Fairtrade fan returns from Costa Rica

NZ supporter of the year

Keren Rego won the New Zealand Fairtrade Supporter of the Year Award and travelled to Costa Rica to see Fairtrade farmers in action. 

Never in a million years did I think I would be rewarded and acknowledged for my teaching and passion for Fairtrade. The core ethics and values of Fairtrade are intrinsically a part of who I am as a woman, teacher, partner, mother and friend.

To return from my recent trip to Costa Rica (having been named New Zealand's Fairtrade Supporter of the Year 2014) and take the time to reflect on what I learnt and gained from that experience, has been incredible and inspiring. Being given the opportunity to share that with my school community, friends and colleagues has reinforced for me, that what I do to educate others, is infectious, so incredibly important and far from being over!

If it was conceived possible, I might be even more determined and passionate to encourage others that, if given the choice...think Fairtrade first!

Amongst the lush rain forest and landscape in the back hills of San Isidro, Costa Rica, are many farms operated by incredibly intelligent, versatile, creative, hard-working and determined farmers. Many of them have been part of the CoopeAgri cooperative since its beginning and are now managing farms that have been passed down through the generations.

When speaking to these farmers, the common response is that being a part of a Fairtrade cooperative has positively impacted their lives in a multitude of ways.

The farmers experience immeasurable benefits from the hands-on practical support that the mobile technicians provide, as well as medical care for them and their family, education and most importantly the stable, fair price they are paid. Fairtrade farmers are encouraged to preserve acres of native forest as part of Fairtrade's environmental standards and the farmers are financially rewarded for maintaining these areas.

As the evidence of climate change is too obvious for farmers to ignore, the need for a collaborative approach with their farming neighbours to share ideas and try new methods is imperative. Relying on one main crop is not always financially sound all year round so the farmers are diversifying with new crops that they can sell locally in markets. An added benefit of this, is that by planting different plants the soil is able to be reconditioned, thus supporting their organic farming practices.

It was a pleasure to spend time with these farmers and the look on their faces when I gifted them a block of Fairtrade Certified Whittakers Dark Ghana chocolate was unforgettable. They had never sampled this chocolate, even though CoopeAgri supply the Fairtrade sugar that goes into this block of goodness!

Visiting a family who live in a new home recently built by the funding provided by the Coope Agri cooperative was a memory bank deposit for life! They were such a kind, humble and modest couple and well-worthy of such a generous initiative that this cooperative have been running for the past 15 years, building a total of 70 homes so far!

When you think Fairtrade first and choose to buy Fairtrade, you are supporting incredible projects all over the world that get to the heart of the community and make the planet a better place to be.

-Keren Rego, teacher at Point Chevalier School in Auckland, won the New Zealand Fairtrade Supporter of the Year Award in 2014. As part of the award, Keren recently took a trip to Costa Rica to see Fairtrade farmers in action. Keren wrote about her experiences and motivation for supporting Fairtrade.