A FAIRTRADE project will help to send 24 children in Malawi to school thanks to Glasgow City Council staff.

Workers took part in the Fairtrade rice chall-enge to help farmers in the country earn enough to put a child through secondary school, which is not free in the country.

For a farmer to afford the fees it is the equiva-lent of the profit from selling 90kg of rice.

The council workers across the departments took up the challenge to buy enough rice during Fairtrade fortnight to send 12 children to secondary school.

The staff organising the sales drive calculated the target they had to reach was 1080 1kg bags of rice.

But by the time the two-week initiative ended this weekend they had surpassed the total by almost double and sold 2133 bags, with more orders placed to take the total above the 2160 needed for 24 children.

Lord Provost Sadie Docherty backed the project and it became the Lord Provost's Malawi Rice Challenge. Four council departments and three ALEOs took it on, smashing the target, with Glasgow Life alone shifting 975 bags of rice.

Ms Docherty said: "It is a fantastic achieve-ment. It has exceeded our expectations. If it means 24 young people get the opportunity to go to school it is life changing for them.

"Malawi is the second poorest country in the world. Poverty there is a different experience from poverty here. People in the council understand and that's why they have been so supportive of this."

The idea developed after two farmers Howard Msukwa and Susen Ntende came to Glasgow visiting schools and meeting civic lead-ers. It was organised by Ken Harris , sustainable development officer, with the council.

Patricia Ferguson, Labour MSP for Maryhill and Springburn, praised the effort in the Scottish Parliament during a Fairtrade debate.

She said: "I am told that in Exchange house alone there are only a couple of bags of rice left and that competition to see which department can sell the most rice is fierce.

"Indeed, it might be the Lord Provost's rice challenge to some, but to others it is nothing less than rice wars."

stewart.paterson@ eveningtimes.co.uk