Consumers gulp back 1.9 million cola drinks every day but the African farmers growing the ingredient that spawned a global fizzy phenomenon never see a cent.

That was until All Good Organics, the guys that introduced New Zealand to Fairtrade bananas, stepped in.

All Good Organics created Karma Cola using the original cola nut ingredient that had long been abandoned by the soft drink giants in favour of artificial colours and flavours.

All Good co-founder Chris Morrison says it was a symbolic move for the Fairtrade certified company to kick off its drinks by taking on the most popular soft drink in the world and return to its cola nut roots in Sierra Leone.

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While the cola nuts are traded locally for ceremonial use, All Good's business brings back badly needed funds to a local economy devastated by a 10-year-long civil war and the more recent Ebola outbreak.

"One of the interesting things that came out of that was the need for ongoing trade because actually, as terrible as Ebola is, the threat of starvation is very real because the trade and the ability to earn a living had just closed down so there wasn't even business between villages let alone export trade," says Chris.

Alongside purchasing cola nuts at a fair price All Good has gone one step further by creating a foundation to help the 2000 people in Boma village, Sierra Leone, and the surrounding area.

"When we first started trading with Boma it became apparent they needed more than a good, consistent price for cola," says All Good co-founder Simon Coley.
"After a ten-year civil war they needed infrastructure, rehabilitation of roads and plantations, bridges and schools."

Five cents from every bottle of Karma Cola is channelled into the Karma Cola Foundation with the US$30,000 raised so far used to build a bridge, send girls to school, create HIV/AIDS education programmes, rehabilitate forest farms, buy a rice huller and develop a seed bank - all projects decided by the villagers.

"We call it Thirst Aid," says Coley.

All Good Co-founder Matt Morrison says many businesses are involved with charities but rather than focus on giving the Karma Cola Foundation is about generating trade and economic freedom.

"The Karma Cola Foundation's guiding principle is to create independence rather than dependence with cola farmers in Sierra Leone.

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"The board is very future focused, encouraging initiatives that lead to economic independence, education for the next generation and a sustainable future," says Matt.
Chris says Karma Cola is even keen for competition from other companies wanting to convert cola recipes back to incorporating cola nuts.

"[The growers] really want to do business and most of us agree that trade not aid is good in the long run.

"Aid is needed certainly in times of hardship but the long-term betterment of the community is through trade and we're very keen for them to stand on their own two feet and be independent."

Fairtrade has copped criticism in recent years with commentators pointing to high overheads, growers not benefiting substantially and it being nothing more than a cynical marketing ploy.

Chris says while the Fairtrade may be being exploited by a few, with others saying it is better to trade direct, All Good are firmly committed to the principles behind the Fairtrade brand.

"We feel that, as in with organics, it's very important for consumers to have something they can trust and we believe an independent certification where it's not the business saying 'you can trust us, we've been there, we've seen it'.

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"Everybody can do that and it's open to abuse and our concern is that we need to have something that consumers can verify, they can follow it through the whole supply chain, they can see the systems and conditions that the product has been certified to."

Going above and beyond the requirements of the Fairtrade labelling and ensuring its suppliers are getting a fair deal saw the company beat out 27,000 other products to be awarded the "fairest trader" gong at last year's International Fairtrade Awards.

And three years on from its New Zealand launch Karma Cola and its thirst quenching sidekicks Gingerella and Lemmy Lemon have a growing international fan base.

More than 60 per cent of its sales are overseas with the UK market, where it is stocked in hundreds of cafes and high-end supermarkets including Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, a significant growth market.

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