Chief Adam Tampuri of the Gbankuliso Cashew Farmers Association in Ghana and also a member of the board of Fairtrade International shares a few words on Fairtrade’s journey at the 25th Anniversary of Max Havelaar Netherlands.
Chief Adam Tampuri of the Gbankuliso Cashew Farmers Association in Ghana and also a member of the board of Fairtrade International shares a few words on Fairtrade’s journey at the 25th Anniversary of Max Havelaar Netherlands.
This November, we mark 25 years since Fairtrade labelling was first launched when Mexican coffee farmers teamed up with the Max Havelaar Foundation, a Dutch NGO. In the Netherlands, Max Havelaar is a byword for standing up against trade injustice. The classic book, Max Havelaar by Multatuli, exposed the desperate conditions on the coffee farms in Indonesia, then ruled by the Dutch.
To mark the past 25 years, I visited KCU, a cooperative of coffee farmers in Tanzania who were the first group to be certified in Africa in 1990. Today they have a membership of 60,000 farmers across the region. Coffee is central to the lives of KCU’s smallholder members.
“When the coffee season is on, you can feel it. When people are selling coffee, you can see the money circulating in the town – people are buying fish and meat,” said John Kanjagaile, KCU’s charismatic export manager. “But when the season is off, everyone is quiet. The town is dead and moneyless.”
The smallholders of KCU first came together in 1950; but in the late 1980s the International Coffee Agreement collapsed, leaving the cooperative on shaky ground and many producers in shambles. At first, the cooperative did not think they could come through the crisis or export overseas, but with support and pre-finance from Fairtrade they sent their first container, marking the start of a dramatic recovery.
“From that moment we became players in negotiating on the best possible price. We became experts in selling coffee – to Fairtrade and to the conventional market,” Kanjagaile said. “You cannot attach a monetary value to what we learn in Fairtrade on transparency and the environment.”
And KCU has stayed at the forefront.
Too often people assume smallholder farmers will be conservative, slow to change. Think again. KCU is now the first organic certified Robusta coffee exporter from Tanzania. They have used Fairtrade Premium funds to push the cooperative and the community forward, including an electrification project, building wooden bridges, four schools, and a ward at the dispensary.
And they have always invested back in the cooperative and its members – from improving quality and buying hulling machines, to becoming major shareholders in Tanica, the only spray-dried instant coffee factory in East and Central Africa.
They also own a charming 16-room hotel on the shores of Lake Victoria, a swanky commercial centre renting out office and shop space, and a bank. These properties stand as security, enabling them to qualify for loans to purchase the farmers’ coffee at harvest time and allowing them to overcome one of a cooperative’s biggest hurdles: access to credit. Diversification of income also helps reduce the reliance on coffee – a volatile commodity whose price dropped over 60 percent this year from 2011 highs (Read more about the issues in coffee).
While visiting KCU, we were accompanied by a small group of gold miners from Tanzania and Uganda who are interested in joining the Fairtrade system (read more about my visit with the miners here). It was a poignant moment: the first Fairtrade group in Africa meeting a group still at the very beginning, as we explore how Fairtrade could work for these gold miners. The two groups eagerly exchanged views: how they built their cooperative, searched for market, and more.
“I feel so happy that we have small-scale miners here. Coffee used to be called black gold – that is our gold. It is on top of the earth, yours is under the earth!” said Vedastus Ngaiza, the CEO of KCU, with a smile.
And before the end of the day, the topic turned to the launch of the FAIRTRADE Mark in East Africa, with Fairtrade coffee, tea and chocolate already on store shelves in Kenya. The KCU team excitedly discussed how Tanica could become Africa’s first instant coffee carrying the FAIRTRADE Mark, available in all good Tanzanian stores.
And I thought to myself, now this is all quite a birthday present to celebrate 25 years of Max Havelaar; a gift from the ever innovative smallholder farmers of Africa .
The photos above were taken by Fairtrade staff during a field visit to the Philippines in September. The 46 members of the Patag Farmers Integrated Social Forestry Association were on track to become Fairtrade certified for their lettuce, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. That was until the typhoon Haiyan hit.
