Category Archives: Wycombe News

High Wycombe Fairtrade Churches & Faith Groups “Think Tank” – 7th March 2020

Location: Christ The Servant King Church

Heather Searle from CSK opened the event attended by people from 5 local Wycombe churches by giving a very appropriate sermon on the biblical values of helping people less fortunate than oneself with relevant passages from the Old and New Testaments, transferring those caring and sharing values to the present time and comparing these to the principles promoted by the Fairtrade Foundation.

Margaret Dykes, a local and noted Traidcraft representative and speaker highlighted her experiences of 25 years working with one of the founder members of the Fairtrade organization and her work and projects with schools and churches, promoting the values and dedication that farmers and growers inject into their products. She described what the Fairtrade mark means to producers who are trying to trade their way out of poverty in an economic system which is dominated by large transnational companies who largely adopt unfair business practices.

Angharad Hopkinson, the Fairtrade Churches and Faith Groups Coordinator from the Fairtrade Foundation gave a presentation entitled “Changing the Story”. The talk encompassed biblical passages and themes which related to present day social justice and human rights e.g. “The spoil of the poor are in your houses” (Isaiah 3). She drew attention to the UK chocolate industry currently worth in excess of £4 billion per annum, yet cocoa farmers in the Cote D’Ivoire earn less than $1 per day. She reflected on the verse from Matthew 22 – “You should love your neighbour as yourself”. There were stories from African cocoa farmers like Lucia and Theresa who both lived in extreme poverty until they joined the local Fairtrade Cava Cooperative. Theresa stated that “When I am selling my cocoa through Cava Cooperative, the price is requested (guaranteed)”, and Lucia added that “Cocoa is our hope”. Fairtrade gives people dignity, respect, economic guarantees and the Fairtrade Premium provides schooling and higher education for their children She closed by saying that in a recent report by Oxfam in 2019 entitled, ”Time to Care” –  “The world’s 22 richest men have more combined wealth than all 325 million women in Africa”. A sobering thought!

Maranda St.John Nicolle

Waiting printed notes – No powerpoint

Mike King’s illustrated powerpoint presentation highlighted the threats imposed by climate change to small-scale Fairtrade farmers and producers in developing countries. Drought; floods; desertification; melting glaciers and ice caps; uncertain rainfall; and the increase in greenhouse gases over the last three decades are all impacting on agricultural producers, even though they have not caused the underlying reasons for climate change. However, with years of experience on their land, soil preservation measures, water retention, tree planting, crop diversification, and the introduction of quicker-growing disease resistant seeds and hybrid plants, and the agronomic expertise from Fairtrade; World Coffee Research Institute; IRRI; and World Trade Organisation researchers themselves, small scale farmers are quick to adapt to changing conditions and adopt appropriate technology. With sustainable and organic farming methods predominating, the use of hybrid plants and careful husbandry, farmers are in a position to slow down climate change through these practices by becoming custodians of the land as well as living and working in harmony with nature.

Fairtrade Fortnight 2020 – Wycombe

Events attended and arranged by Wycombe Fairtrade Steering Group 23rd Feb to Sun 7th March

Monday 2nd March 2020.

Mike King attended an event at Bath University jointly sponsored by Bath University; Bewley’s UK; Bristol Link to Nicaragua; and the Students Union of Bath University. There were a series of presentations and talks by  Rob Smyth, from the Fairtrade Foundation about the current situation on Fairtrade coffee; a female coffee grower from the Nicaraguan Fairtrade coffee producer SOPPEXCCA, a union of 18 coffee cooperatives. Gloria focused on the challenges to female coffee growers and their resilience and invention to develop new products through adversity. Louise Whitaker from Bewley’s UK, a national wholesaler and coffee roaster., gave a very informative address looking at the valuable role women play in Fairtrade, and especially in the growing of coffee and developing community spirit and harmony and even becoming managers of their own coffee land and developing their own sidelines, diversifying the economy anas well as ensuring money was funding local education, health, and social projects.

