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This is what it looks like when coffee bushes are attacked by leaf rust, a debilitating fungus that strips coffee bushes of their leaves. In the second photo, a new generation of seedlings sprouts at COMSA, a Fairtrade cooperative in Honduras taking the battle against the devastating disease into their own hands. This year, farmers aren’t just battling coffee disease, but a roller coaster market. Read the full story at Fairtrade International.

During the earthquake, I didn’t know what to do. My body froze and all I remember was the safety of my family.

-Participant in a recent disaster preparedness training conducted by Fairtrade field staff

Two months ago, Fairtrade coffee farmers and many more in Indonesia were the victims of successive calamities, including flash floods and an earthquake that reached 6.1 on the Richter scale.

Earthquake in Indonesia

While the majority of our trainings focus on coffee and the Fairtrade Standards, our most recent training was three days on Disaster Risk Reduction. The training, delivered by two local experts, was attended by 38 participants from 13 coffee producer groups from Central Aceh in a simple hotel last week in Medan, North Sumatra.

Hagung, a Fairtrade Liaison Officer for Indonesia and Philippines who coordinated the event, said that the training was precisely designed to help with basic concepts of Disaster Risk Reduction and Community Based Risk Reduction. Due to unpredictable weather patterns and greater frequency of natural disasters, the training also covered adaptation to climate change to enable them to make efforts to protect their communities.

Aside from those topics, the participants learned about practical tools, such as seasonal diagramming, historical transects, hazard analysis, to develop community risk assessment maps. This helps the community create a step by step guide for building a local response team.

Filling out the papers

The participants were very happy and thankful for the valuable lessons. One participant from a cooperative said, “At least now if the earthquake or flash floods come again, my community and I have knowledge of what to do. And we plan to use our Fairtrade Premium money to have prepare a community response team, which functions to help victims and avoid further loss.”

We recently wrote about Ketiara, one of the groups affected by the earthquake here. Two representatives from this group attended the training.

Erwin Novianto is a Regional Managerial Consultant for Fairtrade’s Producer Services and Relations team in Southeast Asia and China.

The coffee farmers of Sonomoro Cooperative in Northern Peru have seen dramatic weather changes in their region. Unpredictable rainfall, increases in disease and more are dramatically changing the livelihoods. This year, ‘La Roya’, a coffee fungus ran rampant through many of the farmers fields devastating the harvest.

A partnership between the German supermarket chain LIDL, Twin Trading, Fairtrade International and the cooperative is helping farmers learn to adapt to the effects of climate change through a variety of efforts.

Advantage Fairtrade!

Raju Ganapathy is a Fairtrade Liaison Officer in India. In his work, he provides training and guidance to Fairtrade farmers and workers to help them enter Fairtrade and become successful. Raju writes about a recent training below.

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Normally when I talk about advantages of Fairtrade with farmers I highlight key aspects like the Fairtrade Minimum Price and the Fairtrade Premium. But to my surprise at a recent meeting, I learned that the benefit list can grow to double digits when explained by farmer leaders.

It happened on 21st August at a meeting with farmer leaders from groups affiliated with the Fairtrade producer association Wayanad. FTPA Wayanad has been a certified producer of Robusta coffee since 2010 and has a total farmer membership of 2,140. However their performance in supplying Fairtrade coffee has been below par and this concern led us to organize a meeting with leaders to review and explain the vision-mission of FTPA Wayanad.

The producer organization is at a crossroad and one of the roads is the FTPA way – to continue working together to succeed. Whether each group of farmers really wants to travel this road had to be answered. This was the question posed. I invited them to share their perspective and the following list of benefits emerged:

  1. Collective action makes things possible that individual action cannot. For example, local area development.
  2. Collective negotiating is possible in the market place.
  3. Brand development for our product is possible.
  4. Adding value to our product is possible.
  5. Diverse set of products can be brought under the scope of FTPA.
  6. New technology can be brought to the farmers.
  7. Sustainable market arrangements can be secured.
  8. Measures for improving soil and crop can be undertaken through FTPA.
  9. Younger generation can be attracted back to farming through the programs of FTPA (a very telling point since younger generation is finding farming as a profession unattractive).
  10. Secure future of farmers through FTPA.
  11. Bring in capital investment on processing, etc.

The list was so telling, it rejuvenated all those present and made the group resolve that they would strive to fulfill the demand from the buyer the coming season. FTPA leadership decided to take this message to all the clusters by mid- September so that all farmer members can understand the value of FTPA membership and make their participation in FTPA and Fairtrade meaningful.

