Monthly Archives: January 2010

The Media’s take on Fairtrade….

I’ve just had a little brush with the media… ooh! Fame! A chance for some sort of critique of Fairtrade to be aired in public?

Not likely!!!

Dear *****,
I work in the University’s Media Team. I am just trying to find an  academic whose research covers Fairtrade products. I know you work in the area of food, and wondered if you’d done anything in this area?

Basically, its Fairtrade Fortnight in a couple of weeks time, and I’d like to see if we have any stories we could promote during this week, or
any experts we would put forward for comment.

Do let me know if this is something you’d be interested in.
Best wishes


Dear *****:

Thanks for your message.  One of my final year postgrads, Annabel Townsend, has written about fair trade coffee, based on her fieldwork in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  She has a lot of interesting things to say about Fair Trade and ethical consumption issues.  She also runs a coffee cart, selling FT products, called Doctor Coffee.


Dear Annabel,
Further to ****’s email below, would you be interested in working with the Media Team on a press story connected to Fairtrade? We are putting
together a news release containing information on what the University is doing for Fairtrade fortnight. It would also be good to include some
comments from someone who works in that area, and possibly put you forward as an expert to talk to the media if they are interested in following up the story.

Is this something you’d be willing to do? Please feel free to give me a  call on the below number to discuss further if you’d like.


Dear ******,
Good to hear from you. I’d be happy to get involved in this if I can! I wouldn’t say I’m an ‘expert’ but I am actually pretty critical of Fairtrade nowadays,
the more I find out from my research, the more I realise how many flaws there are in the system. (To correct *****, I don’t actually stock Fairtrade on my
coffee cart any more – and tend to spend quite a bit of time explaining exactly why to my customers!). I feel like there aren’t many critiques of fairtrade that get reported in the media, so this could be very interesting!
If I can be any use to you then please email back or give me a ring – I’m happy to meet with you
whenever is convenient.

Dear Annabel,

Thanks for getting back to me so soon – this does sound really interesting. Just in terms of Fairtrade Fortnight, unfortunately, I
think if we included your research alongside some of the Union events which are taking place, we might find we have quite contradictory
messages as the events are looking to promote fairtrade.

I think, therefore, it might be best to concentrate on the events during the Fortnight. I could always come back to you if an opportunity arises
at a later date, for us to do some publicity around your research.

Best wishes

HMMM… Thoughts, anyone??


Posted by on January 28, 2010 in Uncategorized


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“November -January Progress Report”

I have just had to write my latest little summary of what I’ve been up to for the past three months; this little task has to be completed for the sake of the ESRC and the rest of the Waste of the World program to keep up to date with our work, and also for me to occasionally justify my existence at the university!
I found it quite hard to write this time, mainly because all I’ve done for the past few months in relation to work is write – writewritewritewrite. I’ve not done much in the way of active research, I’ve not been anywhere, not attended any more conferences, nothing…. The summary was pretty short. This is Year Three after all: serious thesis writing time. So far I’ve done about 20000 words, and two and half chapters. Typically I opted to do the ‘easy’ chapters first – that is, the more empirical ones on ‘quality’ ‘ethics’ and currently working on ‘skill’. They are all rather lacking in references at the moment though, and read far too much like “this is what I did on my holidays”…. However, I know that this is only going to get harder as soon as I am stuck writing the dreaded literature review or worse – the actual conclusions….

I haven’t really been writing solidly for three months though, but everything else I’ve been up to is hardly academic.
Although, there is this:
from the PHD comics
(with thank yous to the PHD comics)
Not quite at the dirty nappies stage yet! But certainly a great deal of time has been spent recently preparing for the arrival of the occupant of those nappies. When I say “preparing” I mean, throwing up, lying on the sofa with no energy being kicked from the inside, rushing to the loo every five minutes and shopping for increasingly gigantic bras. Unsurprisingly, this does not a productive Bel make,

Fortunately for me, my taste for coffee has finally started to come back, Not to the obsessive, addicted extent that it was, but enough for me to enjoy the occasional cup again. And of course, I still have my regular supply! Doctor Coffee’s Cafe was extremely hectic before Christmas (not helped by aforementioned lack of energy) but has been severely hampered by the snow in the New Year, as I really didn’t think me standing out in blizzards with very little shelter was the best thing I could be doing with myself at the moment. Still, we are back on track: the snow has gone, cakes are being made every week, my source on the ground in Nicaragua (gracias Andie!) is shipping me huge slabs of 100% cacao for hot chocolate, and I got my final delivery of coffee from Cafe Cristina in Costa Rica. This is a sad landmark: the Costa Rican postal service decided to increase their overseas shipping rates by 107% as of December 09 – yes you did read that right, *one hundred and seven percent!!*, meaning that it is simply not worth Cafe Cristina sending the coffee to Europe any more. Craziness. I am savouring my last batch, but I’ve got to find a new supplier now!

This progress report also had to include, for the first time, what we are planning to do in the future. I resisted the urge to say “reproduce”; instead I have another cunning plan, brimful of academic worth. It is:
The International Coffee Organisation’s World Coffee Conference
Conveniently, at the end of February. And better still, IN GUATEMALA.
The conference is all about the future of coffee – in terms of the global market for the stuff, the economic and environmental sustainability of the industry (useful for my waste project), improvements in working conditions, and interestingly, about ‘differentiation’ – specificially, the speciality industry, certification and quality – all exactly what I am interested in! It’s a very full program, over three days, and also coincides with the 50th anniversary of the founding of ANACAFE, the Guatemalan coffee organisation. Lots and lots of industry big-wigs, as well as academics, and it is even being opened by the President of Guatemala! This is a biiiiiig deal. Eep.
My supervisors were not so keen on the idea, but I think, mainly because they are determined that I get my thesis done in draft form the time I go on maternity leave in June, and this is, and I quote, “a week out of writing.” I assured them that I’d have plenty of time on the 22hour-in-each-direction flights. It is also a blooming long way to go for a conference. However, by pure serendipity, I had exactly enough money left in my university pot of ‘conference money’ to afford a flight and the extortionate registration fee, (I have since learned that there are 13.61 Guatemalan quetzals to the pound. Knowing this didn’t make it seem any cheaper!). By the end of February, I will be 23 weeks pregnant, and still apparently safe to fly. I am not about to pop on the plane, anyway. I managed to get travel insurance with the optional extra of “uncomplicated pregnancy as pre-existing medical condition”. All is set!! I am determined to go – I honestly do think it will be really interesting and pretty useful for the project, I can see what the Guatemalan industry is like in comparison with neighbouring Nicaragua and Costa Rica, but it could also be good in terms of networking. I can’t shake the idea of imminent unemployment after this PhD, and with small sprog, this is equivalent to Impending Doom. Scary.
This is obviously going to be my last trip anywhere exotic for quite some time as well. I don’t like that idea much, but I assured for all sides that baby will be worth it! Maybe this opportunity has come along to pacify me? For the first time ever, I am getting a little paranoid about travelling. I will, at the request of darling husband, drink bottled water out there, No volcano climbing. No street food (waa!) I may even spend over ten dollars a night on accomodation (a mortal sin, in my book) and stay in a guesthouse not a hostel… gah. Responsibility does not come easily to me!
But, nevertheless… adventures in many forms no doubt await me and I am excited about love, life and coffee! Hasta la victoria siempre!
Guatemala map and coffee

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Posted by on January 21, 2010 in Uncategorized


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