Fairtrade Fortnight started this Monday and runs until next Sunday. Whether your school has been running events or not, an assembly is a great way to raise awareness of fair trade issues by focusing on a favourite fruit - the banana.
Start off by telling your pupils that two billion people - that is, a third of humanity - still survive on less than Pounds 2 a day. Explain that unfair trade rules keep them in poverty, but they face the global challenges of food shortages and climate change too. Introduce the fair trade movement as a people's movement for change that aims to tip the balance of trade in favour of poor producers. We all need fair trade more than ever and we have the power to create positive change for people and the planet. Add the following facts to stimulate interest:
- The banana is the most popular fruit in the world - people spend more than Pounds 10 billion a year on the fruit globally.
- Banana plants are the largest plants on earth without a woody stem. They are actually giant herbs of the same family as lilies, orchids and palms.
- Wild bananas originated in Asia and have been cultivated for more than 4,000 years.
- Bananas are one of the few fruits that ripen best off the plant. Even in tropical growing areas, bananas for domestic consumption are cut green and stored in moist shady places to ripen slowly.
- Bananas are available all year-round. They are harvested every day of the year.
- Bananas contain tryptophan and vitamin B6, known to help make you feel happy.
Make pupils aware that the fruit they take for granted as being cheap and readily available does not come without an economic downside. While banana sales and demand soar, prices have plummeted, having a devastating effect on banana producers. In November 1997, bananas cost an average of Pounds 1.08 per kilo in UK supermarkets. In June 2008 that price was as low as 50p per kilo. This means that the majority of banana plantation workers do not earn enough to live and support their families - some earn less than Pounds 1 per day.
Banana diseases are also a major problem for growers, threatening production and export. Despite their importance to food security in the developing world and to consumption in richer countries, remarkably little is invested in research to find solutions to disease problems and into sustainable production systems.
But it's not all negative, so remind pupils that they can do their bit. One in four bananas sold in the UK is now fairly traded. You could end the assembly with a quiz to see what pupils have learnt, or a film showing how farms benefit from being protected by the Fairtrade Foundation, both of which are available from www.fairtrade.org.uk. Alternatively, team up with your canteen or catering provider to supply a banana-based feast that day.
The Fairtrade Foundation is urging schools to `go bananas' from noon on March 6 to noon on March 7. Visit www.fairtrade.org.ukgobananas.