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We have seen how ethical trading means different things to different people. One of the key distinctions is between the perspective of Western consumers cruising the supermarket shelves, and African farmers, patrolling their rows of crops.
For many Western consumers, ethical trading is about banning pesticides or forbidding child labour in the fields. And the power of the market means that their views tend to prevail. Liz Fullelove, manager in charge of "responsible sourcing" at Sainsbury's, has teams of inspectors touring the world to investigate conditions among the company's suppliers. She agrees it can be "very difficult to go in and apply Western standards." But, broadly, that is the aim.
"Ethical trade is very much controlled by the guys at the top of the chain," says Man-Kwun Chan of the NRI. "In Britain, the seven top supermarkets have a strong control over who can supply the market, what the prices are. So the small producer in, say, Ghana, really has very little say." The danger is that ethical trade becomes just another imposition on hard-pressed farmers.
So Man-Kwun has been exploring how Ghanaian growers and traders view ethical trade, and whether their views get heard. One critical issue that shows up cultural differences is child labour. Many Westerners have been scandalised by images of children working in sweatshop conditions in factories that produce everything from carpets to sports goods. For them, child labour has become a touchstone issue for ethical behaviour. Most supermarkets have codes of practice that, in theory at least, ban all child labour in fields or factories supplying them with produce.
But in much of the world it is quite normal for children to help out on the farm. On small farms in Ghana, children often accompany their parents to the fields. It is part of normal family life, and it helps them to learn about farming. They may keep an eye on farm animals or mind the baby while their mothers work, says Anthony Pile of Blue Skies, a local exporting company that sells Ghanaian foodstuffs to Europe.
"I find that perfectly acceptable, a family in unison helping to have enough to live on," he says. "I don't suggest we encourage children to work In the Field. But I think we Westerners sometimes wander into this area without giving it a thought, or seeing what is actually going on."
Most Ghanaian farmers agree that children should put their schooling first. "We must try to send them to school. But we don't receive enough pay to cater for the child, the mother and ourselves," said one farmer. When the price that farmers get for their produce is low, they cannot afford school fees. If Westerners want to stop child labour in Africa, many farmers feel, they must pay for it in higher prices.
For Ghanaian pineapple exporter Edward Twum, "pricing" is the key to ethical trade. Edward is boss of Prudent Exports, which has its own farms, buys pineapples from smallholders and now exports directly to supermarkets in Europe as well. He is doing as the retailers ask: cutting back on the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers. He says he also pays his staff better -- and that they respond by being better workers. But now he wants a return. "We feel that if we conform to all this is being asked, we should benefit in higher prices," he says.
Edward feels that European consumers and supermarkets should develop a better sense of what the ethical dimension means for African farmers. "We are happy about their interest in making sure that things are done ethically here. That minors are not used on the farms, and that there is a gender balance in employment. We will be very pleased if they show a little more interest in paying to ensure minimum standards of living for us."
"If you just take the approach of a big boss in the UK waving a stick and saying you must comply, I think in the end it's not going to work." -- Man-Kwun Chan, NRI
At the moment most of the codes of conduct that underlie ethical trading are drawn up by Western buyers. "But if you just take the approach of a big boss in the UK waving a stick and saying you must comply, I think in the end it's not going to work," says Man-Kwun Chan. "You can never police the conditions of every worker on every farm in Africa."
The way forward has to be for the "big boss" to start listening to the pineapple growers in Ghana and the millions of other growers round the world who would like to explain to Western consumers their ideas of what ethical trade entails. For that to happen, the growers must get together and make their views known.
Research on ethical trade in the UK and Ghana was funded by the UK Department for International Development's Crop Post-Harvest Research Programme
In the Field is a collaboration between the BBC World Service and the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich, supported by the Rural Livelihoods Department of the UK Government Department for International Development (DFID)