According to Stephan Kunz, who works for the AFOS Foundation and has also been supporting Fairtrade efforts there, the devastation in the country is immeasurable. Typhoon winds tracked over 300 km/hour and even permanent homes were razed to the ground.
The members of the Patag Farmers group were among the thousands of people affected. The storm wiped out their entire harvest. Many of them lost homes. Some even lost family members. But they plan to continue.
“The farmers there will not give up their livelihood so easily. They are strong, and although due to the storm they have almost nothing to share with their neighbors, they are doing their best to provide for those in need,” said Hagung Hendrawan a Regional Coordinator for Fairtrade International based in the field. “Families are working hand in hand to build temporary shelters, collect food, and cook. Any support we can offer will foster the recovery process.”
The AFOS Foundation is collecting funds to help with the recovery efforts. Please contact email@example.com for more details.
You can also donate to general relief efforts through Oxfam here.
There are three other Fairtrade small producer organizations in the Philippines. Most of their members were only minorly affected by the storm. The groups are now collecting emergency aid to help in the relief efforts.
Now, in a price free-falling system, like the one we are in, Fairtrade generates a base price, which really helps us, especially in a time like now. It gives us stability for our families.
Fatima Ismael is the General Manager at Soppexcca, a Fairtrade cooperative in Nicaragua. Coffee prices have fallen over 65% from their peak in 2011 to just US$1.06/pound. Read more about the other benefits of Fairtrade that help farmers weather the price roller coaster.
Harriet Lamb was honoured as the first woman to be named an honorary fellow at Trinity Hall at Cambridge University.
“I am delighted to accept this honour on behalf of all those women farmers and workers who are the backbone of Fairtrade across the world,” said Lamb.
Photo by Linus Hallgren
Ever wonder what your day would be like working on a Fairtrade banana farm? Here’s a pretty good depiction. The Corporacion Rosalba Zapata Cardona in Urabá, Colombia, produced this short documentary. Great story and fun production! Read more about the organization here crzc.com.co/.
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.
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.
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.”
Erwin Novianto is a Regional Managerial Consultant for Fairtrade’s Producer Services and Relations team in Southeast Asia and China.
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.
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:
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.
One of the benefits of working at Fairtrade? Inspiring visits with people like Magda Reza (center in orange shirt), a coffee farmer turned climate change adaptation promoter in her community. Magda is one of 10 coffee farmers at the Sonomoro Cooperative in Peru that have received training in adaptation strategies to help farmers cope with a changing climate. Read more about the innovative program here.
Keep your eyes peeled, a new video coming soon too!
Happy National Honey Month!
Captions and credits (from left to right, top to bottom)
- Miguel Angel Garcia, a beekeper associated with Cooperativa Agricola de Apicultores del Petén RL (COADAP), checking hives near Santa Elena, Peten. COADAP is a certified Fairtrade honey producer based in Guatemala. (Credit: Sean Hawkey)
- Closeup of a honeycomb. (Credit: Sean Hawkey)
- Man-made honeycomb. Cooperativa Integral de Producción Apicultores de Cuilco (CIPAC) certified Fairtrade producer based in Cuilco, Huehuetenango, Guatemala. (Credit: Sean Hawkey)
- Alex Juarez of COADAP in his beekeepers veil. (Credit: Sean Hawkey)
- Honey dripping from wooden spoon. (Credit: Fairtrade Finland)
- Open jar of honey. (Credit: Fairtrade Finland)
It’s National Honey Month in the United States. Great compilation of Fairtrade Honey producers!
Photos by Matt Crossick
Harriet Lamb, Chief Executive of Fairtrade International, recently travelled to visit gold producers in Uganda and Tanzania who are working to comply with the Fairtrade Standards so they can begin selling gold on Fairtrade terms. This post is part 2 of 2, read the first post here.
Over the border in Tanzania, I visited two other groups in the Fairtrade gold pilot. They have started using a retort, a simple, cheap, locally-made piece of equipment that traps mercury vapours and converts them back into liquid form, cutting down the hazards and improving health through lower exposure. It has made a huge difference.
