I got a new car for my birthday.
I don’t even drive.
Jenny will drive me in my new car.
When the lads and I were thinking of recording a frivolous podcast we put feelers out asking for topics to discuss.
There was suggestions like “If a man speaks in the forest and there are no women around to hear is he still wrong?” and “you are in a zombie outbreak, you get bitten and find yourself in a costume shop … what costume do you put on before you die to be dressed as when you become a zombie?” but there was also one serious one which was asked by Luke.
He asked “What are the limitations of fair trade?”
So that is loosely what this post is based on. (fair trade, not women and zombies)
I’ve been mulling over this topic in my head for quite some time, not so much the limitations of fair trade but the rise in direct trade and what impact it may and can have.
Before you turn off and think an under-qualified bum is about to rant on about global trade, governments and spreadsheets you are wrong, instead the under-qualified bum is going to try and talk about the cup of coffee you bought this morning.
Whether you agree with it, dislike it, or don’t give a damn, chances are you have heard of fair trade. The same goes for Rainforest Alliance and some of you may have even heard of UTZ Certified. These 3 are the main players in handing out badges that say “this product is ethically produced”. They all have different interpretations and benchmarks and they all do ‘similar’ things. There is also direct trade which is growing rapidly.
Let’s be honest, coffee drinkers are turning in to hipster wankers, when we grew up as kids our parents bought the cheapest instant coffee possible in massive big tins and drank it constantly. There may have been some freshly ground stuff in the house but that was only for special occasions, the kind of occasion where you had to sit at the kiddy table and not touch the olives on the grown ups table. The ‘fresh’ ground coffee was ground half way along the coffee and tea isle of the supermarket in the self grinder that still had residue from the 48 other people who had used it that day and probably the cockroaches that used it as a love nest overnight.
Now coffee is a once a day affair, it can’t be cheap or instant. It has to be served in a cafe that is either decked out in retro styling or one that is minimalist and industrial preferably replacing chairs for uncomfortable up turned buckets or milk crates with your Nanna’s cushion on them. Coffee is now drunk in tiny mugs and the most important part is how exotic the beans are, the aroma and the body, is it smooth, is it nutty. Were the beans grown and picked at the right altitude, is Mumford and sons being played in the cafe. Do they roast them out the back of the cafe and sell them direct to the scarf wearing patrons. A new major part of this trendy cafe culture is direct trade.
direct trade is essentially a cafe purchasing their beans direct from an overseas farmer.
Is direct trade a bad thing? Well I don’t think the concept is bad and I think a farmer who has worked hard on his produce should have the right to sell to whomever he wants but is it being executed well and why do trendy cafes love it so much? I think cafes love it because it makes them feel elitist and set apart from their competitors, it means they can brag that their coffee comes straight from a farmer that they know personally and they can ensure the best of quality. Often their choice to not take part in purchasing certified ethically produced coffee using which ever certification program is that is costs more and the money gets split between different layers and stages in the import etc. By using direct trade they are bypassing the bureaucracy of certification and are in their view providing a strong relationship with the farmers and contributing to their development.
But coffee is very rarely grown in well to do and developed countries, in fact it is very rarely even grown in English speaking countries. Yes yes I know that we grow some coffee in NSW and blah blah blah, but the majority of the world’s coffee beans are grown in poor south American countries and poor African countries. A cafe may set out with the best intentions of assisting a poor farmer and sourcing their beans ethically through direct trade but my concern is that best intentions do not mean best practices.
A Cafe on the northern fringes on Sydney may make the best coffee you have ever drunk, the beans are sourced from an Ethiopian farm in an area that has the perfect altitude and climate. A highly trained barista and his business partner travel to Ethiopia and hand pick the farm and farmer, they strike up a bond and commit to sourcing their beans from this farmer, with the best of intentions of not only sourcing great beans but having a positive impact on the life of this farmer. But there are some holes, firstly a great barista from Sydney does not qualify them as a great human rights and community development officer in a country where they don’t even know the language. How do they know what the rights of workers are in a country tens of thousands of km’s away from their cafe. How do they know that once they are back in cafe that the farmer and his workers are being treated fairly and ethically. Where is the accountability that the cafe is actually paying a good price for the beans. Who was the dominant negotiation in the price of the beans, you can be assured that in a majority of cases it was not the farmer.
