My school friends and I run two 'Young Co-operatives' as businesses to try to raise awareness of fair trade. They operate from our school, English Martyrs School, in Hartlepool in northeast England, and are called The Chocolateers and Coco Banana.
I am a member of The Chocolateers. Five of us sell fairly traded food and drink - tea, coffee, bananas, chocolate, biscuits, snack bars - at a tuckshop outside our school chapel during every Monday morning break. At the same time we learn how to run a business.
We also learn where the products come from, who produces them, and how and why they are traded. We decide ourselves which products to buy, where to buy them from, how much to sell them for, and where to sell them.
Our most popular products are a range of Divine chocolate bars. These are made from cocoa that comes from the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative in Ghana.
The favourite product at the tuckshop is a small milk chocolate Divine bar and we have now persuaded the school to stock these bars in the dining hall vending machines. This means pupils and teachers can buy them any time, and we sell about 50 bars each week from the machines.
In the Christmas season we decided to try some different products, and sold Divine chocolate advent calendars and chocolate decorations for Christmas trees. Coco Banana sell their products - which include bananas, coffee, tea and hot chocolate - to teachers and at local churches.
Through our business we try to raise awareness of fair trade. We have spoken on local radio, and been interviewed by a national newspaper. We have met our town mayor and Member of Parliament. Recently we helped to run school assemblies telling people about fair trade and asking them to buy the products that we sell every week.
For me, fair trade makes a difference. If we carry on giving growers so little, one day they will not have enough money to feed themselves and are very likely to die. Fair trade will change this. Giving a fair price for their produce gives them a better life.
For me fair trade is really important because there is easily enough food in the world to feed everyone. But why does the western world keep it all to itself?
Our business is run as a cooperative because we think there is more to running a business than making a profit. We want to raise awareness of fair trade and help people to see that growers and makers are being ripped off every day.
Our cooperative meetings are held every two weeks and we talk about what we need to buy for the tuckshop, and any events that we could go to to sell our produce. Decisions in our group are made with each person having one vote. Any disagreements are put to the vote: no one person is the boss.
Fair trade is the way forward. If we all started to buy fair trade products, perhaps one day big companies would be forced to change and give a fair price to the growers.
People say that every argument has two sides, like two sides of a coin. What is the other side of this coin? Why is fair trade wrong?
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