My fairtrade treasure trove



Dosed up on allergy tablets, I looked like a cowboy with a bandana over my mouth and nose. I was trying my best not to inhale horse hair, which I was really allergic to. But I was determined to see through my visit to one of the poorest communities in the Americas. And that was part of the beginnings of Mia Bella Casa, my fairtrade and ethical furniture and furnishings business.

It was 2001 and I was working for The Body Shop at the time. They were buying sesame oil from farmers in Achuapa, Nicaragua. Treasured by the women of ancient Babylon as a beauty secret, sesame seeds are sown and harvested by hand, then carefully pressed and filtered to make the oil. The opportunity came to visit the region, and I raised the fare with raffles and cake making.

After arriving in Nicaragua, I slept in a barn with a duck and its ducklings. A huge pig lived in the toilet. I was wary of animals, so it was quite a challenge to stay there. There was no electricity and no running water.

We were up about four every morning, milking the cows, ploughing the fields and processing the sesame seeds to extract the oil. Our staple diet was a cheese made with milk direct from the cow, corn tortillas and beans. I feasted on that unusual menu for three weeks. To this day, I still don’t really like corn tortillas!

The villagers had formed a co-operative. That meant they could get credit to invest in essential farming equipment, set up training programmes, a natural health centre and a model farm to employ local people. They were also able to fund a local school so their children could receive an education. The money they made from selling sesame oil for a fair price to well known companies like The Body Shop has transformed their lives.

I had the most amazing experience. The warm welcome I received from the community was incredible. I saw how people’s lives were changed, simply through others buying responsibly. So when I decided to start my own business, I knew it had to reflect those same values. I wanted to sell good quality, gorgeous things that were generous to the communities who made them

‘Mia Bella Casa – My Beautiful Home’ started in 2011. My partner Tim and I offered items for the home that were not only beautiful but also biased to the poor. Producers are paid a fair wage and have safe working conditions. Our range includes beautiful handmade throws, cushions and hearts. All the glass is 100 per cent recycled. We stock great items ranging from oil pourers, tumblers, wine glasses and vases.

Having real life stores behind the products we sell makes our business stand out from the rest. I’m so proud that however small, we can make a difference. The world would be a better place if every single one of us tried to do our bit. And as we approach the festive season, I always say, ‘Give twice this Christmas and buy fairtrade’.

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Comment text:  
richard king
Created on: 3/24/2015 12:12 PM
Great article, everybody at should be reading this