Thursday 5th March 2020

This Traidcraft Coffee Boffin Quiz  took place at the Christ The Servant King Church, Open Door Cafe for retired people and those with learning difficulties. The Quiz was well received with 25 to 30 people working in small groups and teams. Sustained by Fairtrade coffee, tea , and biscuits, the groups were very engaged and improved their knowledge of coffee varieties, the many hazards of growing coffee, and the wide diversity of flavours. The first three winners received Fairtrade chocolate, biscuits and of course. Fairtrade coffee.

Sunday 8th March 2020

Traidcraft stall run by Sheena and Mike King raised over £500.00 as well as selling and taking orders for Fairtrade Meaningful Chocolate Company Easter eggs. As usual the clergy and the parishioners were very supportive of the Fairtrade cause and bought a range of goods. Fairtrade bamboo socks were very popular.

Saturday 7th March 2020

Christ The Servant king Church in conjunction with the Wycombe For Fairtrade Steering Group  hosted a “Fairtrade Churches and Fairth Groups Think Tank” event from 10.30am to 1.00 pm. The purpose was to encourage members from other church groups to think about Fairtrade in its wider and deeper aspects, especially what the scriptures say about helping the poor and those in need. Corona virus threats and a conflicting church event in High Wycombe meant that only around 24 people attended from 5 different churches. Heather Searle led a 20-minute service and gave a very pertinent talk about people help themselves with a little encouragement. Speakers ranged from Margaret Dykes talking about her Traidcraft experiences over 25 years; Angharad Hopkinson, focusing on how to “Change the Story” of poverty using biblical references  from Isaiah 3 and Matthew 22. Two female cocoa farmers stated that Fairtrade had through the local Cava Cooperative, a sense of dignity, guaranteed incomes, and the chance to invest in health and education for their children. It was a message of hope. Maranda St John Nicolle echoed this hope by relating her perspectives and experiences in her tours of Southern Africa representing Christian Concern for One World. It is a Christian duty to help others and a theme promoted by other world religions. Finally Mike King looked at the current and future affects of climate change upon small-scale Fairtrade farmers in developing countries, both the negative and positive, and their responses to this in adapting decades of local knowledge of the land while applying appropriate technology. Although small in numbers, people seemed to have been informed and understood the deeper and wider social, economic, ecological, cultural and religious aspects that Fairtrade encompasses.

We would like to see

  • More Churches and Faith Groups in High Wycombe apply to the Fairtrade Foundation for registering as a Fairtrade Church/Faith Group.
  • Engage with more young people from a variety of faiths to get involved with Fairtrade projects, maybe in relation to schools.
  • More churches to have sessions like this or repeat them every one or two years.
  • Liaise more with and utilize online resources from the Churches and Faith Groups Coordinator from the Fairtrade Foundation.
  • Work with other churches in Wycombe to broaden the understanding of Fairtrade and what it means to the produces and farmers.
  • In trying to link the Fairtrade Towns of Wycombe and Grecia (Costa Rica), work towards linking some churches and congregations together.

Mike King
Chairman, Wycombe Fairtrade

“Fairtrade Think Tank” on 7th March 2020

Churches and Faith Groups “Fairtrade Think Tank” Event at Christ the Servant King Church,

Sycamore Road, Booker, High Wycombe on Saturday 7th March 2020. 10.30am to 1.00pm

Programme and Speakers

10.30  – 10.45 am – Fairtrade Coffee,Tea, and Biscuits.

10.45 – 11.05am  – Fairtrade Church Service (Heather Searle)

11.05am  – 11.30 am -“Traidcraft: a Christian Approach to Fair Trade” (Margaret Dykes OBE: Traidcraft)  20 minute presentation followed by questions/discussion.

Margaret received an OBE in 2015 for services to charity and community groups in her home village of Chalfont St Giles. She has 28 years of experience with Traidcraft, a charity linked to the Fairtrade movement, and is a prolific public speaker at schools now that Fairtrade is taught in the national curriculum.

11.30 am – 12.00 noon“What does it mean to be a Fairtrade church? Looking back, looking forward”(Maranda St John Nicolle: Oxford Fair Trade Coalition; CCOW) 20 minute presentation followed by questions/discussion.

