Barbara Crowther


Barbara Crowther

Chocolate addict, Fairtrade activist and Bolton Wanderers fan, I'm travelling to meet the producers of the everyday things I enjoy in life.

Jammin’ Day 5 and reggae is playing on the car stereo as we swing around the winding roads up the Windwards coast of St Vincent. We wind our way between the banana trees along a bumpy track and up the hill, passing a lush array of trees including breadfruit, guava, cashew and passion fruit, before arriving at a shining building painted in the green and blue colours of the FAIRTRADE Mark.. This is Montaque, in St Vincent, it’s the brand name of a range of jams, jellies and juices, but for the banana farmers of St Lucia, Dominica and St Vincent it’s also a window to the future - their first venture into food processing, as a way of diversifying away from just the sale of the raw fruit. Two years ago the farmers of the ... read more

1st June marks the official start of the hurricane season in St Vincent, and almost like clockwork the rain is hammering on the roof of the reception centre at Langley Park, where the farmers are bringing their fruit for weighing, checking and shipment. Nearby, grey and copper coloured waves crash to the shores, and the coconut palms bend in the wind that gives these islands their name. Nioka Abbott was up early working through the downpour to cut and pack the twenty 18 kilogram boxes of bananas she’s promised for this week’s Asda and Sainsbury shipment. As she says, ‘here in St Vincent we love carnival. No rain ever stop our carnival. So rain can’t stop our farmers. Shipment ain’t gonna wait for no rain to stop.” Nioka was one of the very first farmers to ... read more

When you pick up a bag of Fairtrade bananas costing £1.29 in Asda today, it’s hard to imagine the work that has gone into putting it together. Gideon Gilbert is the chair of the Mesopotamia Fair Trade banana farmers’ group. His day on the farm often starts before 6am, before the day gets too hot, and his hard work on the farm is evident in the lush, green leaves of the healthy banana plants that cling to the steep hillside. It’s tough and back breaking work, there’s watergrass and other weeds to clear, leaves to prune, old banana plant debris to clear, young bananas to deflower. Then he has to ensure the banana bunches are protected from insects by covering them in bags, plus fertilising and water channelling. In the thirteen weeks it takes for each ... read more

At the modest offices of the St Vincent National Fair Trade Organisation, there is a busy flow of farmers coming in to collect the bags they will need for the next harvest. Some of them are collecting Asda branded bags, some plain ones, as their bananas are also sold loose and as Caribbean smalls into Sainsbury’s. The Fair Trade Organisation is running a tight operation, everything is receipted, signed and stamped in duplicate, along with a constant friendly banter between the farmers as they come and grow. However today, the farmers and the Fair Trade Organisation have got a lot on their minds. If you’re a farmer in St Vincent, Friday is not just the day that you collect whatever bags or boxes you need for your next harvest, but it’s also the day you get ... read more

Arriving in St Vincent is quite spectacular - the twin prop plane sails low in the sky heading towards the setting sun and then sharply banks to the right. We pass over the roofs of some beautiful villas, and then skim the rocky shore, hugging the shoreline with the waves crashing against the rocks literally a few metres below us. Just as it seems we're destined to either clip the rocks with the wings, or land in the water, the ground flattens, a runway appears, and within a couple of seconds we've bounced onto it. The air stewardess says, Welcome to St Vincent and the Grenadines, my home and the jewel of the Caribbean! Although it's early evening and the sun is rapidly going down, it's still very warm and sticky. Ancelma and Romo from the ... read more

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