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Aid has its role in lifting living standards of health and education in Africa, but it is trade that can make a real difference, Jack Straw

Israel, Joyce and some of their family

Farmers from Kyondo region in the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon

Around the Mountains of the Moon it takes five-seven years to break even with a vanilla crop. Farmers' plantations are tiny - averaging 250 vines on a half acre - as vanilla thrives best as small scale agro-forestry, needing large amounts of tender loving care in training, pruning, mulching and hand pollinating.

Fairtrade takes all this into consideration when calculating the Fairtrade price: capital costs, annual costs to maintain and harvest the crop and expected yields are analysed to give a price which covers these plus a fair profit margin. This price stability inspires the confidence to produce vanilla of exceptional quality: due to world over-supply in 2007 conventional (standard) vanilla prices were far below break even; for January 2007 the Fairtrade farmgate price paid by Ndali was a hefty five times greater than the conventional price.

Lulu now has a network of 1,000 farmers accredited y the Fairtrade organisation.  Because of the power of this certification, for quality and method, Lulu can pay the farmers who supply her more than twice the current standard price for vanilla beans.  Until I'd seen the sharp end of the Fairtrade system, I'd been a bit sceptical of it.  I'm not now, Jack Straw

Muhisya on his veranda
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