Maranda is the Director of Christian Concern for One World. She is also seconded by CCOW to the Diocese of Oxford for two days a week, serving as World Development Adviser and Partners in World Mission Project Officer. She is also on the steering groups of the International Anglican Family Network and the Oxford Fair Trade Coalition.

12.05 pm – 12.35pm‘Faith’s place in the Fairtrade Movement’ (Angharad Hopkinson; Fairtrade Foundation Churches & Faith Groups Campaigns and Policy Officer) 20 minute presentation followed by questions/discussion.

Since March 2019, Angharad has been the Campaigns and Policy Officer for Churches and faith Groups at the Fairtrade Foundation. Her degree from the London School of Economics was in Environment and Development Studies. She has also media experience with campaigning for Age UK and Green Alliance.

12.35 pm – 1.00 pm“Fairtrade: The Impact of Climate Change” (Mike King: Chairman: Wycombe For Fairtrade) 20 minute presentation followed by questions/discussion.

Mike was an Academic Librarian for over 28 years and has a BA (Hons) in Regional Development Studies. Initially supporting the Trade Justice and Jubilee 2000 movements, he has been Chairman of the Wycombe For Fairtrade Steering Group since its inception in 2008, attending three International Fairtrade Towns Conferences.

1.00pm – Close

Politicon Event held at John Hampden Grammar School, 15th February 2020

This well-populated and extremely well-organized event attracted over 17 stall/stand holders covering the areas of the environment, economics, politics and community issues.

One of the first people to approach the Wycombe For Fairtrade Steering Group information stall was a Ms.S.Neal, a senior teacher at JHGS responsible for business enterprise, economics, and RS. She stated that Fairtrade was now an element in the curricula for business enterprise and economics. She had some great ideas for expanding Fairtrade into the students’ summer projects as well as having a first Fairtrade Stall during Fairtrade Fortnight 2020. It was very reassuring and encouraging to hear that Fairtrade forms part of various subject curricula at many age group levels.

I have sent Ms Neal the email and contact details for Margaret Dykes, the local Traidcraft representative, to provide a range of Fairtrade products for either a forthcoming stall during Fairtrade Fortnight 2020 or during World Fair Trade Day/Week 2020. I also gave her a booklet from the Fairtrade Foundation about registering and achieving Fairtrade School status, reflecting there were no currently registered Fairtrade schools in the High Wycombe area. She also requested a copy of the recent Fairtrade Foundation pull-out brochure/poster – “The Story of Fairtrade Cocoa” for one of her younger age-group business enterprise and economics classes.

In addition to boys and their parents, girls were invited to attend the Politicon event from the nearby Wycombe High School. Three “clued-up” students spent some time talking to Jhon and myself and indicated there was a teacher at the school “very interested” about Fairtrade. One of them informed us of a new “ethical cafe” recently opened in the small business and artisan area opposite Aldi, in one of the former shipping containers called “Tones”. I will check this out next week. 

I think that this was the first time Wycombe Fairtrade have met and talked with a Secondary school/grammar school teacher who was very interested in the subject of Fairtrade and its off-shoots into sustainability, organic production, social solidarity economics, and small business practices. It was an amazing and remarkable contact after many years of previously fruitless efforts to find a potential champion teacher which certainly justified W4FT presence at this event. I am sure that she will be a very useful contact to develop over the year. Given her portfolio of subject responsibilities, I think that she will have a narrow window of opportunity to work with us during term time and develop JHGS Fairtrade inputs, but I have offered the Steering Group’s support and backing.

This meeting with Ms Neal could provide a springboard into developing exciting links and contacts with schools in Grecia specifically and in Costa Rica as a whole as well as providing places for future field courses in the subjects of:-
a) Business b) Enterprise c) Economics d) Language exchanges of students learning Spanish or English, and setting up Facebook communication for e-frindships.

Jhon was replaced by Sarah Moroz around 7.00 pm.