It’s a long way from the sugar cane fields of Paraguay to a summertime mojito on the back porch, but Fairtrade producers at Cooperativa Montillo are partnering with Oxfam-Wereldwinkels in Belgium to make that happen.

For Fairtrade farmers around the world, big changes come when they add value at the source, whether it’s investing in processing or producing a shelf-ready product.

Cooperativa Montillo’s new rum project is part of a diversification strategy to make sure their members get more out of the organic sugar cane they produce.

“The production process involves a group of members in the Guaira region that crush the cane in artisanal processing facilities to extract sugar cane juice from the fibrous pulp. By cooking the cane juice they produce syrup that is itself a stable sweetening product,” explains Luis Rojas, Manager of the cooperative.

This syrup is transported to a local distillery that further processes the product. The raw spirit after the distillation and fermentation process is approximately 95% alcohol by volume. The rum is then aged in oak barrels for a year before being diluted in pure water to 38%-40% alcohol by volume.

The Montillo Cooperative was founded in 1995 by sugar producers in the Arroyos y Esteros region of Paraguay. Producers deliver their sugar cane to OTISA a local mill that exports organic Fairtrade sugar to several countries. In addition to sugar and rum, the cooperative also produces panela, a whole organic sugar produced using traditional methods. The cooperative has been exporting this product themselves since 2011.

The cooperative has already had success exporting the rum and they still have enough supply for new trading opportunities. For further information contact Luis Rojas, Manager of Cooperative Montillo by email at coopmontillo@yahoo.com

After four days of training - administrative work, financial management and more - workers from the DeGoree Farm in South Africa were ready for some light relief. They surprised Fairtrade Liaison Officer Malin Olofsson asking her to teach them the ‘Fairtrade Dance’.

"I had never actually heard of the this dance that had been created by our friends at the Fairtrade Foundation in the UK, but the workers were aware of it and wanted me to teach them,” Olofsson said.

You can learn the Fairtrade Step too, just click here.

We love coffee farmers!*

Last week we met Jorge Henao and his father Pedro at the launch of the new Fairtrade Nespresso partnership (read more here) in Paris. Both are members of the Aguadas Cooperative, a Fairtrade certified and Nespresso AAA cooperative in Caldas, Colombia.

*As we do all of our farmers and workers, of course.

The international Fairtrade system is made up of 26 organizations, including three producer networks. The CLAC, representing farmers and workers in Latin America, recently produced a great video to show how your support of Fairtrade supports farmers and workers.


We met Luis Marin Garcia while at the SCAA Expo in April. Luis is manager of UCASUMAN in Nicaragua, one of the first recipients of a Fairtrade Access Fund loan. The Fairtrade Access Fund helps Fairtrade certified producers in Latin America get access to affordable credit to improve their businesses. Read more about the Fund here.

Translation: My name is Luis Marin Garcia. I am the manager of UCASUMAN and I am a producer and member of the cooperative.

We are happy be here representing our organization that belongs to us and we are happy to be working together managing our resources and running our organization efficiently.

Within this current management we have secured a $350,000 loan from Incofin to secure the contracts of one of our major importers, which is Volcafe, whose three contracts helped us guarantee the loan. And this is important because it satisfies a major need for each member of our cooperative. So each member is more satisfied, more at peace, and content to know that by being certified Fairtrade, it helps us obtain resources and it can facilitate access to international markets.

With Volcafe we have a good project for financing and we export 23% of our coffee with them, which makes them one of our most important clients. And they pay well for the coffee meaning a higher income in the wallets of our producers, which allows them [the producer] to fulfil their obligations.

July 8-12 is the fourth Global Congress on Quinoa in Ecuador. Fairtrade has six certified small-scale producer organizations in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.

Read their full story at the Fairtrade International website.

In these photos: Lorenzo Cepada of Fairtrade co-op COPROBICH in Ecuador hosts a meeting with Fairtrade producers. The other photo features workers from the ANAPQUI Cooperative processing quinoa in the co-op’s plant.

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Climate change witnesses becoming adaptation activists

While frustration mounts at the tepid pace of government response to climate change, a group of smallholder tea farmers in eastern Africa – witnesses to climate change’s daily effects – have launched ADAPTea, a climate change adaptation project, last week.

The project will support tea farmers as they develop capacity to understand and adapt to the consequences of climate change. Much of the work will focus on increasing their resilience with sustainable land use management practices.

