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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read YOUR story now!
It is fantastic that the campaigners are enjoying Harriet's book so much and like me just cannot put it down.

I know that many, if not all of them understand the power of stories and that is what makes this book so special to me.

It is the power of so many stories from so many different people (producers, licensees, NGOs, consumers etc) all coming...
Published on 10 April 2008 by Bruce Crowther

versus
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Preaching to the choir
A friend loaned me this book as he is committed to FairTrade and, knowing I was sceptical, wanted me to learn more about it. I was disappointed. Harriet Lamb is obviously writing from a very partisan viewpoint, which is fair enough, but her total belief in what she is doing means that she never seems to feel it necessary to advance arguments for her approach but simply to...
Published on 6 Mar. 2012 by Tom Williams


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Preaching to the choir, 6 Mar. 2012
By 
This review is from: Fighting the Banana Wars and Other Fairtrade Battles (Paperback)
A friend loaned me this book as he is committed to FairTrade and, knowing I was sceptical, wanted me to learn more about it. I was disappointed. Harriet Lamb is obviously writing from a very partisan viewpoint, which is fair enough, but her total belief in what she is doing means that she never seems to feel it necessary to advance arguments for her approach but simply to assert that it is right. I was reading this in the week when it emerged that Tesco was taking on young people to work in their stores without payment, yet Ms Lamb takes it as a given that exploitation in the commercial food chain starts and ends in the Third World. Growers and pickers must (quite rightly) be properly paid but after that, FairTrade doesn't really seem to care. Supermarkets can display the symbol on their own-brand goods even if their shelf-stackers aren't paid at all. Ms Lamb points out that farmers in the UK may be squeezed but they aren't starving, which is literally true but then many of the charming Third World farmers who pop up throughout the book with convenient sound bites praising FairTrade aren't starving either. They have it hard - but so do many UK farmers. Almost one UK farmer commits suicide every week (Malmberg, A., Hawton, K., Simkin, S. (1997) A study of suicide in farmers in England and Wales. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 43, 107-111). Levels of infant mortality in some parts of the USA are greater than in India, but FairTrade buys products in India and, on principle, won't operate in the USA. I'm not saying that their decisions are unfair or unreasonable but they need explaining and defending with clear argument, not the mix of ex-colonial condescension and smug self-righteousness that quite often slips through here. Whether she is busily cycling from meeting to meeting or making passing reference to her Christian faith, Ms Lamb can come over as a bit of an insufferable goody two-shoes.

Harriet Lamb does rather have her organic cake and eat it. She cites her environmental credentials (and that bloody bike comes out again) but she is constantly jetting off around the world to meet a farmer here or attend a conference there. Her contribution to carbon levels must be quite significant - as is that of her products. Importing our vegetables from Nigeria might be good for Nigerian farmers, but it's hardly good for the planet. Ms Lamb assures us that most of the products are shipped by sea (though many - like fresh flowers - clearly aren't) quietly ignoring the fact that cargo vessels are themselves significant sources of carbon. Although ships generate less carbon per kilo of goods shipped, they currently account for around 4% of global carbon emissions - twice the total emissions of aircraft.

I'm being grossly unfair, of course. The idea that people in the Third World should be properly paid for their produce is absolutely right, and FairTrade has done a lot to help with this. But things are not as one-sided and straightforward as they might appear from reading this book. Much is made of FairTrade bananas. A FairTrade banana is a FairTrade banana - it's pretty straightforward. Much less is said about FairTrade chocolate. Global supply issues mean that the cocoa in your FairTrade chocolate bar might be fairly traded or it might not. International commodity markets aren't that simple and this book does not address their complexities. There are passing references to how the definition of FairTrade varies from product to product and is the result of negotiation with buyers, but no details are provided. And details matter.

In the same way, the book supports some of its more significant statements with footnotes. But if you check out these footnotes (and I'm an obsessive footnote checker) you'll see that they are often to secondary sources. Many of these secondary sources are Oxfam publications. Oxfam is committed to FairTrade. So arguments in a book which is essentially a bit of old-fashioned agitprop for FairTrade are being supported by reference to other books which are themselves propaganda for the system.

If you believe that FairTrade is great and want to pat yourself on the back, this is the book for you. If you know nothing about what is an important scheme to make international trade in agriculture fairer to poor producers, this might be a useful introduction. But if you want an informed and critical analysis of how FairTrade works, what the problems are with it and how it might be developed, this book is a complete waste of your time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read YOUR story now!, 10 April 2008
It is fantastic that the campaigners are enjoying Harriet's book so much and like me just cannot put it down.