Thank you to Jhon and Sarah for giving up part of their evening in helping me to set up and dismantle the W4FT stall, which had many updated Fairtrade Foundation posters and leaflets, stickers, the Fairtrade Town banner, our new A1 poster, and material and products from Grecia and CoopeVictoria.Costa Rica. This education, community, and business enterprise aspect could form the basis of a reciprocal project in Grecia and CoopeVictoria in future.

A seed has certainly been sown, but these are early days, and the drivers here are the schools, interested and influential teachers, and the amount of time they can devote to this.

Mike King,
Chairman, Wycombe Fairtrade.

Costa Rican Ambassador to the UK visit to High Wycombe Tuesday 21st January 2020

Following on from a speculative email and an invitation to the Costa Rican Embassy in December 2019, Ambassador Ortiz and his wife came to High Wycombe on Tuesday 21st January 2020 to present the High Wycombe Fairtrade Foundation Town Renewal Certificate November 2019 – Nov 2021 to the Mayor of High Wycombe, Councillor Mazamal Hussain, during the Wycombe Charter Town Trustees Executive meeting.

During an agenda item, Ambassador Rafael Ortiz addressed the Charter Trustee Executives in the Council Chamber, stating his wholehearted support for the principles of the Fairtrade movement in general. Fairtrade was directly responsible for over 20% of Costa Rica’s national income. He also praised the work of the High Wycombe For Fairtrade Steering Group in particular, focusing on developing and promoting a spirit of cooperation, friendship, and establishing a working relationship with the Fair Trade Town of Grecia in north-central Costa Rica, in addition to linking with the neighbouring and largest Fair Trade organic coffee and sugar producer, CoopeVictoria. This cooperative group has over 3000 farmers who benefit directly from Fairtrade’s guaranteed coffee prices and income, utilize sustainable and organic farming practices, have excellent green renewable energy credentials, and invest their Fairtrade premium back into their businesses as well as fund community projects such a building a new school for migrant worker’s children and funding classroom teachers.

During an interval in the meeting in the Mayor’s Parlour, Ambassador Ortiz presented the Fairtrade Foundation Town Renewal Certificate to the Mayor of High Wycombe. There was a reporter and photographer from the Bucks free Press, as well as many other photo opportunities with the Deputy Mayor of High Wycombe, Matt Knight and members of the Wycombe Fairtrade Steering Group shaking hands with the Ambassador and his wife. The Costa Rican Ambassador was invited to sit in the historical Mayoral Weighing Chair, where the “Wycombe is a Fairtrade Town” banner provided an effective back-drop.  This very exciting, sociable and mutually rewarding evening celebration was enhanced by sampling various types of Fairtrade wine, soft drinks and snacks in the Mayor’s Parlour.

One of our Steering Group members then escorted the Ambassador and his wife to the station to catch their return train to London.

Mike King,

Chairman, Wycombe Fairtrade.

Mayor’s Carol Service 2019

Location: All Saints Parish Church, High Wycombe

Date: `15th December 2019

This annual service was led by the Rev Hugh Ellis and included the current Mayor, Cllr Maz Hussain and choirs from Ash Hill Primary School and The Seer Green Singers. A talk was also given by the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Matt Knight, a long time supporter of the Wycombe for Fairtrade group. A collection was taken in support of the Mayor’s charities for this year, Wycombe Homeless Connection and Wycombe Women’s Aid as well as All Saints Church.

The Wycombe for Fairtrade steering group provided the refreshments after this service, using Fairtrade tea, coffee and sugar. Our ‘Fairtrade Town’ banner was displayed and various information leaflets about Fairtrade were available at the refreshment tables.

Meeting with the Costa Rican Ambassador in the UK

Notes by Mike King and Jhon Munoz of the Wycombe for Fairtrade Steering Committee.

We had the great opportunity yesterday to meet the Costa Rican Ambassador in the United Kingdom, HE Mr Rafael Ortiz Fabrega. We discussed our common interest in Fairtrade, other social issues and also environmental challenges, which Costa Rica is a world leader for its policies and accomplishments. It was also a great privilege to show him our current link and work we have developed with the Fairtrade town of Grecia in Costa Rica and the producer group CoopeVictoria R.L. , which the ambassador expressed his interest in support it.

