By now you will have seen some of the terrible images emerging in the aftermath of the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai. As is too often the case, we are insulated here in the northern hemisphere from the true scale of these disasters, so it's worth reading this Guardian article which spells out how the storm might be the worst ever to hit the southern hemisphere.
Worst hit has been Mozambique, though Zimbabwe and Malawi have also been affected. We are expecting a delivery shortly of jewellery from Botswana, and have been in touch with our contacts there to check that they are okay.
UN staff on the ground are clear that these people need help immediately. Many charities are active in the region - here are some links to allow you to play a part:
British Red Cross
We've just had a big delivery of these lovely toys, handmade in Bangladesh!
Our octopus friends come in a variety of colours, and we also have lovely monkeys and frogs. They are all suitable from birth, and the octopuses (or whatever you decide the plural of octopus is!) are incredibly popular.
Usually, when thinking about fair trade projects, we prefer to deal as close to the artisans as possible - so if at all practical we'll be importing directly from the makers. However, with items for kids we made a conscious decision to source our stock from UK based wholesalers. This means the toys and gifts go through rigorous UK safety testing. Our soft toys come from Best Years in Northamptonshire, while our wooden toys come from Lanka Kade who are just up the road in Market Harborough.
Do check out the new arrivals if you're passing the shop, or have a look online.
Today is International Women's Day, and while we are proud to be a business which is co-owned and co-founded by a woman, it's worth remembering that there is more to IWD than "Mother's Day Part 2." This is a chance for us to underline our commitment to equality, support women who are oppressed, and express our solidarity with women who are making the world a better place.
In a happy coincidence, the theme of this year's Fairtrade Fortnight is "She Deserves," focussing on the role that women play in fair trade.
£1.86 is the amount a cocoa farmer in West Africa needs to earn each day in order to achieve a living income. Currently, a typical cocoa farmer in Cote d’Ivoire lives on around 74p a day. Almost all cocoa farmers in West Africa live in poverty.
For women, the situation is even worse. They may plant and harvest on the farm, look after children, carry water, collect wood, cook and clean for the family, and transport the cocoa beans to market but often with fewer rights than men.
This is why this year's Fairtrade Fortnight is campaigning for a living income to become a reality for cocoa farmers in West Africa. If we can work together with governments, chocolate companies and retailers to make the commitments and policies necessary, then we can make it happen.
Just in time for Fairtrade Fortnight, we have this great new range of socks, ethically made from Ecocert combed cotton. We loved the designs when we met the team behind Ballonet recently, and the reaction in the shop has been outstanding. They come in two sizes and having had a pair for a few weeks, I can say that they are very comfy! Choose your favourite design today...
We have been absorbing a lot of cool new trends lately, firstly in our trip to the US and more recently at the (just as glamorous) Spring Fair trade expo at the NEC in Birmingham. In LA we based ourselves in Echo Park, a cool neighbourhood with loads of interesting boutiques. It was interesting to see that "fair trade" as a concept didn't seem that familiar to our American cousins, outside of specialist chains like 10,000 Villages. Nevertheless, many of the shops we visited had projects which we would see as complementary to what we do at Eighteen Rabbit.
The groovily-named Dustmuffin was very cool, with lots of interesting lines, including Giving Keys, a project helping people out of homelessness in LA (we have never seen such large homeless communities as we did on our trip to LA).
The closest UK comparison to Lassens would probably be Whole Foods Market, and like WFM they had a great range of sustainable and ethical goods, mostly food but also skincare and beauty products, many of which were fair trade. They also did incredible sandwiches!
Back here in the UK we were delighted to speak to Dan and Paul from rCups, a great new range of reusable coffee cups, made from old disposable cups. Fantastic circular design. Look out for the cups at the end of the month.
Coming in the next two weeks we have an incredible new sock range from Ballonet - fabulous designs all with the Ecocert label.
These are the first step we've taken following our customer survey to expand our range to include more ethical products which are produced responsibly without necessarily having an obvious "fair trade" label. This does not mean we are moving away from fair trade at all - rather, we hope an expanded range will encourage more customers to visit, which in turn will make our support of the fair trade projects we work with sustainable into the future. Let us know what you think!