Tina Mwasha – Tanzania’s first female mineral processing engineer and every bit as strong a character as you can imagine that takes – is leading the Fairtrade pilot there. She outlines the problems: “Miners were not doing this as a business, but just to earn something so their children could eat. They are mining a high value product, but they are getting a very low price. If a broker walks into your compound and offers to buy your gold and you haven’t eaten for 2 days – then you sell. Because you also don’t know anything else about world market prices.”
Tina rattles off the list of connected problems: that miners use rudimentary equipment so their earnings are low but they cannot afford better equipment without capital, which they can never hope to accumulate, and banks will not lend because the miners also cannot afford the research to map future prospects and present a business plan.
A tall woman, with beautiful braids and smooth skin hiding her 59 years, Tina says: “I’ve seen men and women struggle along even though they are working in such a high value gem – I’ve seen so many interventions that had made no difference, so when I heard about Fairtrade as an integrated approach, I thought – this can break the cycle.”
Tina takes me to a centre for processing the ore – or rocks containing the gold – where makeshift wooden huts and piles of earth sprawl over the land. It is an image of hell on earth. The hot air is filled with dust from the rocks being hammered by women and a few children sitting in the open sun and exposed to loud incessant grinding machines. Men in rags sit swirling pans of mercury and water with bare hands and feet, all the while small boys wander among them trying to sell sugar cane. Tatu, a wafer thin old woman, complains that she has not eaten for two days because she has found no gold in her rocks. In my 13 years working to counter injustices in trade, I have never seen anything this shocking.
A well-dressed broker is busy buying gold in one of the huts. “It’s a gambling game,” he says. “But the miners do the worst.”
Now Tina takes me to meet two miners with whom she has been working to improve conditions. Soft-spoken Renatus Nsangano, the Managing Director of Nsangano Gold Mining Project, tells how they have been improving because of the support and advice: “Fairtrade has lifted us from one level to another.”
He has put stairs into the mine shaft, gotten safety glasses and gloves; they use the retort to burn the gold-mercury mixture, and have built a concrete reservoir so they can recycle waste water. Renatus knows just how much more they need to do to reach even basic levels, but he lacks access to capital.
“My dream would be to have the technology that the Germans were using here 50 years ago!” he says smiling wryly.
Down the road at the mine belonging to the improbably named Hainga Golden, mineworkers speak effusively of how much better conditions are there now. One of the benefits they list is that they all have boots and hard hats. It begs belief that processes to mine this precious metal are so rudimentary here that just having hard hats to go underground is considered progress.
Hainga, a visionary leader of the small scale sub-sector in Tanzania, is clear: “The small scale miners don’t know the real price of gold. It’s a long chain in gold and no-one knows the profit of the end market. We will do better if we can sell direct to the market so we can get a fairer price.”
It will be some time and much work before the miners in the Fairtrade pilots are able to meet the Fairtrade Standards and sell their gold on Fairtrade terms. But they are ready for the work. Meanwhile it is vital to build the consumer- and market-demand for Fairtrade gold.
In the UK, people can already buy jewellery made from Fairtrade gold originating in Latin America thanks to jewellers such as Cred Jewellery, Stephen Webster or Beaverbrooks. Miners in Latin America provide the model – showing how they can organise, improve safety, take care of the environment, and sell Fairtrade gold. The challenge now is to dig yet deeper and build demand for their gold and that from Africa too.
Miner Amos Tangaca (striped top) and colleagues at the Ilana Gold Mine, in Geita in north Tanzania. Photo by Matt Crossick
Harriet Lamb, Chief Executive of Fairtrade International, recently she travelled to Uganda and Tanzania to visit small scale gold miners working to become Fairtrade certified. On the trip she also visited coffee farmers at KCU in Tanzania, one of the oldest producer organizations in the Fairtrade system. Harriet recounts her experience with gold producers in Uganda and Tanzania who are building up to compliance with the Fairtrade Standards. This post is part 1 of 2. Read part 2 here.
I must confess a weakness for ear-rings, getting pleasure from my somewhat random collection. But my most precious pair is made of Fairtrade gold by Harriet Kelsall, a small London designer, who was there from Day One when Fairtrade gold was launched in the UK market. I treasure them for their beauty; but also because they remind me of our toughest challenge yet – bringing Fairtrade to the notorious artisanal and small scale gold sector. A livelihood for some 100 million people, it’s a sector plagued by dangerous conditions, and terrible exploitation. This August, I saw for myself how artisanal and small scale miners are working in East Africa.
