For the first time in Fairtrade’s history, a producer was elected Chair of the Board of Fairtrade International. Join us in congratulating Marike de Peña of Banelino, a Fairtrade banana cooperative in the Dominican Republic, on this great achievement.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Remember to look for the Fairtrade Mark on your chocolate. Produced by people like Dalia Santo Savano and her husband Liberto Castillo from the COCABO Cocoa Cooperative in Panama.
Photo by James Rodriguez
“When you trip over love, it is easy to get up. But when you fall in love, it is impossible to stand again.”
Happy Valentine’s Day! Our featured Fairtrade couple is Luciano Sho (left) and his wife Eugenia Sho, cacao growers from the Toledo Cacao Growers’ Association in Belize.
Photo by James Rodriguez
Did you know that more than 90% of the cocoa in your chocolate is produced by 5 million smallscale farmers? Learn how the new Fairtrade Sourcing Programs will help cocoa farmers - and sugar and cotton farmers - sell more on Fairtrade terms.
Theodor Kouakou of the Kapatchiva Cooperative in the Ivory Coast farms six hectares of cocoa. Kapatchiva is one of many cooperatives that will benefit from the new Fairtrade Sourcing Programs announced last week in Germany. Even with just initial commitments, the volume of Fairtrade cocoa sold by Fairtrade farmers will increase 14%. Read the full story here.
A worker from a Sri Lankan tea plantation takes part in Fairtrade’s Hired Labour Consultation.
June 11, Hatton, Sri Lanka
By Elisabeth Bystrom, Project Manager at Fairtrade International
What is a stronger symbol of Sri Lanka than tea? I have long associated Sri Lanka with delicious Ceylon growing on endless rolling, mist-covered hills. A romantic picture I admit and one that I was fortunate enough to see in person last year.
The picture gets better. Not only did I get to visit the country, but I was there to meet the people and talk with workers on tea plantations about their needs, their perceptions of progress, and how we could improve the Fairtrade Standard to make it better suited to their daily reality.
This was my first test taking the standard review ‘live’ to meet with workers and hear their views in an open setting and one of our first times engaging workers on such a scale with new materials and methodology. My partners included Sumedha Karunatillake and Felix Wijesinghe, two experienced Fairtrade field staff, as well as the NAPP programme manager Mariam Thomas.
On first impression, Sri Lanka was, well, WET!
From the time I arrived until the day I left, the rain never seemed to stop. Roads were like rivers, power lines were down, and I wondered how we would manage without electricity. But there is little need for electricity when people gather to talk and share views. Tea estate workers from all over the teardrop-shaped island arrived unfazed. There was no need for overhead projectors and power point presentations, everyone was there to be active and contribute.
We had an agenda to guide us through the day, but the beautiful thing about a participatory workshop is that no matter how you plan, conversations take their own course. Talk mainly circled around who should receive Fairtrade Premium; whether it should it be distributed to all workers or remain dedicated for community-based projects.
There seemed to be no shortage of opinions, and no hesitation to voice them, whether from a man or a woman, a tea plucker, a factory worker or a field supervisor. I was pleased to watch heated debates in small groups where workers argued for and against cash distribution of the Fairtrade Premium. Arguments were always well articulated, with examples of why or why not cash was a good idea. The overall feeling was that though community projects benefited the workers collectively, many felt the option to offer individual loans would also be a useful inclusion in the Standard.
The day sped by and before we knew it the sun had gone down. The rain made travel difficult, and several participants had to leave while the roads were still passable. This meant hurrying through the last part of the day. One of the most profound impressions that sticks with me was not so much about the workshop content, but the comments from participants who were happy to have the chance to meet with workers from neighboring plantations. They were grateful to have the opportunity to gather and share experiences and talk about their own lives, in particular what they have accomplished with the Fairtrade Premium and their plans for future projects.
While driving back down to Colombo through the curvy rolling hills covered in tea, the sun finally did come out. I was moved – not only by the beauty of the country – but by the openness of the people who did not hesitate to make me feel welcome and were more than willing to share their thoughts, hopes and dreams with me.
Elisabeth Bystrom is a Project Manager in Fairtrade International’s Standards Unit. She led the project of revising the Fairtrade Hired Labour Standard, a major undertaking involving consultations with over 400 workers and 18 workshops in 14 countries. The result is a new Standard that honours the day-to-day reality confronted by workers around the world. Read more about the final Hired Labour Standard here.
