NEXT week marks the beginning of Fairtrade fortnight.

It is just over four years since Inverclyde achieved Fairtrade zone status when the council was praised by the charity for its strong and comprehensive application.

Since then, there has been a huge amount going on in our communities and particularly in our schools.

It is hugely impressive and heartening to see the tremendous support for the principles behind Fairtrade and is a great example of how the whole of Inverclyde can come together to help communities in developing countries.

From Monday there will be a flurry of activity as campaigners, local businesses, schools and places of worship show their support for the farmers and workers who grow our food.

It is a simple and effective way to guarantee a better deal for third world producers by ensuring they get fair wages, decent working conditions and expert advice on farming and marketing.

It also gives us — as consumers — the choice to make a difference by buying Fairtrade products whenever we can.

It is shocking to think that millions of poor farmers who work so hard to produce the food we love and they still can’t feed their own families.

The legacy of hundreds of years of servitude is one of exploitation and poverty prices for produce. Through Fairtrade, farmers and workers are being transformed into entrepreneurs — earning their way out of poverty and investing in their homes and communities.

That’s why the media reports of the last few weeks are nothing short of sickening. It looks as if a small minority of aid workers who were there to help the poorest people on earth took the opportunity to oppress them further.

In so many ways it is vital that charities expose these rotten apples and bring the guilty to book.

It is important these negative headlines do not affect our attitude or generosity because it is still a fact that these groups and charities that do so much to save and improve the lives of ordinary people around the world.

Whatever has happened does not do away with the fact the vast majority of volunteers work tirelessly to help other people and make a real difference to their lives.

The fortnight ahead is an opportunity for Inverclyde to enhance our own Fairtrade credentials but more importantly to come together to help communities in developing countries to earn enough for today and to invest in a better tomorrow.

Buying Fairtrade is easy with over 4,500 Fairtrade products from coffee to tea to flowers and even gold.

So when you shop, look for the Fairtrade mark and make a difference.