Direct trade does provide a direct link to the good you are purchasing, and a cafe may have a really thriving relationship with the farmer but is their arrangement really providing the empowerment and stability that workers in developing countries require if they are to be lifted out of poverty.
Without accountability what happens if the cafe changes owners, or they suddenly want to pay less for beans.
How does a cafe owner in a foreign country rock up unannounced to audit the working conditions of those who picked the beans.
How does a cafe owner even know what those working conditions should be.
The problem with direct trade is that it’s main focus is on the product not the producer.
There are programs like Cup of Excellence where farmers are encouraged to produce the perfect coffee bean and each year a couple of farmers are awarded as the finest in their field. The price for these beans sky rockets and the farmer is rewarded with extra cash. But not all the cash. A large proportion is passed on to the farmer for achieving the goal but not all. And a cash injection does not guarantee that the workers will see any of this money.
So what do the accreditation organisations offer?
Lets start with Fairtrade’
Basically the fairtrade symbol that you see on consumable products is a guarantee that the product has been produced in such a manner that the producers were paid a fair wage, in fair conditions and with extra benefits.
When you buy a $3 cup of coffee the farmer who grew the beans probably gets around 1-2 cents. But this can go up and down depending on world coffee prices which fluctuate like anything else. So one day a farmer could get 2 cents the next less than one. Under the fair trade system there is a set minimum price that is locked and guaranteed. Let’s say it’s set at 20 cents per kg of beans. If the global price goes down to 18 cents a fair trade farmer will still get 20, if it goes up to 23 he will get 23. But there is a safe guard not offered under other systems. Fair trade is also not like direct trade, it is not a coffee farmer who sells to exporters etc it is a co-op. Farmers get togther and it is their co-op that does the negotiating and in return they also split the profits on wages for workers but also health care and education for their families.
It costs to be fair trade accredited, you need to be audited and accountable, but this is the same with all sorts of certifications. You have to pay and be audited if you want the heart foundation tick on your products.
Rainforest alliance is similar although it is often dubbed as the weaker brother of fair trade or fairtrade lite. It’s certification is only at a farm level and there is no real auditing of the supply chain from farm to consumer. There is also no minimum price set to protect farmers and it is harder for small farms to get involved as the system is mostly for large producers.
You may have heard recently that Nestle has committed to sourcing all their cocoa ethically in the next few years, this is a major major step for an organisation that hasn’t had a great track record for human rights. they have chosen to go with UTZ Certification which seems to be even weaker still than Rainforest. No base price, but the most disturbing part of UTZ is that to be producing ethically sourced products the workers only need to be meeting local laws and requirements. So if a country has very weak working condition laws then it is those laws that determine if a product can be certified. Fair Trade and Rainforest both have international standards that they require.
So it’s a step in the right direction and a massive step for a super massive company but it’s also giving them accreditation with worrying gaps.
It’s no secret that I’m biased to fair trade, and I’m not biased towards it because I sell it at markets. I sell it at markets because I believe in the system.
There are a few reports and studies that say Fair Trade is a terrible system and not all the money gets back to the farmers etc.
The reality is no system is going to be perfect when humans are involved, every system is going to have a minority that find ways of skimming off the top, but the fact is the fair trade system is the most robust in terms of requirements and benchmarks for the fair wages and working conditions of workers. It’s been around a long time now and maybe needs an overhaul but all systems and methods need tweaking.
It does however provide an accountability level that can never be achieved through a cross cultural relationship between two parties that have very different skills and needs such as a cafe using direct trade.
Oh and i don’t even drink coffee I was just using it as an example the same could be said about any product or produce really.
And remember I’m not a professor or trade expert, just an opinionated bum.
