This evening I went to hear Kate Rich and Rasha Shaheen present the Feral Trade project. Kate and Rasha are about to embark on a trip to Iran, attempting to open up a new grocery trade route.
The Feral Trade project trades goods along social networks: transporting consumables like coffee from El Salvador, sweets from Iran and grappa from Croatia through ‘couriers’ on existing journeys. Each item has been sourced through friends of friends and its transportation is recorded in extreme detail on the website: www.feraltrade.org
The people purchasing Feral Trade goods back here in Bristol get full information on the source and journey of their groceries – the opposite to what Kate describes as the ‘false surfaces’ of most food packaging. The project offers a different set of exchange values – although products are bought and sold, their value is in the stories of their journeys, and the social networks that allow the goods to travel. This is not a model to solve the problems of commercial shipping, but a playful way of making visible of the true stories behind international trade.
There was a mischievous glint in her eye as Kate described her delight in finding ‘wormholes’ to operate outside the regular commercial systems. Feral Trade is an attempt to put into practice pre-capitalist models of trade, relying on social relationships to physically transport and exchange goods.
Kate was frank about the different methods of transport she employs, including flying, and had a refreshing approach to responsible travel. She asked: ‘Is intelligent disengagement a good idea?’ Should we refuse to travel, out of an acute awareness of our own carbon footprint and others lack of freedom of movement? Or can thoughtful journeys challenge all the thoughtless ones?