And I got a shock.
Stephen Padde, the articulate leader of a group of miners in Uganda, is keen to explain why he initially got in touch with Fairtrade. In 1994, a multinational company was given licences to mine gold over 1500 acres in his region. In 2005, the company forcefully evicted 700 families from their land with no compensation.
Stephen explains: “We decided to resist and say, No – we cannot allow companies to come here. This land belongs to the people. You would lose the grave of your father if they took your land. So we formed groups to resist and we held a lot of demonstrations. Then in 2010 we got a licence to mine – and we still have that. The company did then give some compensation – not enough, it was unfair – but now it has become difficult for the company to work here.”
That battle behind them, Stephen and his fellow miners now want to improve conditions.
He explains how in the region, “We were mining haphazardly, digging shafts without proper support. We had pits that kept collapsing all the time, as the walls collapse in the rain.”
Simon Wandera, a gentle, quiet man, started mining at age 14 year and has continued for the next 30 years having to go deeper and deeper to extract gold. For their dangerous work finding this precious metal, they get less than $1 a day. It’s not enough to live on – let alone make the vitally needed investments in safer equipment and practices.
One of the biggest challenges is the way people use mercury to separate the gold from the rock. First workers with bare hands mix mercury (which is highly toxic) with water and pounded rock dust so the gold clings to the mercury. Worse to come: once the gold has clung to the mercury, people burn it off in open pans to separate the gold. This process leaves mercury vapours rising into air all around.
Now the group is part of a Fairtrade project, funded by Comic Relief, to explore how Fairtrade could work with gold miners in Africa. Currently, local experts are working with the miners to see how they can improve conditions.
“Fairtrade has created all our awareness about mercury poisoning,” explained Naomi Onega, the leader of a women’s group in the Ugandan pilot (at right). “People used to burn off the mercury in the open, in their kitchens, when children were around. As it evaporates, the mercury gets in your eyes and some people complain about their eyes. The mercury was going into the river where our animals go to drink and where we get the fish we eat. This has left many people suffering from the mercury.”
The folks at Fair Trade Connection just posted this great film on the women of Tighanimine, a group of Fairtrade producers in Morocco producing Argan oil. We also featured this group on our website during International Women’s Day.
En Mendoza, mientras muchos productores venden sus tierras para emprendimientos inmobiliarios, otros resisten. Un nuevo episodio de Diarios de motoneta.
Great little film about Fairtrade wineries in Argentina and how they are working to make sure their small businesses survive. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, it’s great footage!
Meet Kady Waylie, the Fairtrade cotton farmer pictured on the front cover of our new 2012-13 Annual Report: Unlocking the Power.
Kady is one of West Africa’s 10 million cotton farmers. She and her family grow their own food, but their cash comes from growing cotton.
The farmers’ group in Kady’s village in Senegal began to see benefits of Fairtrade with training courses they were given, to produce better quality cotton, to get higher yields, to improve health and safety.
When it came to harvest time, they are paid a guaranteed price for their produce, above the market price. And the farmers’ group is also paid the Fairtrade Premium – that the group decides what to do with, men and women together.
The Premium has been used in Senegal to help build and furnish schools, and to buy packs of stationery, books and schoolbags for students. Some has gone on projects for clean drinking water. Some has been spent helping build and equip clinics, and to train villagers in health care and midwifery.
The processes involved have made groups of cotton farmers stronger and more able to look after their own interests, to deal with government officials, to engage with other groups. In short, to unlock the power that they hold when they work together to drive change.
But it’s not all good news. Kady’s cooperative, and many others, are desperate to sell more of their cotton on Fairtrade terms. Their Fairtrade sales have been low for the past couple of years. As part of our 2013-15 strategy, Unlocking the Power of the Many, we’re developing new ways of working in cotton, and also in cocoa and sugar, to drive the sales that producers are looking for.
Read more about our achievements over the past year and our first steps to unlock the power of the many in our new 2012-13 Annual Report.
© Photo and text used with kind permission of Sean Hawkey