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Fairtrade on the road

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Showing posts tagged “fresh fruit”

imageRaju Ganapathy, Fairtrade Liaison Officer in India, discovers a plethora of fruits, spices and other fresh produce at a Fairtrade seed festival.

I am the seed;
Seed is the creation of the cosmos

says Bhagwad Gita; holiest of Hindu Scripture.

Seed is of utmost importance: both in Hindu scripture, and for the livelihoods of the many farmers I work with. So it was with great interest that I went to the annual seed festival organized by Fair Trade Alliance Kerala (FTAK), in the pristine Wayanad district of Kerala, South India.

The festival celebrates the biodiversity on display in the homes and fields of its farmers and promotes the preservation of local seeds. FTAK supports its members to preserve this diversity, while also ensuring food security by enabling each member to meet most of their food needs themselves.

I met farmers like Benny and Shaji, who held stalls offering organic produce and seeds that are able to grow and thrive in the local climate. There were roots and tubers that I had never seen before, even after years of working in agriculture. Umpteen varieties of ginger; bananas; black pepper; I came across a small, round yellow fruit called an eggfruit; I was told about the virtues of mullachakka, a smallish thorny jack fruit which is even supposed to have anti-cancer properties.


Benny and Shaji at their stall.

The second day focused on women’s central role in farming – something  FTAK seeks to promote among its members. Speaker Julie Cariappa extolled the virtues of homestead farming and said it gave her control over the food that she serves her family. Another speaker Deborah talked about food sovereignty and said the organization has taken the idea of food security even further through the wide variety of foods grown on the farms. It was great to see so many women taking an active role in the day.

Fair Trade Alliance Kerala is a small farmer organization created to enable farmers to access the global market and improve their income through Fairtrade. It now has over 4500 members, growing coffee and many other products including cocoa, cashew nuts, coconuts and tropical spices.

Find out more on FTAK’s Facebook page.

Success at Last for Indian Grape Growers

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” ― Winston Churchill

Such is the case with Fairtrade grapes from India … a fruit of one Fairtrade importer’s persistent efforts. 

Fruit importer Univeg has been trying to launch Fairtrade grapes in the UK since 2007, but it has been quite a long journey. First they had to find suitable producers. Then they had to ensure the whole supply chain was Fairtrade certified. Not to mention quality issues, and the extremely short shelf-life grapes have. 

Over in India, one of the Fairtrade cooperatives I support was also having problems. Agrocel Pure and Fair Fruits and Nuts Growers Association (APFGA) was hardly selling any of their Fairtrade raisins, making it unviable for them to remain certified.  As a last resort, a few of the farmers decided to produce Fairtrade grapes. Could this be the supply Univeg was looking for?

There were still failures to overcome: APFGA’s first Fairtrade grape crop in 2011 was too poor quality to be exported. But they didn’t give up. Thanks to support from Univeg and another Fairtrade buyer, Euro Fruits, APFGA farmers tried again in 2012 … and have been successful. The first batch of grapes hit UK supermarket shelves a few months ago, and were praised for their top-quality.

APFGA has already started reaping the fruits of this success.  From their Fairtrade Premium they have purchased raisin packing materials collectively and managed to bargain 20% savings on this purchase for their members.  APFGA members are all smiles on their new prospects.

“It is like a new life to our cooperative. Now we can persuade our other farmers to also allocate part of their crop for Fairtrade table grapes and part for Fairtrade raisins, and continue to be a part of the Fairtrade system,” says an excited Prakash Sangave, APFGA member and Fairtrade table grapes grower.

Contibuted by Anup Singh, a Fairtrade liaison officer in India. If you’d like to source Fairtrade table grapes from India, contact him here.

There are over 50 Fairtrade liaison officers worldwide.  Learn more about their work on our website.

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.

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