I know that many, if not all of them understand the power of stories and that is what makes this book so special to me.

It is the power of so many stories from so many different people (producers, licensees, NGOs, consumers etc) all coming together to show what can be achieved when we all start to care about the `problem' and take what action is required by each of us.

I consider it an enormous privilege to be one of those stories and many people that I know are also mentioned by name in the book, but of most importance is the wording in the final paragraph under the 'Acknowledgements' section:

"Above all else, I would like to acknowledge those many, many people across the world who have played their part in putting Fairtrade on the map but whose stories could not all be included in this book"

That of course means all of us who have done anything to support Fairtrade, even if it is just drinking a cup of Fairtrade coffee, so if you have not done so already go out and read YOUR story now!

As well as an excellent read this book is a must have campaigner tool. I just cannot stop reading out aloud from it at every opportunity as it provides the heart and soul that lies beneath all that I do.

Bruce Crowther
Oxfam Campaigner & Fairtrade Towns Coordinator
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, 17 Mar. 2008
By 
Miss L. A. Knowles (Portsmouth) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I loved this book!
Yes I am passionate about Fairtrade but I think anyone, even those who are completely new to Fairtrade will get a lot out of it. The book details the history of the Fairtrade movement here in the UK and the struggles they faced in the beginning all the way through to the huge successes they are seeing today. It also has a useful 'how to get involved' section at the back.
The book is written in an easy, interesting and personal way and can't fail to get everyone fired up to support Fairtrade.
Happy reading!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars INFORMATIVE, INSPIRING, INDISPENSIBLE, 20 April 2008
By 
J. Human (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I cannot praise Fighting the Banana Wars and Other Fairtrade Battles too highly. As a Human Rights, Fairtrade and Trade Justice campaigner, it does all the right things for me:

It uses stories of individuals and families to illustrate the big picture of the global trading scene superbly. These stories are well very chosen, and wonderfully told. Harriet's warmth and affection for the people about whom she is writing comes across so powerfully.

It places Fairtrade within the broad context of Trade Justice, which for me is essential. Arguably if the world's trading systems were fair there would be no need for Fairtrade.

It does all this with a powerful conviction and a forceful passion - a passionate anger at the manifold injustices of global trading systems that so savagely damage the lives and livelihoods of tens of millions of farmers and other producers worldwide, and a passionate commitment to do something practical about it.

It is an informative, inspiring and indispensable book.

Buy it now!

Joe Human
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4.0 out of 5 stars What (or rather who) Fair Trade is really about..., 31 Jan. 2010
By 
Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Fighting the Banana Wars and Other Fairtrade Battles (Paperback)
Fair Trade products are now such a familiar part of the mainstream that it's easy to take their impact for granted. It's timely, then, that Harriet Lamb and Ben Jackson should have set out the Fair Trade story here - everything from bananas and coffee to cotton and flowers. The book is a great reminder that Fair Trade is about people - small farmers and their children, now schooled where once they were not; about human potential developed - as seen in the business acumen of John Kanjagaile in Tanzania and the supervisory management skills of Maria Malan in South Africa. But it's also a reminder that Fair Trade hasn't reached its goal, and that it needs to grow. The final, necessary, chapter `Ten steps you can take' (everything from Fair Trade towns to investing in Fair Trade) is an excellent resource for kick-starting that growth. I felt the book perhaps needed more on the importance of fairer terms of international trade to set the fine achievements of Fair Trade against a broader canvas, but overall, this is an excellent and warmly human account.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, Informative and Insightful!, 25 Mar. 2008
This is a brilliant book, it will make you cry, it will make you laugh and most of all, it will inspire you to change the way you shop! It will connect you with the people who grow and produce the food and clothes that you buy.

I cried at the description of the horrific effects that the (banned in Europe but not in the Third world) chemicals have on the farmers and their families.

I laughed at the breath-taking honesty and self-effacing way that the road from 'crap chocolate wrapped in cardboard' (to quote Tony Robinson) to over 3,000 products (including major supermarket own brands) is described. The book also gives the credit to the everyday people who have campaigned and bought Fairtrade, as they have created the unstoppable flood which has led to a fairer way to trading with developing countries.

I was inspired by the way that the book illustrates how Fairtrade provides stability to the farmers, and also gives them new power and hope. They decide whether to use the Fairtrade premium to build a school or wells or to provide healthcare. It gives them back their pride and voice - as one banana worker puts it - 'the banana worker is the poorest person in our society, managed and exploited by multinational corporations... I was someone that took a box and loaded it onto a train...In this new system I have become an international businessman'.

Harriet is a social campaigner who is definitely one of the ordinary people - and the passion and pragmatism shines through this book.

