Fairlie's Ailsa Henderson made an inspiring trip to Lebanon to see how fairtrade food has benefitted the country after a long civil war.

Ailsa took part in an International Fairtrade Towns conference and was pleased to see that that fair trade is alive and well and doing amazing things abroad.

The secretary of North Ayrshire Fairtrade Zone witnessed for herself its far reaching impact in Lebanon which has a population of around four million people, and a refugee population of nearly two million.

First are the 400,000 Palestinians who have been there since the ?Nakba?, when they had to flee their homes in 1948 at the setting up of the state of Israel, and more recently there are around 1.5 million refugees from neighbouring Syria.

Before the conference, Ailsa took part in visits to three Fairtrade Towns where small farmers co-operatives were using sustainable agricultural practices to grow their fair trade crops.

Close to the Syrian border, the Mayor of a Menjez, a small Fairtrade town, explained how support from Fair Trade Lebanon was helping the local farmers to make their land productive again after the long civil war.

Ailsa said: "It was inspiring to see how a co-operative of 145 farmers, 45 of them women, are now growing fairtrade pomegranates, watermelons, strawberries, almonds, apricots, ?gs, chickpeas and keeping bees and using their income to reinvest in their land and their co-op. The co-operatives are also encouraged to give employment to refugees when they need extra workers at harvest time: this helps build bridges between the two communities."

In another Fairtrade Town, Mheidthe, the delegates watched a women's Co-op turn the farmers chickpeas into traditional hummus to be sold with other fair trade produce, in shops around the country.

Ailsa presented the women of the co-op with a small gift and greetings from North Ayrshire Fairtrade Zone.

In the Fairtrade town of Baskinta, the first person Ailsa met was Mireille, the owner of a guest house - who, like her in Ferry Row B&B, was using fair trade products - only hers were locally produced!

The theme of the conference was Building Bridges and the delegates from 18 countries, including India, Brazil, Netherlands, Japan, Ethiopia, USA, England - and Scotland took full advantage of the opportunity to share ideas, to learn from each other, and to build bridges to stay connected and continue the process after returning to their homes.

Fairlie became the first fairtrade village in Scotland in 2006, and hosts regular fairtrade events in the village. For more details, go to www.fairliefairtrade.co.uk