At the launch, Fairtrade producers shared vivid experiences of dealing with unpredictable weather patterns and other consequences of climate change, which affect their daily work and lives. Patricia Mutangili from Ndima tea factory in Kenya told the group about the challenges they are facing with tea bushes being damaged by strong winds and frost. She also addressed the problems of soil infertility and an increasing reliance on rain water.

After identifying the main challenges, the producers looked for potential solutions. These ideas were then incorporated into the strategy for the ADAPTea project. Implementation will be carried out by the producers, with the technical support from Vi Agroforestry.

“This is an amazing project by the producers, Fairtrade International and Vi Agroforestry– not only does it address production and sustainability issues affected by climate change, but it also strengthens the producer organizations to take control of their value chain, using climate change as an entry point,” Jennifer Mbuvi, Fairtrade Liaison Officer for Kenya and Tanzania.

“It’s a very innovative approach that could easily be duplicated with other products and regions.”

The ADAPTea launch took place in Thika, a small town 40 km northeast of Nairobi. Representatives of 14 small producer organizations from across Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya participated in the event, alongside technical experts from Vi Agroforestry and Giannina Cadena and Carlos Canales of Fairtrade International.

As the world continues to wait for concrete action on climate change by international governments, smallholder farmers are showing what can be done on the ground to improve their own livelihoods, when given the opportunity.

Lee Byers is Fairtrade International’s Senior Advisor, Coffee and Tea with the Global Product Mangement team

As global Senior Advisor for Fairtrade tea and coffee, I am often struck by the difference in these two sectors. Generally speaking, the tea sector is very well established with good long term demand and in recent years, has achieved good prices for bulk-made tea. Tea is also largely an all-year-round, weekly crop with a relatively stable supply base. Market prices are also somewhat predictable driven by physical supply and demand of made tea.

In contrast, coffee is a seasonal, annual/bi-annual crop, requiring high investment/working capital while market pricing is highly volatile, dictated by a global NYC commodity price, driven by physical availability but also increasingly commodity speculation, creating high uncertainty and price risk. One of the key reason’s Fairtrade offers small coffee farmers a minimum price (US$ 1.40 per lb) plus an additional Fairtrade Premium (20 cents per lb) versus a current NYC price of around $1.33.

On this basis, the tea sector looks in good shape, but beneath the surface there are a number of structural weaknesses which must be addressed if we are to have a sustainable tea future. After 30 years of enduring low profitability, many tea growers have struggled to make sufficient investments in infrastructure and labour welfare, so there is a compelling need for change.

The Oxfam tea wage report, published today is therefore a timely and helpful contribution to a wider industry debate as to how we can improve worker welfare and move toward a living wage. As the Fairtrade International representative on the steering committee for this report, I have been privileged to help shape the scope and design of the study as well as facilitate key meetings with industry experts. While the results are indeed challenging, they are perhaps a spur to action for everyone on the tea sector, recognising that enduring solutions cannot be delivered by Fairtrade alone.

This week, I attended the second in a series of workshops hosted by Forum for the Future as part of the Tea 2030 project. While we are some way yet from finding solutions to complex sustainability issues, I am encouraged to find myself alongside representatives of major tea brands, retailer’s NGO’s, industry bodies and tea boards from around the world.

Fairtrade is not alone, the journey has begun and together I think we can begin to make a real difference to tea workers, their families and communities through a vibrant and sustainable tea industry.

Take a look at the recent Malawi study conducted by NRI University of Greenwich, which examines Fairtrade tea Premium impacts for workers and farmers.

Read Fairtrade International’s response to the Oxfam-Ethical Tea Partnership report.

fairtrademarkus:

Fairtrade America, the CLAC (Latin American producer network), the NAPP (Asian producer network), Fairtrade Canada and Fairtrade International spent the weekend celebrating coffee, connecting farmers and traders, and having an all around great time at the SCAA Event in Boston. Trade fairs like this one play an important role in bringing producers and traders, roasters and retailers to talk business and continue pushing coffee further.

Left to right: Fairtrade farmers check out their new Fairtrade t-shirts; Brazilian coffee farmers cupping coffee at the Specialty Coffees of Brazil booth; Jose Abad-Puelles of Fairtrade Canada reviews some material with Bijumon Kurian of India; and Fairtrade coffee farmers from Huatusco, Mexico, get a taste of their own coffee in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Some great photos from the SCAA Coffee Conference in Boston. Producers meeting traders meeting business making connections!

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