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Showing posts tagged “PSR”

On the Cocoa Trail in Ecuador - Part 2

Carla Veldhuyzen, Regional Coordinator for the Andean region, accompanied cocoa farmers from all over the region on a producer exchange to Ecuador – a great way for cooperatives to learn from each other. So what did they get out of their visit?

The first stop on our journey was Machala, where we were welcomed by Joaquin Vásquez, president of UROCAL. He told us about the organization’s nearly 40 years of history, their challenges and successes producing and trading cocoa and bananas. Then we continued our fascinating journey, visiting small producer organizations in South-western Ecuador. Farmers showed us the practices they use to increase productivity of the cocoa trees and control the quality of their product. We visited their tree nurseries and processing facilities and the famers chatted and shared experiences with their fellow cocoa producers.

Fltr. Wilbert Perez (COCLA, Peru), Martín Dominguez (Cepicafe, Peru), Oscar López (Acopagro, Peru) looking at plants in UNOCACE’s tree nursery.

In Quevedo we visited the governmental research institute INIAP, to learn all about the latest investigations on cloning, plague and disease management in national cocoa varieties.

Finally we arrived on Friday at Fortaleza del Valle cooperative in Calceta, an excellent example of Fairtrade making a difference. Their manager Berto Zambrano guided us around on their premises, where we could still see how they had started six years back with a couple of fermenting boxes in a corner and witness how they have been able to expand their business and get organized to sell the projected 650 tons of organic Fairtrade cocoa this year.

By the end of the trip, all the producers were really motivated to put their new found knowledge into practice. Many cocoa farmers in Latin American countries have struggled to compete against the lower priced West African cocoa. By learning how to improve quality, and to really market their top-notch cocoa, they can get better prices and find new market opportunities. These Ecuadorian producers have shown it is possible – now we really hope others will follow suit.

Enrique Cardenas (Fairtrade Liaision Officer), Berto Zambrano (Fortaleza del Valle, Ecuador) and Fredy Martinez (ASOCATI, Colombia) tasting chocolate.

Back in Guayaquil we celebrated World Fair Trade Day with lots of Fairtrade chocolate brought along by Fairtrade staff members Magali and Barbara from France and Belgium. They returned home well equipped with producer testimonies and insider knowledge to start promoting fine flavoured Fairtrade cocoa on their markets, and hopefully increase demand for Latin American cocoa.

Interested in sourcing Fairtrade fine flavour cocoa? Contact Carla Veldhuyzen van Zanten, Regional Coordinator for the Andean Region: c.veldhuyzen@fairtrade.net

Nathi Tshabalala, one of Fairtrade’s liaison officers in South Africa recently helped a group of fresh fruit farm workers to go on an “exchange visit” to several farms in another part of the country. The second part of their visit takes them to a newly Fairtrade certified group:

For the final part of our visit we went to Linton Park Wines in Wellington, a farm set in lush green hills and a beautiful setting.

This time it was Eve Brand’s turn to take the lead: Linton Park just had their first FLO-CERT audit last month, whereas Eve Brand has been Fairtrade certified for a few years now. I thought it’d be great for them to benefit from Eve Brand’s first hand knowledge and support. The members of Eve Brand’s Workers’ Committee gave some really useful insight into how they set up their Committee, and helped the Linton Park workers think about how to run elections and get people involved. 

The workers’ committee (WC) is particularly important as it is only composed of workers and negotiates with management to defend the workers’ rights and interests.  It’s a bit difficult for the workers to set up at first and to understand their rights and responsibilities, but once they do it is it’s a powerful tool for them, especially when they can interact with other WCs.

The exchange came to a close and everyone got ready to take the long journey back to the Eastern Cape. Everyone felt that the visit was very eye-opening and deepened their understanding of what needs to be done. At every farm we were shown around and got to see their production and projects first hand. Some farms even had their own guest house, or biodiversity projects. But most importantly, exchanges like these mean workers can communicate directly with other workers and can help, support and encourage each other. I was so delighted to see the Chair of the Eve Brand Workers’ Committee exchanging numbers with the shop steward at Erfdeel farm. Contact like that is invaluable for the learning and self-help process.

