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Some 20% of the male banana workers in Costa Rica were left sterile after handling toxic chemicals. As well as being forced to endure appalling working conditions, plantation workers are also paid pittance wages. In Ecuador the plantation workers are paid just $1 per day. When the workers try to organise into trade unions their efforts are often met with violent suppression.
Sivapackiam has been picking tea on the same estate for 23 years. Her mother and grandmother did the same job before her, and it's a hard life. "Our biggest problem is that we have too much to do. In the morning we prepare meals and get the children to school. We have no time even to eat. I have to work very fast, so I get very hungry. We have to carry 10-15 kilos of tea to the weighing place, which can be three quarters of a kilometre away. After work it is the same - we have to do all the cooking and collecting firewood and getting water." She takes home the equivalent of 80 pence a day. "We eat rice and one vegetable. We would like to have two or three vegetables but we cannot afford it. Towards the end of every month we find it difficult."
Get into groups of three. Within each group designate a shopper, a tea picker and the manager of a company that imports and sells teabags.
The richer countries of the north are in a position of strength when they deal with small producers in poorer countries. To stop that power being abused each group will draft a set of the five most important rules companies must follow. Individual students must get the best deal they can for the role they are playing.
What should the rules aim to do for the supplier? The supplier gets a good quality and reliable supply of the raw materials they need at a price they can afford.
What should the rules aim to do for the producer? The producers will get a price that reflects their effort. They must have enough money to look after their families, and at the end of the year be better off than they were at the start.
What should the rules aim to do for the shopper? This is for the groups to decide for themselves.