How to feed the world’s poorest without growing more food


I was invited to an event held by the ACT Fair Trade Collective last night. The topic was on food sustainability and fair trade. There were four speakers:

  • Mandy Nearhos, Co-convenor ACT Fair TradeCollective;
  • Molly Harriss, the newly appointed CEO of Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand;
  • Debbie Hunt, NSW/ ACT Campaign and Engagement Coordinator, Oxfam Australia; and
  • Federico Davila, ANU PHD Student specialising in food sustainability

In the past 2 years I have been searching for answers to help the world’s poorest. My search led me to setting up Oz Fair Trade in the hope that I could help some people to improve their living standards through their skills and a fair trading system. At the moment Oz Fair Trade only deals with handicrafts, which many women rely upon for a sustainable income, as land becomes a scarce resource in many developing countries. I was thinking about expanding into food such as coffee and tea, but decided to postpone the plan because there are a few businesses in Australia that are doing a wonderful job in this field (such as Republica).

The night was very educational for me, as my knowledge of fairtrade concentrated on handicrafts not food. You’d think that farmers are the ones closest to food so why are they starving? One answer is that farmers are pressured by global economic systems to grow “cash crops” such as cotton. It’s all good when they get a good return, but the reliance on a single product inevitably makes one vulnerable to price changes. Other answers include their reliance on good weather conditions, unfair prices set by powerful buyers, corruption, land grabs etc.

The problem is not that we are not growing enough food. The problem is that a lot of the food is wasted instead of feeding the people who need it most. The world food system, as part of the global trade system, is broken. Governments have been shown to be powerless in terms of driving changes. NGOs have been doing great jobs such as pushing for Fair Trade. There are many ways to fix the system e.g. fairtrade, microfinance, microinsurance, addressing climate change etc.

As consumers, we have so much power that we don’t realise. Again and again, it has been shown that companies do listen if we are loud enough and care enough. Oxfam recently exposed ANZ’s involvement in a sugar plantation investment in Cambodia which forced hundreds of farmers to leave their farms. This contradicts ANZ’s social responsible policy. As consumers, we can hold them accountable. Be sure to be loud and clear.

So what can you do? You can:

  • choose fairtrade certified products whenever possible
  • spread the message of fairtrade among your friends and colleagues
  • waste less food and start a worm farm
  • buy locally produced food helps to reduce food miles
  • sign petitions to stop land grabs and unfair trade
  • support brands that really respect people and planet
  • vote for politicians who care about climate and people
  • write to companies who don’t have a social responsible policy or don’t obey them
  • make some noise on social media to show that you care
  • eat more veggie helps to reduce demand for meat which has higher carbon footprints, and veggie is good for you
  • lend small amounts to the poorest through organisations like Kiva and Good Return. From personal experience, the repayments have been excellent
  • choose superannuation funds such as Australian Ethical Super that invest only in ethical companies


Molly pointed out that in UK more than 80% know about fairtrade and more than 50% regularly buy fairtrade. In Australia, 50% know about fairtrade and 15% regularly buy fairtrade. This confirms my feeling that a lot more can be done in Australia.

If you are interested in how to fix the world food system, you can find useful information on Oxfam’s website. If you are interested in fairtrade handicrafts please checkout my not-for-profit social business Oz Fair Trade where customer service is guaranteed!

10 Things You Need To Know About Rubbish Bins

Speaking from my experience of working as a garbo at the National Folk Festival, I can honestly say that some of us are really confused about which bin for what, despite well intentions. So I hope I can be of assistance by sharing what I learned from the garbo experts in my 20-hour-as-a-garbo.

  1. Compost bins are for everything biodegradable e.g. food, paper etc. . Next time before you dispose a piece of plastic, see if you can find the world “biodegradable” on it. If yes, then it’s better to put it into compost bin than recycling bin.
  2. Not all paper are recyclable. Used paper napkins or used tissue paper should go into compost bin.
  3. Please don’t place recyclables or compostables in plastic bags because they will not be sorted due to safety reasons and the whole bags will go to landfill.
  4. Containers with left-over food can be disposed in compost bins only if the containers themselves are biodegradable. If not, then please remove and compost any food or liquid (even water) leftovers and then recycle the container.
  5. Paper coffee cups with plastic lids are often found in recycling bin. The correct way is to put the lid into the recycling bin and the cup itself into the compost bin.
  6. Only rigid plastics can be recycled. Soft plastics need to go into general waste bin unless they are biodegradable then you know what to do.
  7. Only glass jars and bottles can be recycled. Broken glassware, china, light globes, window etc. should go into general waste bin.
  8. Shredded paper should be put into a sealed paper box before placing into the recycling bin.
  9. Keep the lids on plastic bottles otherwise they will end up in landfill as they are too small to be sorted.
  10. Foam can only be recycled at certain facilities. If in doubt, please contact your local council.

When disposing any rubbish, please ask yourself in the order of:

  1. Can this be composted?
  2. Can this be recycled?
  3. Can this go into the general waste bin?

If you answered no to all the above e.g. e-waste will fall into this category, then there must be an alternative way to dispose it correctly. If in doubt, please contact your local council. Every bit helps to protect the environment we all love. Thank you!

The Entrepreneur Interview: Catalina Girald, Founder and CEO of Naja Lingerie

An inspirational woman and a fantastic brand. Love it.


CatalinaCatalina Girald is founder and CEO of Naja, a San Francisco-based lingerie company that launched in December 2013 and aims to create luxe-looking undergarments for women at mass-market prices. Girald launched Naja with $100,000 and says her lingerie is for “women who aren’t afraid to speak their minds.” Girald was an attorney before pursuing her MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business, class of 2006. She talks with us about The Art of War, how a startup is like a manual-transmission car, and what it’s like to start a business at the age of 5.

In 10 words or fewer, what is the big idea behind your business?

Delivering luxury lingerie at fair prices while empowering women.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Andy Grove was my professor in business school and he used to take me on walks. He has been a mentor ever since…

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the Love for Music brings People together – my perspective on the National Folk Festival

National Folk Festival

For the past four days I have been volunteering at the National Folk Festival. My job was easy and hard at the same time: changing rubbish bins. Each day, I did a five hour shift during which I covered the Festival ground again and again. My feet complained but I was determined to finish my job and do it well. Each day, I also had a few hours to freely spend on festival events, and I loved them! There were musicians coming from all walks of life and all corners of earth! What I loved most was the spirit in the air, the smile on people’s faces, the bands formed on the spot, the kids who played music on the streets, the women who danced to music…

I played piano for a few years when I was young, but I never enjoyed it and never considered music as fun because in my mind it’s always associated with hours of practice forced upon me. But the Festival totally changed my perspective on music. People were having fun, so much fun! One person would start a tune, then another would follow, then another, then a band is formed on the spot! It was wonderful, and they were clearly enjoying themselves, because happiness is contagious.

Music was in the air. Music was everywhere.

How sugru is changing the world

The Happy Startup School – A better way to build a startup


Jane ní Dhulchaointigh is the inventor and CEO of sugru. An innovative new self setting rubber for fixing, sealing and modifying just about anything. She began her startup journey back in 2003 whilst studying for her masters in Product Design. She was tired of having to buy new things when her stuff got a bit broken. In most cases all it needed was for something simple to seal or mould around the broken possession.

In the current climate, mending things makes obvious sense besides buying new, and Jane began to think – what if everyone else had the same sense of frustration? What if there came a miracle little product on the market that fixed things simply? Saving everyone time and money, and salvaging the products people have had for years, whilst minimising wastefulness. This was her eureka moment. 


She got her sketchbook out and started imagining a world with a miracle…

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