It’s been a long time since I blogged, it’s been even longer since I let our boys have a play in the front yard.
So this morning whilst Oscar was digging a hole and ‘planting’ leaves and Jenny was weeding, I sat with the turtles in the front yard, enclosed in their mobile digs. Which if you have forgotten I made and you can read all about it here.
I got out a camping chair, slouched down and soaked up the sun while the turtles tried to escape and birds swooped above.I also took some snaps. If you are wondering the turtles turn 7 years old in 2 days and we have had them for 6 years!!!
So I could show Oscar the mad skills the turtles have, I placed each of them on their backs so Oscar could see them flip over.
Other things I did today included turning a carved wooden letter ‘d’ into an ‘a’. Eating a chicken burger and taking Oscar for a drive in Jenny’s car.
This is what I did today.
Me and Cadel are very similar, neither of us did as well as hoped in the TDF.
|Le Bums :|
Last Updated: 23/07/2012 11:13:35
|1||Cadels Caravan||Andy Bell||656||1866|
|3||Team de la Winning||Andrew Tiedt||598||1757|
|4||Noahs Ark De Triumph||David Howie||632||1638|
|5||finition de podium||Jenny Howie||470||1602|
|6||Howies Chafed Heroes||Robert Howie||607||1563|
|7||toit as a toiger||David Clark||438||1482|
|9||Cycling Ninjas||James Noble||255||795|
|10||Bum Butter||Tim Strange||0||0|
Yesterday was a good day, not that I really have bad days but yesterday was super good.
First up it was a Thursday which meant Gozleme for lunch which I always enjoy, especially as I walked near the stall and the lady said “Robert, One cheese and spinach”.
The day improved after lunch as Oscar headed to the inlaws for 2 nights. I’m sure it makes me look like a bad father saying my day improved because my son was taken away. But I don’t care respite is AWESOME!
After Oscars departure I headed to the city as we decided to stay in the city tonight as FOTC wasn’t going to finish till about 11 and we had no son so lets partay!
After a longer than usual trip to the city which included this announcement over the trains PA “This train will be delayed for some amount of time, thank you”.
I checked in to our small box with the air conditioning stuck on cold then waited for Jenny.
She arrived, we watched mythbusters and walked to the Opera house.
At the Opera House the lady said the door list had not been finalised yet so come back a bit later, so we had some dinner and returned. On return the door list was complete and it had my name on it… phew!
I had no idea what type of tickets they would be as the only instruction was to say my name was on the door list.
Turns out we had some pretty cool seats, 5 rows back, easy to see everything. Thanks Bret! We even had Andrew Denton and Jennifer Byrne in our row.
The show was Awesome! heaps of laughing out loud and enjoying their super musical abilities.
you are not allowed to take photos so pretend you didn’t see that last photo.
After the gig it was a wet walk back to the hotel with smiles on our faces and macces ice cream in our mouth holes.
And pancakes from the best pancake machine ever (same as the one Noob and I had in our Hotel when I met Bret in NZ)
Set list (if you care)
Too Many Dicks (on the dancefloor)
Robots (The Humans Are Dead)
Most Beautiful Girl
New song – Title unknown (closest guess is Pec Sex)
Think About It (Issues)
1353 (Woo A Lady)
Bus Driver Song – sung in Australia
Inner City Pressure
I’m Not Crying
I Met A Girl (Over There)
Only a couple of days to go. This is my starting team.
It’s fair to say that being a parent can be pretty damn frustrating at times, sometimes it seems impossible to avoid getting some form of inner rage or anger. The terrible two’s were not really terrible at all. But now that Oscar is mid way through being 3 the tantrums and arguing have increased dramatically along with the refusal to do things we ask.
I know it’s normal and and a healthy part of development but it can really piss me off sometimes. I don’t think I’m known as someone who gets angry and I don’t think I’m very good at it but last Thursday I snapped. I think it’s the only time in my life I have ever snapped like this.
