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  • Cllr Pete McAleer

Fair Trade the way for Weston

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Pretty soon we will be kicking 2020 into the dustbin of history with a collective sigh.

One hell of a year is ending and as we count the cost in lost lives and broken dreams, we dare to look further. As we twitch our curtains and cautiously creep to mothballed shops, we might realise just how fragile our concepts of normal and security have become this year. We can however warily allow ourselves some optimism now. The future always holds out hope.

It is a natural priority to protect our family and our close friends first. Yes It is understandable that we show concern for our nearest neighbours and colleagues. Perhaps it is less excusable though, even in the most trying times, to draw up the drawbridge and isolate ourselves against the "others" who also suffer. After all that we have gone through, now is the time to imagine a compassionate Weston.

There is a new initiative developing: A 10 year vision, a strategy, which has been endorsed by the council's executive, the product of a consultation period that has probably escaped most residents. Some of the best minds in local businesses are currently engaging in an exercise of renewal and regeneration for this changing and challenged town. It has been named Placemaking.

Cllr Pete McAleer & Co-op staff member Douglas Pearce

I listened to their presentation, via zoom, this week and I could not question the pride these retail leaders shared for our shops, our buildings and for our local institutions. However I would appeal for a more encompassing vision of a caring community, rooted in ethical values. For unless we look out more widely for the vulnerable and poor I wonder if we can really claim to be a welcoming and caring society?

Nationally, with the changes Brexit will bring – we are faced with a clear choice in our attitudes. Do we earn the respect abroad we would deserve by truly embracing a “Global Britain”? Or does this become another empty Westminster catchphrase, as instead we choose to tread the blinkered path of glorious isolation? The signs are not promising. Our reputation has been damaged with the recent decision to cut our Overseas Aid budget from a 0.7% to a meagre 0.5%. When I hear phrases like “we should clean up our own back yard” and “charity begins at home” I would ask the question: Who exactly are our neighbours? Are there really any "others"?

If it has been difficult for us in Milton, in Weston, in Britain… we can now pause and consider the effects on the poorest, in developing countries while the vile virus impacts around the world. Communities abroad have been pushed further into a severe food crisis, exacerbating established issues of poverty. Hunger faces many more poor farmers and their families, who are really not that different from our pals across the road.

In Latin America and the Caribbean shortages have grown more extreme. The latest report from the U.N. Food Programme warns that the pandemic has caused 14 million additional people to miss meals, with women most affected. Similarly cocoa producers in West Africa are struggling. In Ghana new reports show the average farmer’s income has dropped dramatically. We can imagine that these families might even live just around the corner from us.

These are just a couple of the many reasons why we need to adopt the principles of the Fair Trade Foundation and provide land workers a safety net and protect poor food producers from volatile prices. Locally Sandford and Winscombe have become Fair Trade towns. Devon has declared itself a Fair Trade county. I believe it is time to renew our humanity, gain more pride in our town and actively campaign for a Fair Trade Weston.


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