She doesn't shy away from the difficult questions - how to avoid tokenism by big companies, other ethical areas (the sweatshops, mining and diamonds), where does ensuring a fair price for UK farmers from supermarkets fit in, etc. In fact, the book tackles these areas with balanced, intelligent answers.

The book shows how far things have come, but also spurs you on as we still have far to go - for example, less than 1% of chocolate sold in the UK is Fairtrade (and no major confectioner yet has a Fairtrade product).

I have already pledged to change the way I shop - I dare you to read this book and not to take up at least one of the steps that are outlined at the end.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Too much pathos not enough logos, 19 April 2008
Like many conscientiousness consumers, I buy Fairtrade. I was very excited about this book and had clear objectives approaching it:

1. I wanted to understand the Fairtrade operation better.
2. I wanted to have confidence that this organisation was working efficiently.

In 2006, Fairtrade-certified sales amounted to approximately 1.6 billion worldwide. It's is a large operation, which means a detailed explanation of its organisation structure is required, so that one can know it operates with efficiency and ethical authenticity. Unfortunately, this is where I think the book comes up short. For example, it doesn't really go into detail of the constituent parts of Fairtrade and how they interact.
The Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International split up into FLO international and FLO-CERT in 2004. Are the current arrangements working better? How well are Fairtrade controlling the bureaucracy and accountability battles that beset any large NGO?

Instead of tackling these questions systematically, the author offers anecdotes of wonder tales of people in the organisation, moving narratives of exploited workers and against the odds chronicles of Fairtrade cracking some of the big markets. It's an approach of pathos with little logos. I wanted a clear picture of how this organisation works in my head. I couldn't get it and the annoying pattern of back slapping of various heroes in the Fairtrade organisation became increasingly annoying. While I highly respect anybody who does something for humanity, some of the information she is giving is completely irrelevant and superficial. Some examples:

1. Paul Rice chief executive of transfair USA, looks a bit like Tom Cruise.
2. Barry the director at the world development movement used to have a "lovely ponytail".
3. Tamara Thomas, a women who wanted a company to use Fairtrade cotton, is an attractive blonde.

Does it matter what any of these people look like? While these people may have done great things or played a crucial role, when an organisation becomes a certain size, you can't just rely on super heros; there has to be the processes, checks and tests to make sure the operation is working efficiently from the bottom to the top.

While I respect Harriet Lamb is not a philosopher, I feel there are some very interesting philosophical questions pertaining to fairtrade and ethical shopping that could have been explored.

For example:
1. How does one determine a fair price? What is fair? Is there always an inescapably subjective element to it?
2. The question of whether to buy local produce and hence lowering transport costs and CO2 emissions versus buying African produce thus helping poorer farmers is discussed but only skimmed over and given a sort of trust your instinct answer.

Ultimately, when assesing this book it comes down to whether I achieve my objectives better by reading this book or by researching Fairtrade articles in quality newspapers and publications. For me, it's a case of a latter. How you enjoy it will depend on your objectives.

Because this book deals with a very emotive issue I fear my criticism of this book will not be well received. I'll still be buying and supporting Fairtrade but I must be honest as it is the book I am reviewing not the organisation.
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4.0 out of 5 stars People (producers and consumers), Planet, and the economics: thrilling use case, 2 Oct. 2014
Fighting the banana wars and other Fairtrade battles by Harriet Lamb
This book may interest you because the Fairtrade scheme brings a new set of economic standards and criteria in the food market ( and other) arena: respect the planet, respect the people (producers or consumers), introduce sustainability and risk reduction in an otherwise fierce competition with commodity price volatility.
I was interested to learn from the experience gained in the area of physical commodities and ways to address their price volatility (and potentially chaotic availability depending on crops, good or bad weather, natural disasters).
And, last but not least, I am now a fully convinced buyer of Fair Trade labelled products
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fairtrade is a force for change, 17 Mar. 2008
Harriet Lamb's account of the beginnings and growth of Fairtrade achieves an excellent balance between clearly explaining the knotty economic and political issues involved, and taking the reader on a journey around the world to where Fairtrade is having a tangible impact. An inspiring read and great resource for anyone wanting to find out more about the real facts and figures behind Fairtrade.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book., 19 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: Fighting the Banana Wars and Other Fairtrade Battles (Paperback)
This is a great book. I love Harriet Lamb's creative style of writing. I would thoroughly reccomend it!
Loved it (-:
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Fighting the Banana Wars and Other Fairtrade Battles
Fighting the Banana Wars and Other Fairtrade Battles by Harriet Lamb (Paperback - 19 Feb. 2009)
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