Fairtrade Entrepreneur Visits University of Worcester


Cathi Pawson, Co-founder and Director of social enterprise, Zaytoun, which distributes Palestinian foods, such as olive oil, visited the University during Fairtrade Fortnight to talk about the difficulties and obstacles her company had overcome.

In the past six months, Zaytoun has been recognised for its contribution to Fairtrade in winning the Fairtrade Global Trader Award and being named UK winner of the Social Enterprise Awards. The aim of the company is to "delight customers with premium quality products that are fairly traded, organically grown and sourced from small scale farmers while supporting the farming communities through trade rather than aid".

Cathi began the company with a friend Heather, neither of them having a background in business. Initially funded by hundreds of customers who put up payment in advance of receiving their olive oil, Zaytoun quickly established itself as a UK social enterprise. With funding from Triodos Bank the company developed to offer a wide range of Palestinian artisan foods, and supported Palestinian farmers to pioneer the world's first Fairtrade certified olive oil in 2009, sold through the UK market.

One of those olive farmers who worked with Zaytoun also visited the University along with Cathi. Mohammed Hamada was one of the first farmers to join the Palestine Fairtrade Association when it was established in 2004, and says it has transformed his life. He spoke about how the premiums of Fairtrade have supported his community in many ways - supplying tools and equipment for the farmers in his co-operative, and investing in a newly built school in the village, providing for a new paved playground and new desks.

Sales of his olive oil to Fairtrade customers have benefitted his family too. Thanks to credit arrangements between Zaytoun and Canaan Fairtrade, Mohammed receives payment soon after invoice, meaning that he can pay his children's school and university fees which are due around the beginning of each harvest season. It also helps him to invest any surplus in expanding his crops, and caring better for his trees. Having started off with 500 trees, he now has 1,200.

Cathi and Mohammed spoke to students in the afternoon and at a public meeting at The Hive in the evening.

Rev Dr Fiona Haworth, the University's Chaplain, said: "During Fairtrade Fortnight Fairtrade sales were organised, selling produce from Zaytoun, groceries and crafts from Traidcraft and beads, scarves and bags from TraidNepal. A screening of Black Gold: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee was organised exploring the injustices in global trade in coffee and the impact of Fairtrade for coffee farmers in Ethiopia. A Fairtrade promotion was also organised, inviting students to think about Fairtrade and take away some free samples of Fairtrade coffee and healthy snacks.

"I am delighted to see students engaging with issues of Fairtrade and the way in which it transforms the lives of some of the most impoverished communities in the world. Buying Fairtrade is a good way to empower people and enable them to support development in ways which benefit farmers and producers directly."

*photo courtesy of Carl Freeman