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Go Nuts for Fairtrade

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At this time of year I watch TV when I get up, TV during the day and TV before I go to bed to spot gags for TV Burp.

And while I'm watching it I'm telling my kids not to watch so much of it...

My life is not always this contradictory. The other side of it is all to do with my role as champion of the Great British institution which is the humble, undeniably tasty, salted peanut.

As Fairtrade Fortnight comes to an end, the people at Fairtrade want us all to continue taking steps throughout the rest of 2012 to help Fairtrade to grow. They want us to take one and a half million steps. This can be anything from getting your workplace to switch to Fairtrade coffee to buying something Fairtrade you haven't noticed before.

I'm a salted peanut lover and a couple of years ago I came up with the idea for a Fairtrade peanut line called Harry's Nuts! I knew this wasn't something I wanted to make money out of - it was something I wanted to do to take my extra step to support Fairtrade.

I got interested in Fairtrade in 2002 when I went out to Ghana with my brother Rod, who's a farmer in Devon, to see how it all works on the ground. We met banana and cocoa farmers and saw the real change that is possible just by changing how we shop. They grow it, sell it for a fair price and we look out for the Fairtrade mark and buy the stuff in the shops. Simple, yet genius.

The people who run Fairtrade are clever - they knew once I'd seen this for myself I'd be hooked - and I was.

After the trip I became a self-styled Fairtrade volunteer, having my photo taken holding blow-up giant bananas, that kind of thing but I wanted to do more and thought of Harry's Nuts!

I was inspired by the bottles of Newman's Own salad dressing in my local supermarket which raised money for Paul Newman's charity foundation and thought "I could do that". I'd always wanted to be more like Paul Newman, but Robert Redford never answered any of my letters...

Fairtrade nuts were just starting out so the new Fairtrade nut company Liberation Foods took me and my brother out to Malawi to meet some of the peanut farmers.

Out in Malawi I was impressed again. I was particularly struck by how positively the peanut farmers viewed the chance to get their peanuts on to the Fairtrade scheme and the the real difference it seemed to be making to their lives. Simple things like being able to install a tin roof on their homes rather than a straw one which leaks when it rains, ruining everything they have.

The farmers are now using the extra money which comes with Fairtrade to build storage centres to make sure the nuts are top quality for export. There's two of them built now. When the harvest is over, the centres will be used for giving out mosquito nets or handing out seeds to farmers who have lost their crops due to a river breaking its banks or other local disasters, and for extra education for children struggling at school.

The smallholders in Malawi were really well organised. By themselves they have these tiny plots of land which they farm by hand - they wouldn't stand a chance of exporting what they grow. They have to have this organisation to make it happen. They used to grow mainly tobacco but this market is disappearing. Peanuts are a real alternative and a real future for them. It's something really nutritious for them to feed their families as well. Many of the farmers are women looking after AIDS orphans - you hear this a lot in Malawi - and the Fairtrade market gives them real security for providing for their families.

I wanted to help them sell their nuts over here instead of by the roadsides over there. So we started working on Harry's Nuts!. I got really involved - from the taste of the nuts (not too much salt but not no salt, well roasted...) to the pack design and even meeting supermarket buyers.

It can be hard to get the nuts into the shops and we'd love to get them into a pub chain. It's sometimes hard to get people to notice them on the shelves because the traditional nut companies have big ranges of different products. But when it works out it's great, the nuts are really tasty and it's a great way to make a difference. Go Nuts for Fairtrade!

Harry's Nuts!, salted peanuts and salted cashews from Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Oxfam shops (from mid March), and other outlets. Harry's Nuts! Crunchy Peanut Butter from Sainsbury's and Oxfam. See www.chooseliberation.com/harry, or www.facebook.com/harrysnuts

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