It was an absolutely incredible day in London at the Costa Rican Embassy. We arrived early and were seen straight away. The meeting lasted an amazing 3 hours!

Senor Raphael Fabrega was highly supportive, offering to come to Wycombe to present the Fairtrade Foundation Town Renewal certificate on any of the days we had suggested. He gave us a potted history of Costa Rica, took detailed notes of what Wycombe Fairtrade had achieved over the last two years especially, gave us some political insights in how to spread the Fairtrade word and the future possible linking to other South American towns, and even offered to arrange a visit to Wycombe by the Costa Rican President when he is over in the UK in November 2020 when attending the Climate Change conference in Glasgow!!

He took copies of the meeting minutes during Maria Angela’s visit to Wycombe in October 2019 that we had documented, as well as the joint powerpoint presentation we had delivered with Maria from CoopeVictoria at the Cardiff Fairtrade Towns International Conference which we showed him and he saved to his memory stick. He also took our phone numbers. He was a lovely man, and an astute politician with some amazing ideas and suggestions. He said that the work we had done and were doing was “incredible”.

The Ambassador was also keen for us to promote this Fairtrade North – South Towns model to other Fairtrade Groups in the UK, especially those in Northern UK towns with recent Tory MPs as a means of leverage. The percentage of UK – South American trade only accounts for 2% of the total UK world trade, so there is huge potential scope to increase this two-way trade. 

The Ambassador will be a great and very keen supporter for our cause with a vast amount of contacts and influence. He was also glad to hear that Sheena and I were learning Spanish and would be visiting Costa Rica next year.

His vision and knowledge were vast. The opportunities he listed were immense and the overall message was that what we could still achieve was only limited by our vision. He even said that if we encountered any problems or needed advice to get things implemented, that we only have to contact him.

CoopeVictoria visit High Wycombe October 2019 -Part 3 of 3 – The meeting with Bewleys


  • Louise Whitaker
  • Maria Angela Zamora Chaves (CoopeVictoria)
  • Mike King (Chairman Wycombe For Fairtrade)
  • Jhon Munoz (Latin America Link Wycombe For Fairtrade)
  • Maria Angela Zamora Chaves (CoopeVictoria)

The Discussion

Maria Angela from CoopeVictoria (CV), a Fairtrade Certified organic coffee and sugar producer from Grecia in CostaRica, explained her position and the background of the CV cooperative producer group. It was formed in 2010 as a Social Trade Enterprise Economic Organization. It comprises of around 3000 farmers growing organic Fairtrade coffee and sugar on over 200 plantations.

CV is located in the intermontaine valley where there are fertile soils and a favourable climate. They have just inaugurated a “Meet the Producers/People Tour” as part of the ethical tourism of Costa Rica, to diversify the economy, and earn additional income.

The town of Grecia is located NE of the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose, about one hours’ drive away.

Maria Angela explained the background and history of CoopeVictoria.

Another ecological and sustainable development was their scheme to involve local school children to bring in used vegetable cooking oil from their homes to a collection centre at the school. This was then purified and mixed with diesel fuel to power their tractors and local lorries. CoopeVictoria owned local gas stations and used the fuel to fill up the tractors and trucks. Electricity to power the gas station pumps came from renewable energy in the form of solar panels.

Another aspect of diversification was to intercrop, grow vegetables like tomatoes between the coffee and sugar cane as well as planting local tree species for shading the coffee bushes. Maria Angela goes into schools to give talks on their ethical community solidarity model approach to business which places people before profit. Maria Angela is also a lecturer and academic at the University of Costa Rica teaching business management.

Even with the benefits of Fairtrade and the additional investment from the Fairtrade Premium, some workers are still relatively poor, especially those who are subsistence farmers that rent land which constitutes 50% of the farmers, while the other 50% own their land. 64% of CV’s Fairtrade coffee is exported to Europe with another 30% going to North America.