Everyone was for the idea of annual exchange visits like these. I will definitely incorporate them into my workplan for 2012.

 

An eye-opening journey for Fairtrade fruit pickers

Fairtrade International’s network of locally based liaison officers help producers to get Fairtrade certified and support them in their development path.

Nathi Tshabalala, one of Fairtrade’s liaison officers in South Africa recently helped a group of fresh fruit farm workers to go on an “exchange visit” to several farms in another part of the country. Here are some of his highlights from the visit :

There is an African saying that goes: “Travelling is an eye-opener”. My grandmother taught me that if you learn alone and in your own surroundings, you become intelligent; however, if you travel, see places, meet people, engage – you become wise.

So when the workers from Eve Brand Farms came to me, wanting to use part of their Fairtrade Premium to visit other South African Fairtrade estates, I was delighted to help them organize it.

The ten workers travelled 600km from the Eastern Cape in their farm van for the exchange.Everyone was excited, and eager to see what they could learn from other Fairtrade farms. Most of them had never travelled out of their province of birth before.

First stop was Koopmanskloof in Stellenbosch. Their Fairtrade officer, Peter Titus, gave a presentation about the farm and highlighted the achievements of their CEO: Rydal Jephta was born and bred on a farm himself, but now heads the whole estate, one of the most successful in South Africa. The lesson to all was: “Where you are is not your destination, just a resting place. Your attitude will determine your altitude”.

Our second visit took us to Piketberg to visit Erfdeel Farming Trust. What I like about Erfdeel is that the workers run the Fairtrade activities themselves and do not rely heavily on the farm management. This day was no different; we were welcomed by the Chairperson of the Joint Body (which represents workers and management) and got to meet with just the workers. I took a back seat and allowed the workers to interact and discuss topics that are important to them –there was a flurry of chatter and people exchanging ideas and experiences.

It just goes to show how much workers can achieve when they are able to connect and learn from each other.

After my first days in the North of Delhi, I travelled to laid back Rayagada, a small city situated in Orissa; this rather rural state is situated on the shores of the Bay of Bengal and considered as the ‘Indian cotton belt’. Together with Sureel, Liaison Officer-India, we visited Agrocel, a cotton farmers’ group.
 
During the first day, we spent some time with the farmers to review the achievements of the past months. We discussed their challenges and their Fairtrade Premium projects (they received about INR 300,00 last year). We brought them some copies of the brochure ‘Fairtrade and you’ translated in Oriya, the language spoken in Orissa. Although the farmers understand Hindi, the national language, they were very happy to receive a Fairtrade document in their own language.
 
On the next day, some of the 600 farmers of Agrocel proudly showed us their latest Fairtrade Premium investment, a water pump. Since the cultivation of cotton requires a lot of water to irrigate the fields, they had to rent this equipment in the past, a cost that cut down their margins. They now have their own water pump, which gives them more flexibility and a better income; besides reducing their costs of production. They can also use the water pump for secondary crops, such as maize, paddy and vegetables. They told us that they have now doubled their income thanks to the water pump and the secondary crops. Agrocel farmers are very enthusiastic about their Premium projects and do not lack of ideas for the coming years: they are now planning to build bio-fertilizer facilities, latrines and a small solar electricity plant for the villages.
 
We couldn’t leave the village without paying our respects to Ganesha, the famous Hindu God currently being celebrated throughout India. In every village there is a temporary colorful altar, beautifully decorated with offerings, incense, and lit up at night with hundreds of neon lights. I even received for the occasion my first ‘tika’, the red dot on the forehead!  

Xavier Huchet, Head of Asia in Fairtrade’s Producer Services and Relations Unit, recently visited tea, rice and cotton producers in India with with Liaison Officer Anup Singh. Fairtrade International has a network of over 50 Liaison Officers around the world who provide support and training to producers.

