Leeds Fairtrade Schools Conference

An early start today with a thermos of Oromo coffee to keep us awake for the long drive up to Leeds for the Fairtrade Schools conference. This was in the rather splendid surroundings of the Leeds Business School, a converted Victorian grammar school.

We met up with the mighty DGH, Divine Chocolate's resident chocolatier, who ran an excellent lunchtime cookery workshop at the refectory. He was supported by special guest Carl, from the Ministry of Chocolate. They were two chocolatiers on a mission!

DGH recruited lots of willing volunteers to help make a rich Fairtrade cheesecake using the finest Divine chocolate and raspberries. Students helped to melt butter and pound digestive biscuits for the base, then they stirred together cream cheese, cream, melted chocolate and raspberries to make the topping. The great thing about the recipe is how quick it is to make. Here's a link to the recipe for the chocolate and raspberry cheesecake, and here's an even simpler chocolate cheesecake recipe.

Two people from the Oromo coffee distributors were giving cups of coffee to the teachers. They are Ethiopians who have settled in Manchester and are now selling Fairtrade coffee in the UK, sourced from their communities back in Ethiopia.

Meanwhile we also had a 'bean to bar' display in the main hall, with pictures and cocoa beans and pods, and chocolate samples. The mayor of Leeds was there and was completely taken with our stand, she got to see cocoa beans for the first time.

We also took part in an interesting Co-operate for Change workshop. Louise from the Young Co-ops had the difficult task of explaining cooperatives for a very young audience, which she did very well by focusing on the simple values at the heart of the cooperative movement, rather than the dry organisational complexities of cooperatives.

We played a simple trading game with no rules and an arbitrary unequal distribution of resources, and emerged gradually with one or two winners, and lots of losers. It demonstrated intuitively that if we all set some starting rules, shared out the resources equally and then pooled them together to solve the game, we would all win and we would win quickly. It is an important part of the Fairtrade story, the benefits for producers of working together in cooperatives, but it's not the side we often talk about in schools.