily transport the water back to their homes:

We had a problem with the old taps. There were too few and they would often break. So it is very, very great, we were suffering for having no water, but now they are doing us a favour by bringing to us the water. We are very happy.” Frans Muhala

Frans Muhala next to the water tap

Solar panel charging stations – burner camps tend to be based in the bush with no electricity. The Premium Committee installed solar charging stations for burners and devices like mobile phones, radios, and lamps:

We use the solar panels to charge our phones and radios. It links us to our parents back home. Without them, our lives would be very difficult” Frans Petrus

Frans Petrus demonstrates the working of the Solar Charging Station.

Looking ahead

The Premium Committee have some exciting plans for future projects that will benefit their communities, as well as communities further afield in Namibia.

With our barbecue sets and charcoal back on shelves in Co-op stores and online for Spring/Summer, you can make a difference by choosing our Fairly Traded charcoal to support Jumbo’s communities.

To find out more about Word Fair Trade Day click here. To shop Co-op’s fantastic range of barbecue products click here. For more stories about Co-op’s commitment to Fair Trade charcoal production, check out these stories: Fair Trade BBQs and charcoal, Charcoal #TheCoopWay.