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Showing posts tagged “tea”

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Fairtrade empowers women to play leading roles in their communities. Irene Kijara, 35, has three children, is a teacher by profession and also manages her own tea farm near Fort Portal in Uganda, employing 15 people.
She is also a treasurer for a committee that decides how to spend Fairtrade Premiums for community development and she is teaching and inspiring other women. Irene says “I am here as a representative of the women farmers who elected me. Other women have seen what I do. They are starting to look after their farms and realize they too can be strong and independent of men. Working for the committee has helped me to do this.”
She also adds “the rules are rigid and clear so no-one can deceive me – because I am a woman and I am clever!’
Via Fairtrade Foundation

fairtrademarkus:

Fairtrade empowers women to play leading roles in their communities. Irene Kijara, 35, has three children, is a teacher by profession and also manages her own tea farm near Fort Portal in Uganda, employing 15 people.

She is also a treasurer for a committee that decides how to spend Fairtrade Premiums for community development and she is teaching and inspiring other women. Irene says “I am here as a representative of the women farmers who elected me. Other women have seen what I do. They are starting to look after their farms and realize they too can be strong and independent of men. Working for the committee has helped me to do this.”

She also adds “the rules are rigid and clear so no-one can deceive me – because I am a woman and I am clever!’

Via Fairtrade Foundation

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.

Joy of Harvest: A Song of Thanksgiving from Chinese Tea Farmers

Zhuoya Lu is the Fairtrade Liaison Officer in China. She recently traveled to Guzhang County to conduct a training with tea farmers on how to use the Fairtrade Premium they receive after selling their tea on Fairtrade terms. Cooperatives and workers’ groups democratically decide on how to spend the funds to improve their community or businesses.

After my recent training, an older member of the 52-member Guzhang Gaofeng Organic Tea Farmer Association explained that “compared with last time you visited, we are better off. We used to have a hard time. Selling tea through Fairtrade markets enables us to build our lives.”

The goal of our training was to educate members on how to manage Fairtrade Premium money well and improve understanding and awareness of Fairtrade in general. Around 15 farmer leaders and an exporter attended. All of the farmers are from the Tujia and Miao ethnic minorities living in mountainous areas. Guzhang County, which is located in Southwest China, has a long history of tea growing and its “Guzhang Maojian” is one of the most famous green teas in China.

“Thanks to Fairtrade sales, we receive the Premium. We use this to repair roads and we bought a truck to transport fertilizer and tea,” said Long Mei, 70, after the training. “Our future plan is to sell more tea, gain more Premium and carry out more projects. We want to repair the road from the homes to tea farms and have a big space to dry fresh tea leaves.”

In this film, Long Mei and her sister sing Joy of harvest. The lyrics are: “ We have harvest, we have money, we like tea, we receive happiness.”

The real cost of cheap tea

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According to an interview with Tesco boss Philip Clark this weekend, this may be the start of the end of the era of cheap food – with a recognition that to keep farmers farming, and wanting to sell to the UK, we may have to start paying higher prices for our food. We should see that as good – not bad - news, says Barbara Crowther, Director of Policy & Public Affairs.

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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.

Fairtrade Mends Bridges to Fill your Teacup

Amos Thiong’o, Regional Coordinator at Fairtrade Africa, had a tough journey to visit Kayonze tea estate in Uganda. But what he saw when he got there more than made up for it, as he reports in this piece.

Kayonza Growers Tea Factory is one of the four Fairtrade certified tea producers’ organizations in Uganda. The beautiful cooperative is located in the Kanungu district, in Western Uganda, close by the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

I visited the Kayonza at a time when the area had received extremely high rainfall. A major bridge linking the district to the rest of Uganda had been swept away. Before embarking on my journey, I inquired how long it would take me. A smiley hotel receptionist informed me that instead of 1.5 hours the journey would now take four times as long, using roads not worthy of the name. To cut a long story short; the journey was not for the weak hearted. It took us more than 6 hours, driving through the beautiful Queen Elizabeth National Park, on wild animal tracks, often passing through swollen streams.

However, on arrival to Kayonza I totally forgot all the travails. A most welcoming Marcel Asiimwe, the general manager, and his team were at hand to receive me. I was housed in a beautiful small guest house located in the centre of a tea estate. The breathtaking view lifted all weariness away.

Kayonza Growers Tea Factory has been Fairtrade certified since 1998, making it one of the oldest holders of Fairtrade certification in Africa. The factory, which prides itself for having one of the best quality teas in the country, is owned by over 600 small-scale tea farmers. On more than one occasion tea producers from the DRC have applied to join Kayonza but complications of cross border trading prevent the collaboration.

Fairtrade certification has enabled Kayonza to improve its governance and leadership structure. Last year the factory received a grant from Fairtrade Africa to fund IT training for its management and staff.

‘We are gradually modernising our operating systems and procedures,’ attests Human Resources Manager Jotham Musinguzi. ‘The training has been instrumental to improve our services to our members and customers.’

In the 1990s, a key challenge for Kayonza farmers was to deliver green leaf to the factory during the rainy season. Many farmers lost their lives trying to cross the swollen streams in the valley. Using Fairtrade Premiums, the farmers started constructing bridges on all feeder roads leading to the factory. The bridges have provided a massive boost to the region, ensuring the Kayonza factory distinguishes itself as a supplier of high quality tea across the world.


Fairtrade Africa represents African producers in the global Fairtrade system to ensure that Fairtrade standards and policy reflect their needs. Fairtrade Africa also provides prodcuers with technical, organisational and financial support. Find out more at www.fairtradeafrica.net.

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

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