Our work is far from over. This new standard provides the support framework, and now we have to work hard to make sure workers have the capacity and the freedom to negotiate fairer workplaces.
Wilbert Flinterman, Senior Advisor on Workers’ Rights and Trade Union Relations at Fairtrade International.
Workers gather tea on the Fairtrade certified Burnside Tea Estate in India. A new and updated Fairtrade Hired Labour Standard will bring greater benefits to the over 170,000 workers on plantations and estates throughout the Fairtrade system.
Fairtrade is not a sugar coated pill. Every day, we are dealing with the realities of centuries of oppression, none of which will be solved overnight. Finding the right balance between facilitating trade, development and compliance is a sometimes difficult and arduous task that requires continuous improvement and fine tuning.
Harriet Lamb, CEO of Fairtrade International, in the article ‘Scaling Up with Integrity – What does it mean for Fairtrade?’
The family farmers at Mi Fruta, a Fairtrade cooperative in Chile, never doubted their brown, sun-dried, natural raisins until Italian importer Chico Mendes Modena came in search of suppliers. The farmers were so excited at the possibility of a sale that they didn’t bother to inquire what type of raisins the importer wanted to buy.
Which is why they were surprised when the importer told them that they were interested in yellow raisins.
The producers at Mi Fruta do not produce yellow raisins preferring to maintain their sun-drying system. Though sun drying darkens the raisins, it uses free and natural energy from the sun and requires no additives to preserve it.
They realized they would need to convince the buyers with the positive qualities of the brown raisin. They discovered that yellow raisins have that color because they are treated with sulfur dioxide, which allow them to keep their yellow color. However, as indicated by the Codex Alimentarius, it’s not possible to consider raisins as natural if they have been treated this way.
Valeria Bigliazzi, from Chico Mendes Modena Cooperative, took this information with her back to Italy to motivate her buyers to choose brown raisins over the yellow ones. A few weeks later, the producers received word that the importer was able to convince their buyers with these arguments and the brown raisins were purchased. A purchasing plan has been established for this year and the raisins are being sold as snack, as well as ingredients for oven-prepared bakery, such as pastry and panettone.
The same importers are also buying Chilean walnuts, from Agronuez, another Fairtrade association of family farmers that have an exceptional quality, as well as the advantage of availability during the off season for walnuts in Europe.
Enjoy this post from Zhuoya Lu, the Fairtrade Liaison Officer in China. Lu attended the 2013 General Assembly of the Jiyuan Huakang Beekeeper Professional Association (JHBPA) and presented a workshop on Fairtrade to the group.
Meet Chaogun Cui (left) and Yonghe Wei from JHBPA. In November I joined 242 beekeepers from different regions gathered in Jiyuan, China, for the association’s annual general assembly.
The chairman of JHBPA presented a report on the past year and the 2014 work plan. It had been a difficult year with bad weather in the summer and low yields and quality. Hoping to keep up motivation for the next year, JHBPA gave out awards for the best quality of organic honey, the highest yield, and highest average production (per beehive). Some beekeepers, like Yonghe, received more than 2000 Yuan (450 Euros).
“2013 was a good year for me. With 15 tonnes of production, I received the award for highest total production and highest average production per beehive. I’m happy,” said Yonghe Wei, who manages 150 beehives with his wife.
“At the end of year, we plan to travel to Hubei to raise bees there and wait until next spring’s blooming season. The beekeeping is hard work, we spend almost ten months per year outdoors and often spend the Chinese spring festival far away from our families.”
Chaoqun Cui, the other beekeeper in the photo, is the youngest in the association at 21 years of age. He follows in his father’s footsteps, also a member of association.
“Beekeeping is different from farming, the know-how is very important. Besides that, the climate and the location also determine the final production,” Cui said.
He wants to learn more from his father. He now owns 86 beehives. Cui is satisfied with his annual income of around 50 000 Yuan (6250 Euros) because he still lives with his parents and doesn’t have many expenses for daily life.
The association is a stable buyer for him and the price offered is quite good. He sells some honey to individuals, but he sells most of the product to the association.
The chairman of JHBPA explained to me that they plan to spend this year’s Premium money on beekeeping medicine and beehives for members, and some to pay the Fairtrade certification fee. Next year’s work will focus on the price fixing, improvement of product quality, and reducing the risk involved with production.
When social compliance is more about saving face than making a meaningful change in the lives of workers, things will probably get worse instead of better for many…
Wilbert Flinterman, Senior Advisor on Workers’ Rights and Trade Union Relations at Fairtrade International, in his recent blog.