Adjoa Andoh: We mustn’t withdraw from Fairtrade despite cost-of-living crisis

British actress Adjoa Andoh has acknowledged buying Fairtrade products will be challenging given the cost-of-living crisis but warned we must not “throw the baby out with the bath water”.

The 60-year-old, who plays Lady Danbury in Netflix hit Bridgerton and is known for her stage roles in various Shakespeare productions, has supported the work of the Fairtrade Foundation since 2005.

As patron, Andoh is supporting the Fairtrade Fortnight campaign which spreads the message that making the small switch to Fairtrade supports producers in protecting the future of our food and the planet.

Adjoa Andoh
Adjoa Andoh has been supporting Fairtrade since 2005 (Shonay Shote/PA)

Speaking about buying Fairtrade during the cost-of-living crisis, she told the PA news agency: “I understand that things are harder for people at the moment and I know that the uptake of Fairtrade products is going to be more of a challenge.

“I think what happens when life gets challenging is that we withdraw into ourselves, and sometimes we forget that we can still make life less of a challenge for other people and feel good for ourselves in the process of that.”

The actress said she understands that it may feel “counterintuitive at a time when people have very little income” to ask people to spend a little more on their produce.

She told PA: “I think there are still many of us, who even within the cost-of-living crisis, can still consider buying Fairtrade produce among some of our purchases.”

Andoh, who will next explore societal prejudices by playing and directing a production of Richard III, said there is not a “one size that fits all” solution.

She told PA: “People do have reduced incomes and they may say ‘I can buy Fairtrade tea and sugar but maybe I’m going to have to buy something else because I can’t afford to get everything Fairtrade like I might have done in the past’.

“I think we all have to acknowledge the circumstances that we’re in, but for me, to just throw the baby out with the bathwater, I don’t think we need to do that.

“There are many people in many sorts of different circumstances who can trim their sail according to what works for them, what’s possible.

“I know I’m probably in a more comfortable position to be able to make those purchases more freely, but I’ve always done it because I think there’s a bit of me that thinks it’s a feeling of solidarity with people who are producing the food that I buy for me, my kids, my family.

“To be able to help them produce it and have a happier life at the same time, it’s an easy win.”

Royal Windsor Horse Show
The late Queen meeting Adjoa Andoh (Steve Parsons/PA)

Andoh said she also loves that Fairtrade helps us to feel as though we are contributing to make “real change for people that aren’t in a position to make that change for themselves”.

She said: “I think there’s something about that, it’s sort of good for us, it makes us feel better when we help other people.

“It’s good for our spirits as well as good for our bodies, and it’s certainly good for the people who are producing the food for us.”

In 2009, while in South Africa filming Clint Eastwood’s film Invictus alongside Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, Andoh took the opportunity to visit Fairtrade workers on wine estates.

She told PA: “It was like an episode of The Simpsons where it’s like on this road we have rainbows and on this road we’ve got bats and dark clouds.

Fairtrade cocoa farmer in Ghana
A Fairtrade cocoa farmer in Ghana (Fairtrade/PA)

“The Fairtrade farm, they had a winery they were growing grapes, because they got the premium. They had houses which had front doors and glass in the windows, on the farms next door the workers were housed in places that had neither of those things.

“They had roads that led up to the houses, not rocky dirt tracks, which was what was going on next door. It’s really, really basic things that transform people’s lives and all those things are achieved simply by us buying Fairtrade.”

Andoh said she “couldn’t go back” to not buying Fairtrade because “I’ve seen what a simple purchase (can do) in terms of transforming somebody else’s life”.

Fairtrade banana farmer
A Fairtrade banana farmer (Fairtrade/PA)

She said: “I love being part of that. It’s an easy win for me.”

During a previous Fairtrade Fortnight campaign, Andoh also organised for actor Roger Lloyd Pack, known for roles in The Vicar Of Dibley and Only Fools And Horses, to visit citrus farmers in Cuba.

She told PA: “Rog and I, we did a sitcom years ago called Health And Efficiency where he played a psychotic surgeon and I played a bossy nurse and it was great fun, but we also discovered that we shared politics.

“We went to do a show at the Havana Theatre Festival, it was certainly after Rog was in the Harry Potter films because I know people were very excited in Cuba to meet Mr Harry Potter as far as they were concerned.

“And Fairtrade had citrus farms just outside of Havana where they do this brilliant thing that lots of people are starting to do now where you’ve got mixed agriculture.

“We went to look at the citrus farms there, grapefruit and oranges for Fairtrade. They had a progressive way of looking after farmers.”

Andoh added that since childhood she has always had a sense of wanting things to be fair for all.

“I’ve always felt like everybody should get a fair shout and I’m sure a lot of that is to do with growing up as a black child in a predominantly white environment, and not always feeling like I got a fair shake of the dice for stuff that was nothing to do with me,” she said.

Fairtrade has created The Endangered Aisle, a pop-up store highlighting the supermarket staples most at risk from being endangered in the future, due to the climate crisis.