CoopeVictoria had previously sent a package of their “green” coffee beans for Bewley’s to roast. Dave, the Bewley’s UK Senior Quality Manager “really liked them”. Maria also gave Bewley’s another batch of green beans for further quality analysis as well as accompanying coffee flavour charts and strength gauges. CoopeVictoria also sells its Fairtrade coffee to shops, supermarkets, cafes, as well as to BIDA, a Peruvian distributer. Barista training is run by CV as an essential part of the coffee enterprise.

Coffee production is around 50,000 bags per year. This is down from 100,000 bags 10 years ago due to the effects of climate change, low coffee bean prices, and diversification of crops. Fairtrade organic sugar production exceeded that of coffee for the first time in 2019 with trader prices regulated by the local government. Over 20% of CoopeVictoria coffee is sold and exported under Fairtrade terms and another 10 to 15% sold under Rain Forest Alliance qualification. Women’s rights are a big issue in Central America, and women constitute 33% of the CoopeVictoria workforce, including senior management positions. 7% of the workforce is under 35 years old.

Maria Angela gave more coffee beans and varieties of ground coffee to Louise and promised to send her examples of their publications, videos of their education, community and ecological projects.

History and Business of Bewley’s outlined by Louise Whitaker

Bewley’s is an established Irish Quaker company based in Dublin with offices in High Wycombe (UK and Europe) as well as in North America with offices in Boston and California. Last year Bewley’s did over £50 million of business in Ireland, £50 million turnover in North America, as well as £45 million generated in the UK market. The University contracts in the UK are essential and Bewley’s has an established and loyal market from UK universities. Their UK roasting facility is in Meltham, Yorkshire.

Bewley’s main brands are:-

  • Grumpy Mule
  • Eros
  • Self service machine coffee

65% of the business in the UK is in London and the South East of England.

Coffee drinking patterns have changed over the years with coffee being drunk outside the home, on the move – take away from garages and coffee shops, people are no longer working specifically in an office. Bewley’s focus on high-end coffee with 90% of their coffee sourced from Central and South America. However the world market price for coffee has dropped over the last few years with farmers struggling to meet the costs of production. Louise stated that coffee demand is expected to grow year on year. Farmers, producers and roasters need to work together to grow the market and boost sales.

Bewley’s are aware that like many items, coffee packaging is plastic based and is investing in research to reduce the amount of plastic and aluminium to ensure an air-tight, moisture free, and light filtered packet. They are looking at a hybrid bio-package derived partly from sugar cane stalks and are trialling some prototypes.

Recommendations and medium term proposals

Louise suggested that if the second CoopeVictoria green bean batch was as good as the first, there was the possibility of creating a speciality coffee from CoopeVictoria, by having a small production run of 60/120 kilo sacks of Costa Rican CoopeVictoria coffee roasted in their Yorkshire facility and put into plain sliver and/or black bags as a speciality coffee. Louise had this dream of a speciality coffee. Other potential coffee roasters and wholesalers could be Mercanta, Coaltown, and Ferarri. Louise reported that there was an “Innovative Forum” relating to sustainable supply chains as there was an increasing need for traceability and a “need to know where the coffee originates.”

Louise also suggested that she would encourage the young Deputy Quality Manager of Bewley’s to travel to Costa Rica on holiday after Christmas to experience the CoopeVictoria coffee and sugar plantations first hand as well as take the “Meet the Producers Tour” in this country where eco-tourism is widespread. Maria Angela replied that she would arrange the CoopeVictoria coffee visit and that the Bewley’s manager could stay in her house. This would be self-funded and take place after December 2019 during the coffee harvesting season in Costa Rica. Maria Angela said that half the coffee pickers were Nicaraguan and El Salvador migrant workers, paid a minimum wage according to Fairtrade principles and lived in proper accommodation.

CoopeVictoria had built a “Happy House” for migrant workers children, who did not work but previously did not go to school. CoopeVictoria had paid a teacher and turned a large room into a school. The building itself is composed of recycled plastic bottles.

Notes produced by

Mike King, Chairman Wycombe For Fairtrade