Jenny was trying to get Oscar ready to go to mothers group and this involved removing his pajamas and getting him dressed for the day. Oscar loves wearing his pajamas and every day it’s a bit of a struggle to convince him to change but on Thursday he was down right refusing and doing lots of whinging and arguing. Jenny would try and start to remove his shirt and he would shout and move away from her. This went on for some time and for some reason I lost it. Neither of us have ever really shouted at Oscar and I did I shouted his name then lent over and grabbed him, I pulled him towards me and began trying to yank his top off. Oscar burst out screaming and fought hard to keep his top on. Jenny quickly shouted STOP at me and I stood up and went and sat in the dark in the other room. Oscar was screaming and crying, I had scared that absolute s%&# out of him and in between sobs he was asking Jenny why I did that, Why did daddy do that?” He has never been so scared in his life.
I know that pulling a toddlers shirt off is probably not the most sever response to rage you have ever heard about but not only did it freak Oscar out, it scared the crap out me. Where did this come from, I have never snapped. I didn’t want him to freak out, I was frustrated he wasn’t cooperating and I wanted it to be over. Something set me off, I reached a line and then made a snap reaction. Whilst sitting in the dark I was freaking out, I had just broken my little boy. He was really really upset and freaked out. My eyes filled up with water as I listened to the anguish in the next room. What had I done. I felt like I had just destroyed my relationship with my son.
I came in and apologised to Oscar and Jenny, not that it felt like an apology could justify my actions.
Jenny and Oscar left to go to mothers group with Oscar still in his pajamas and still crying. I laid on the couch for several hours feeling nauseous, worrying about what I had done. I never wanted to freak the little guy out soo much. I sent Jenny an SMS asking if Oscar was hapier yet, there was no response which didn’t help.
I prayed, I paced, I laid down more. I sipped water to reduce the nausea, I went to lunch with Debbie and was distracted for an hour or so then when I got home Oscar and Jenny returned and he went in to his room to play.
Later that afternoon I was laying on Oscar’s bed and he came in and sat on my head thinking it was the funniest thing in the whole world. I was forgiven in Oscar’s own special way which was one of the biggest reliefs I have ever experienced.
It’s almost time for Le Tour de France, that makes me happy and tired.
I love the TDF.
I have set up a fantasy league again this year and you should join in, just leave a comment saying you want in and I’ll send you the details.
I’ve also got a page to view the results. It’s up the top and called ‘letour’
This could be the funniest page on the whole internets.
(If you don’t find below the belt stuff funny then best not to click)
Write self promoting cover letter.
Update resume with specific points relevant to application.
Don’t get job.
Someone get me one of these!!!
I came to NZ to do one thing and that was to meet Bret McKenzie.
As you probably know I won a charity auction with Oxfam NZ as part of their fair trade fortnight campaign to have a coffee with Bret.
So I booked some flights and a hotel and waited for confirmation of the exact time and place.
the noob (brother in law) decided to come along for the ride and so we flew over together on monday night to windy Wellington. I’ve been to Wellington a few times before and NZ several times. I love this country soo much.
Yesterday we did the tourist thing and pottered around the city, cablecar, ferry, walking around, searching fro free wifi.
Then today at lunch time I met Bret!!!
I wasn’t heaps sure what to expect, but I was pretty certain it would be a quick hello, good to meet you. then pose for a photo on that’s it. It was nothing like that.
Lynda (from Oxfam NZ) was waiting in the cafe when I arrived, we chatted for a bit and not long later Bret walked in with a guitar case slung over his shoulder, we stood up and greeted each other.
The chatting was easy and free flowing, we all laughed at each others jokes and told stories of our lives. After a while Bret asked if if we had eaten (no). So we ordered a few pizzas and kept chatting away. After one if his stories I made some joke and he laughed then followed it up with “I’m going to use that”. So pretty much I write for the Conchords now, please talk to my agent.
The pizza was eaten we kept chatting away, Bret has even offered to get me in to the Opera House gig in Sydney in July!!! He was the nicest easy going guy ever and it was a super afternoon. We ended up chatting away for about 2 hours and finished the time with some photos and the handing over of the guitar. (Which Bret had bought this morning from his favourite Wellington guitar store). It’s cool and signed by hime and Jermaine.