Xavier Huchet, Head of Asia in Fairtrade’s Producer Services and  Relations Unit, recently visited tea, rice and cotton producers in India  with with Liaison Officer Anup Singh. Fairtrade International has a  network of over 50 Liaison Officers around the world who provide support  and training to producers.
After a 4 hour train ride from Delhi, we reached the city of Roorkee (Uttarakhand) to visit the rice farmers of Sunstar. Located at the foothill of the Himalayas, the area is famous in India for its Basmati rice grown in ideal weather conditions. Though the city was unusually quiet with most shops closed, Muslims in the area were celebrating Eid, the end of the Ramadan and the streets were full of stalls selling colorful and tempting sweets of all kinds. Certified since 2006, the farmers of Sunstar that we visited sell about 80% of their rice as Fairtrade, and several Premium projects have been implemented in the course of the last years. One of their latest is a computer centre, which gives the farmers’ children the opportunity to learn computer science after school. In an IT-friendly country such as India, computer science is key for children’s education, but tuition fees in private schools (about INR 300-500/ month) make it unattainable for many families. Hence the Sunstar farmers created their own computer centre, with much more reasonable fees (INR 150/ month). The computer centre opened three months ago with 10 brand new computers and a teacher position filled by the son of a Sunstar farmer, who was previously unemployed. Picture: Liaison Officer-India Anup Singh talks with a young student at the Sunstar computer centre

Xavier Huchet, Head of Asia in Fairtrade’s Producer Services and Relations Unit, recently visited tea, rice and cotton producers in India with with Liaison Officer Anup Singh. Fairtrade International has a network of over 50 Liaison Officers around the world who provide support and training to producers.


After a 4 hour train ride from Delhi, we reached the city of Roorkee (Uttarakhand) to visit the rice farmers of Sunstar. Located at the foothill of the Himalayas, the area is famous in India for its Basmati rice grown in ideal weather conditions. Though the city was unusually quiet with most shops closed, Muslims in the area were celebrating Eid, the end of the Ramadan and the streets were full of stalls selling colorful and tempting sweets of all kinds.
 
Certified since 2006, the farmers of Sunstar that we visited sell about 80% of their rice as Fairtrade, and several Premium projects have been implemented in the course of the last years. One of their latest is a computer centre, which gives the farmers’ children the opportunity to learn computer science after school.
 
In an IT-friendly country such as India, computer science is key for children’s education, but tuition fees in private schools (about INR 300-500/ month) make it unattainable for many families. Hence the Sunstar farmers created their own computer centre, with much more reasonable fees (INR 150/ month).

The computer centre opened three months ago with 10 brand new computers and a teacher position filled by the son of a Sunstar farmer, who was previously unemployed.
 
Picture: Liaison Officer-India Anup Singh talks with a young student at the Sunstar computer centre

Making Fairtrade and Productivity Work in Indonesia

Coffee is life for the majority of farmers in Gayo Highlands of Sumatra. For many, entering Fairtrade markets and maintaining high yields is more than a goal, it’s about survival. However, this year rising prices coupled with decreasing productivity put 14 Fairtrade certified cooperatives in jeopardy along with others in the supply chain.

In June, Fairtrade International conducted three days of training in Aceh, Indonesia. Topics included the Fairtrade Standards and productivity support for cooperatives looking to improve their knowledge of productivity and quality. Two local coffee experts facilitated the training. 

Participants enthusiastically discussed and shared their knowledge on coffee cultivation techniques, processes and how to assess the quality coffee. Sessions in meeting rooms were combined with field visits for real life practice. When the training ended, smiles lingered on the faces of many participants.  

“We’re hoping that other trainings will continue in the future and spread to all producers in the region,” commented one participant.

Producer support for productivity and quality is a key piece of Fairtrade International’s efforts to help coffee cooperatives and traders weather the current high market volatility in coffee. To learn more about how high prices have affected producers and what Fairtrade International is doing to help, visit our latest news section.


Erwin Novianto is a Fairtrade liaison officer based in Indonesia and East Timor. He coordinates training efforts and provides support to producers in the area.

