Beginning our journey to investigate Fairtrade

This morning, the Year 6 classes as Liss Junior School began to take a detailed look at fair trade. We began by discussing what causes poverty. The children were given 3 beans each and were asked to investigate nine statements. When they found a statement that they felt was most accurate they could place one of their beans in a cup next to the statement. If they wished, they could place all their beans in a particular cup. These are the results for Rowan Class:

Climate change means flood and droughts1926%
International trading system is unfair to poor
People can’t grow enough food because of wars1318%
People are too poor to buy food1521%
Food grown on the best farmland is sold to rich
Many big companies don’t pay the tax they should
to poor countries
People in rich countries want to pay less for
things they buy, so wages in poor countries stay
Corruption and bad government in bad countries11%
People in rich countries don’t give enough in aid
and charity

Once we had calculated the percentages, we had a discussion as to why the pupils had made their choices. What became very clear was how aware the children are of the issues relating to climate change and war – the situation in Syria was mentioned several times. Where the children had less awareness was on the issues of corruption and bad government. This is not necessarily surprising as they are not at an age where they would study politics yet.

With this opening task complete, our next task was to find out where much of our food comes from in the UK. We used a world map and identified which countries supplied the UK the following foods:

Bananas – The Caribbean, Costa Rica

Soya – Brazil

Pineapple – Costa Rica

Cocoa – West Africa

Sugar – The Caribbean

Palm Oil – South East Asia

We noticed that many of these ingredients came from poorer parts of the world. This raised the question – if all these poor countries are selling us lots of good then why are they so poor?

We then looked at the ingredients in a chocolate bar and found out that only one of the ingredients is produced in the UK. A discussion followed about why chocolate was so cheap in the UK when so many of the ingredients were imported. Mr Stanley told the children how big companies will pay producers very low prices in order to ensure that prices are kept low in richer countries like the UK and to ensure that their profit margins high.

Next, Mr Stanley got the children to undertake an exercise. He asked the class to draw their own bananas to represent bananas that were grown.

Once the children had finished drawing and cutting out their bananas, Mr Stanley said that he would return to the class in five minutes to make the class an offer for the 25 bananas that had been produced.

When Mr Stanley returned to the class, the children had discussed the sale carefully and come up with a price of 1000 counters for all 25 bananas. Mr Stanley said that he would consider the price and would have a think about it. After 30 seconds Mr Stanley made the class a counter – offer of 50 units: one – twentieth of the price the children had asked for. This caused understandable outrage in the class, but Mr Stanley told the class that BB (Big Bananas), the company he was representing had been to another class who had accepted this offer. If Rowan Class weren’t prepared to accept his offer then he would do business with the other class.

With the exercise over and the children very angry, Mr Stanley took the children through the stages from a banana being grown to being sold in a supermarket in the UK. This can be seen below:

We discussed who should get the most money from the sale of the banana. The children thought that the grower should receive the majority of the payment or at least an equal share. They were genuinely shocked when they saw how little the grower was actually paid. One pupil was so angry about this that she was almost speechless.

In our next lesson we will be writing about what we have discovered so far as well as beginning to investigate what fairtrade actually means.

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