After a long lunch Bret had to go as Jermaine was texting him to get back to rehearsals for their tour which starts in a week or so.
So we parted ways and I was and am a very happy boy.
To celebrate noob and I went to Parliament house and watched some debating in the chamber. Nerds!
Tomorrow I’m coming home.
Tomorrow I’m going to my favourite country in the whole world.
I have nothing to rant about.
** Updates at the bottom of the post **
Turns out I’m not very good at writing my Sunday rants in time for posting on Sundays.
Oh well, Sorry B.
This morning I was playing around with Oscar, we were using a mouse pad like a frisbee and throwing it at each others heads across the room. It was good fun, but like all good fun it stops being fun when someone gets hurt. Well it stops being fun for the injured and suddenly becomes more fun for those who did not get hurt.
I ran up the stairs very quickly, I was only wearing socks. Actually I probably should clarify that before you call DOCS. I was only wearing socks on my feet. So it was a tad slippery as I dashed up the stairs.
So of course I slipped and stacked it a little on the steps. I hurt my toes quite a lot. there were all stinging for several minutes. After the initial shock pain one toe remained very sore.
Whilst this was happening Jenny burst out laughing (supportive wife 101). I was crunched in a ball on the stairs saying things like “this really hurts quite a lot”. Jenny kept laughing, every now and then pausing to say “are you ok” before resuming laughing again.
thankfully the son cared, Oscar came up and gave me a hug and told me I would be ok. He also kissed my toes.
Not long later we headed for the shops, I slipped my sore toe foot into a shoe. It hurt, I hobbled up the hill, it hurt. I hobbled through the library and shops. It hurt.
We went to get some lunch, due to my sore toes, I deserved chicken burger. So I went to Oporto and ordered a meal, waited for it and returned to the table with wife and son.
On opening the burger wrapped I discovered they gave me the wrong burger, so me and my sore foot headed back to get it replaced. On returning to the table I discovered Jenny had eaten over half my chips. This made me a bit angry, this anger was increased when unwrapping the replacement burger to discover it was also wrong.
I ate my remaining chips and the wrong burger.
I hobbled home.
I tried to have a nap while Oscar played in his room. I couldn’t get to sleep. My toe hurts.
I reckon it’s a broken toe.
Worst day ever. What an you do to help a broken toe, nothing.
I want chips.
I went to the Doctor today, who then sent me for x-rays.
Turns out I have fractured the toe and need to strap it to it’s neighbor for 6 – 8 weeks.
On Monday the 28th May I’m going to Wellington, New Zealand.
At an undisclosed place and time in the following days I will be meeting Bret McKenzie for a cuppa. (I say undisclosed, but really I know exactly where and when, but you don’t.)
Bret and I will laugh and chat and he will say “Oh Howie, this is great just hanging out, here have a guitar signed by me and Jermaine”.
About 2 weeks ago I saw a link on twitter for an online charity auction to meet up with Bret.
I clicked the link and noticed the auction website (TradeMe) allowed bidders from NZ & Australia.
The current bid was $1510 NZD so I made a bid for $1520. with over a week til the auction ended I knew it wouldn’t last and was just a silly thing probably so I felt I was part of it.
After leading the bid for a few days I decided to tell Jenny that I may have bid on an Oxfam charity auction and that my bid was leading.
I think her response was something like “you idiot, you won’t win”.
Well I did. With a few extra bids placed in the last 5 minutes of the auction.
So I’m off to meet Bret.
I’m excited and a bit nervous too, I don’t want to be all shy and noobish, and don’t want it to be all awkward. Maybe he’ll give me a job.
I’m partly nervous because he is really funny, and I really really really like the stuff he does and that is a bit daunting, also people often say I’m funny, and see myself as a funny(ish) guy but nothing compared to him sheesh.
Yesterday the NZ Herald interviewed me and today they put it online.
you can read the article by clicking the picture.