Alina Eva, Assistant for the Africa and Middle East Team in FLO’s Producer Services and Relations Unit (PSR), reports from their annual Regional Meeting in Tunis, Tunisia, where all Fairtrade Regional Coordinators and Liaison Officers from 16 countries in Africa and Middle East region gathered for 10 days of training and team meetings.

Fairtrade International’s Producer Services and Relations Team had traveled from all over Africa and the Middle East to our regional meeting in Tunisia in May. The Fairtrade breakfast campign was going on across the globe at the time, so it only felt right for us to join in! What’s more, the Liaison Officers who work to support Fairtrade farmers and workers live and work in countries where Fairtrade products are produced, but not often sold. So the way the final product is packaged to be sold to consumers was also a topic discussed over cups of tea from India, coffee from Tanzania and chocolate spread with cocoa from Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire (which tastes great on the Tunisian cake!). After the breakfast we gave the left over tea bags and coffee to the waiters from the hotel that had helped setting up the breakfast, and who were curious about how our team-meeting and the tea bags were connected.

Alina Eva, Assistant for the Africa and Middle East Team in FLO’s Producer Services and Relations Unit (PSR), is posting from their annual Regional Meeting in Tunis, Tunisia, where all Fairtrade Regional Coordinators and Liaison Officers from 16 countries in Africa and Middle East region gather for 10 days of training and team meetings.
Today we welcome Sarina and Maria from the Standards unit in Bonn, Germany. They came to train the team on the New Standards Framework (NSF), FLO-CERT’s revised certification system, and the revised Environmental Standards. Any time changes are made to the standards, Liaison Officers and Regional Coordinators are at the front line helping producers understand these important changes.
The NSF will make the sometimes complex Fairtrade Standards simpler and clearer for producers. (Read more about the NSF here.) The training will last for two days and leave the team prepared with all of the relevant information so they are able to train producers.
Amos Thiongo from Fairtrade Africa, the producer network representing African Fairtrade producers, has also joined us for four days, and will make a presentation with Zachary Kiarie, the FLO Regional Coordinator for East Africa.
The Producer Services and Relations team at FLO has developed a good working relationship with the team at Fairtrade Africa and it’s great to hear about the work that they are doing together on the ground to help certified producers and new organizations joining Fairtrade.

Alina Eva, Assistant for the Africa and Middle East Team in FLO’s Producer Services and Relations Unit (PSR), is posting from their annual Regional Meeting in Tunis, Tunisia, where all Fairtrade Regional Coordinators and Liaison Officers from 16 countries in Africa and Middle East region gather for 10 days of training and team meetings.


Today we welcome Sarina and Maria from the Standards unit in Bonn, Germany. They came to train the team on the New Standards Framework (NSF), FLO-CERT’s revised certification system, and the revised Environmental Standards. Any time changes are made to the standards, Liaison Officers and Regional Coordinators are at the front line helping producers understand these important changes.

The NSF will make the sometimes complex Fairtrade Standards simpler and clearer for producers. (Read more about the NSF here.) The training will last for two days and leave the team prepared with all of the relevant information so they are able to train producers.

Amos Thiongo from Fairtrade Africa, the producer network representing African Fairtrade producers, has also joined us for four days, and will make a presentation with Zachary Kiarie, the FLO Regional Coordinator for East Africa.

The Producer Services and Relations team at FLO has developed a good working relationship with the team at Fairtrade Africa and it’s great to hear about the work that they are doing together on the ground to help certified producers and new organizations joining Fairtrade.

Alina Eva, Assistant for the Africa and Middle East Team in FLO’s Producer Services and Relations Unit (PSR), is posting from their annual Regional Meeting in Tunis, Tunisia, where all Fairtrade Regional Coordinators and Liaison Officers from 16 countries in Africa and Middle East region gather for 10 days of training and team meetings.


For 10 days our core team of 26 people has gathered in Tunis on the coast of the Mediterranean. Following the recent political changes in Tunisia there are fewer tourists than usual and the streets of the Medina are not crowded with foreigners. The city center is busy but peaceful, demonstrations have stopped, but the traffic is heavy and chaotic everywhere due to the reduced police presence.

