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.
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.
My hero has fallen to an eternal sleep. He was a father of a nation, a global icon. Madiba’s ideals and actions for a fair and just society which he was prepared to die for, has personally affected me and opened so many closed doors.
I can truly say Nelson Mandela has allowed me to travel the continents of the world, and now my quest is to continue his legacy through a Fairtrade business to touch the lives of as many other desperate people in search of that better life.
Vernon Henn is the Managing Director of Thandi Wines, a Fairtrade winery in South Africa. Thandi is owned by 250 farm-worker families who hold 55% shares in the company.
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!