These 10 days will give us a chance to get updates from Nadia, the Head of PSR Africa and Middle East, our Regional Coordinators and the Liaison Officers.

Our Liaison Officers work alone in the field. These annual meetings with the entire team provide an important forum to share and help them feel connected to the Fairtrade system. Over lunch, dinner or in the evening over a cup of tea, we exchange, share experiences and stories, the challenges and opportunities faced daily.

Members of Pratima Organic Grower Group in Orissa, India, organized a soccer tournament to raise awareness of Fairtrade among local decision-makers and community members. Teams from several villages battled for the title of ‘Most Fair’ with the final taking place on 21 March. Xavier Huchet of Fairtrade International’s Producer Services and Relations team made the short video above.

In the video, the winning team is ushered through town on one of two tractors the groups had bought with Fairtrade Premium earned by selling Fairtrade cotton. The groups will use the tractors to take their cotton to the processing unit. Read more about the tournament at www.fairtrade.net

Michaelyn Baur, Head of Americas for Producer Services and Relations (PSR) and Julie Francoeur, interim Regional Coordinator for the West Indies, Haiti and Paraguay are on a short visit to Haiti to support PSR’s in-country Liaison Officer Jean-Marc Vital in his work. They will visit different producer groups with the objective of better understanding the Haitian reality and finding ways in which the Fairtrade system can better adapt to the very particular national circumstances and help the empowerment of Fairtrade producers.


Today we met with members of the newly elected Board of FENAPCOM, a Fairtrade certified mango producer group. FENAPCOM, like many groups within the Fairtrade system, is a federation of more than a dozen base groups.

Strengthening this type of federation is never easy and is made extremely complex with the geographical distance between the the individual groups making up the organization, the limited transport in Haiti, the recent cholera epidemic, and political tensions that make moving around more difficult.


FENAPCOM will soon face a follow-up audit and we had the chance to test Julie’s ‘creole’ and discuss the challenges and responsibilities that FENAPCOM will need to face proactively if they want to continue as a Fairtrade certified producer. The new Board members are dedicated to improving FENAPCOM’s organizational structure.

The difference in price that they FENAPCOM receives for their Fairtrade mangoes versus non-Fairtrade mangoes is impressive, they get over 50% more just on the sale price and then roughly around 12 000 USD / year of Social Premium on top.

It has been very tough for FENAPCOM to keep up with Fairtrade’s tough standards under the current conditions in the country; General Assemblies had to be postponed to bury cholera victims, other meetings were delayed because of road blocks after the public revolt against the results of the November elections, etc.

The mango trees everywhere we go are in full bloom, this looks like this might be a wonderful harvest. But Israel, FENAPCOM’s secretary, is quick to remind us that in early 2010, the mango trees were also full of flowers, which were all shaken off in the earthquake.

We want to continue working with genuine mango producer groups who can be strenghtened and not pulled together by inefficient NGOs. Now here in the country we have started giving Haiti a new name; the “Land of NGOs”. We believe that the mango producers we buy from can become true solid producer organizations.

Mr. Perry, co-owner of Perry Export, Fairtrade Certified Exporter of Mangoes to the US.

Michaelyn Baur, Head of Americas for Producer Services and Relations (PSR) and Julie Francoeur, interim Regional Coordinator for the West Indies, Haiti and Paraguay are on a short visit to Haiti to support PSR’s in-country Liaison Officer Jean-Marc Vital in his work. They will visit different producer groups with the objective of better understanding the Haitian reality and finding ways in which the Fairtrade system can better adapt to the very particular national circumstances and help the empowerment of Fairtrade producers.


As the PSR Americas team of Regional Coordinators was meeting in Dominican Republic for a workshop on workers’ rights on banana plantations, we decided to also pay a visit to neighbouring Haiti. After very eye-opening discussions on migrant haitian workers’ rights in dominican Fairtrade banana plantations in the DR, we didn’t quite know what to expect of our first visit to the Western part of Hispaniola. As we took off from Santiago in the heart of Dominican Republic, the last thing we saw was a green, lush, banana plantation.

Twenty minutes later, entering the Haitian territory, we were flying over dry, brown, deforested mountains. Even from above, the difference was remarkable.

We had both prepared our hearts and our eyes for what we were going to see, expecting devastation, destruction and a tense political climate. As we were making our way with Jean-Marc through the thick Port-au-Prince mid-day traffic, what surprised us more wasn’t the pancaked houses, the piles of rubble unmoved nor the overabundance of NGO vehicles; it was the beauty behind it all – wonderfully intricate and brightly-colored taptaps (local buses), beautiful grafiti art, the rolling mountains in and out of the capital city.

Reaching our hotel, we are reminded of the harsh reality that up to 1 million Haitians still sleep in tent cities that sprung up in every available space of the city. From our comfortable and pretty gingerbread hotel room we look onto a peaceful courtyard, but across the street, not even 20 meters away, a large tent city sprawls through Petionville’s public park with very limited sanitary facilities.

Though the images of the day might run in our heads, we better sleep tight as a heavy programme awaits us with a lot of travel to the country side to visit mango producers and coffee producers who, on top of earthquakes, cholera and political tensions have been dealing with difficult certification and commercial relations issues. This already sounds like an interesting adventure.

FLO in Palestine: Chiraz Skhiri, the Regional Coordinator for the Middle  East and North Africa at Fairtrade Labelling Organizations, is travelling to Palestine this week to visit  with local farmers and provide training to cooperatives and other  producer organizations.
I went to Tel Aviv to meet with Green Action, an Israeli NGO, and I had another meeting with a small Fair Trade Shop.
I am staying in Jerusalem now. It is weird to be here again. Since working for FLO, I haven’t been allowed to go to Israel or enter Jerusalem. It’s been three years and I am always speechless.
Jerusalem is basically, ‘On this sidewalk I am on the Israeli side and on this side walk I am on the Arab side.’ A nine meter high separation wall separates the West Bank from Jerusalem in some parts.
Old City of Jerusalem has a Christian Quarter, a Muslim and Jewish Quarter and an Armenian Quarter. Then you have areas where you have Jewish Orthodox areas. It is a mix of everyone living together. There are so many rules to be aware of and to follow.
I always forget how to get around and where I am here, what language to speak. In the West Bank, you are surrounded by the wall, it is the occupation indeed, but you do not feel it as much as in Jerusalem (I’m including a nice picture of Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem).

FLO in Palestine: Chiraz Skhiri, the Regional Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa at Fairtrade Labelling Organizations, is travelling to Palestine this week to visit with local farmers and provide training to cooperatives and other producer organizations.

I went to Tel Aviv to meet with Green Action, an Israeli NGO, and I had another meeting with a small Fair Trade Shop.

I am staying in Jerusalem now. It is weird to be here again. Since working for FLO, I haven’t been allowed to go to Israel or enter Jerusalem. It’s been three years and I am always speechless.

Jerusalem is basically, ‘On this sidewalk I am on the Israeli side and on this side walk I am on the Arab side.’ A nine meter high separation wall separates the West Bank from Jerusalem in some parts.

Old City of Jerusalem has a Christian Quarter, a Muslim and Jewish Quarter and an Armenian Quarter. Then you have areas where you have Jewish Orthodox areas. It is a mix of everyone living together. There are so many rules to be aware of and to follow.

I always forget how to get around and where I am here, what language to speak. In the West Bank, you are surrounded by the wall, it is the occupation indeed, but you do not feel it as much as in Jerusalem (I’m including a nice picture of Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem).

In East Bani Zeid, we are building a storage room and we have a project to build our own processing facilities. We are currently receiving funds from France to build a place for a women’s cooperative that will become part of East Bani Zeid. The women will be making olive tapenade from Fairtrade certified olives and olive oil to increase our opportunities in the Fairtrade market.

Mahmoud al Qadi of the East Bani Zeid Cooperative, a Fairtrade certified cooperative.

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