“One fifth of the world’s humanity live in countries where many people think nothing of spending £1.75 a day on a cappuchino. Another fifth of humanity survive on less than 80 pence a day.”
Fairtrade is a way of trying to tackle some of the trade injustices that exist in the world which lead to a situation where the majority of people live in poverty whilst the minority enjoy wealth and security…
Fairtrade guarantees:Price, Environment, Workers Rights, Members Premium
Millions of people throughout the world do not earn enough money to live on, with 20% of the world’s population still living on less than $1 a day. Unfair world trade rules mean that in some parts of the world, even those who work for twelve or more hours a day still can’t afford the basics they need, let alone education and health care.
Over 50% of the population in developing countries works in agriculture, a figure that rises to 85% in some of the poorest countries. Even though the value of world trade has tripled in the last twenty years, the prices for agricultural goods have been in long-term decline, and in the last 20 years the prices for many important goods have collapsed by more than 50%. This has a devastating impact on vulnerable producers, many of whom can no longer cover the cost of production, meaning they struggle to support their families.
World agricultural trade is also marked by high producer dependency on a single crop, which means when the price drops, there is no other way for the farmer to make money. This reliance is often seen on a national level as well. For example, Burundi earns 80% of its export income from coffee, Ethiopia and Uganda about 50%. Small farmers often aren’t able to shift production, or diversify into other crops, leaving them very vulnerable to changes in the market.
“We can’t afford to pull out of the tea. It was such a huge investment. And since my land is all planted up with tea there is no space to grow any food on it. My grandchildren eat less food now than I fed my children in our early days when we struggled here.”
Aleyamma, small-scale tea farmer, India
Fairtrade aims at starting to address these issues by guaranteeing its producers a price for their produce which never falls below the cost of production. This guaranteed price along side long term contracts and the ability to request part payment in advance means that producers can start to plan and invest their money and begin to be more financially secure.
The Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) brings together Fairtrade producers, buyers and product experts to set the Fairtrade standards internationally. The environmental standards set aim towards helping farmers to work towards using more sustainable farming practices. These standards include minimising the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and where practical working towards organic production.
The Fairtrade logo symbolises that democratic working processes and structures are in place. Workers on tea estates are allowed to join trade unions and small farmers are able to work together in co-operatives. This gives workers more power in their work place and farmers more power in world markets which helps to stop large companies and exploitative middle men playing them off against each other. There is no forced or child labour and there are no dangerous chemicals because there are set health and safety standards. Farmers are able to plan more long-term because long-term contracts are signed and honoured between producers and traders.
Fairtrade also allows us to know how and where the things we use and buy were made as well as making us more aware of the impact our life styles have on other people and on the environment.
“Fairtrade does not mean giving a handout to the poor, it means acknowledging the work done, taking into account the production and living costs.”
N’Dila Balde, Vice President of the National Federation of Cotton Producers, Senegal
Products carrying the Fairtrade mark pay a social premium to the producer communities. This is a set amount of money which is paid on top of the guaranteed price. This is invested in community projects or improving the business. Local communities get together to decide what to spend the money on and the benefits are often felt well beyond just the Fairtrade farmers.
In Ghana, the Kuapa Kokoo Cocoa Co-operative whose cocoa goes into Divine and Dubble chocolate bars, democratically decided at its AGM of around 2000 farmers, to invest the premium in a series of free primary health care facilities. For more information about the Kuapa Kokoo Co-operative have a look at the case study below:
Comfort Kumeah, Member of Kuapa Kokoo Co-operative, Ghana
Comfort Kumeah lives in the small town of Mim in the Ashanti region of Ghana. Comfort is in her early fifties, a widow with 5 children, the oldest being 29 years old and the youngest 17. Mim is a fairly typical cocoa growing village in Ghana. It is on a bumpy pot holed road and has no running water or electricity. The houses are a mixture of earthen brick and wood; most have corrugated iron roofs.
As well as farming cocoa, Comfort teaches at her local primary school. She is a member of Kuapa Kokoo Cocoa Farmers’ Co-operative. The co-operative was set up in 1993 and now has 45,000 members. Kuapa Kokoo own a third of the The Day Chocolate Company, producers of fairly traded Divine and Dubble chocolate bars.
Comfort’s farm is 12 acres and is about ½ a mile away from the village. She works on the farm whenever she isn’t teaching, on Saturdays and during the school holidays.
Her Typical Day
“I get up at 6am, do the household chores - sweep, wash up, get ready for the farm. Once on the farm I weed, plant plantain and yam, plant cocoa beans and vegetables - tomatoes and peppers. I cook at the farm - boiled yam or yam stew. I come home when it’s too hot. The cocoa harvest is from September to February. It is a hard time of year. You have to ferment the beans for some days, then they must dry for 6 days - it is lots of work.”
The Effect of the Kuapa Kokoo Co-operative
“Before we farmers were cheated. People adjusted the scales. We got little money from the purchasing clerks and no bonuses. The farmers’ welfare was neglected. I joined Kuapa Kokoo 6 years ago because I saw it was the only company which could solve some of our problems - they trade without cheating, with the welfare of farmers at heart. There are many problems with poverty. During the lean season there is no money. Now there is a Credit Union set up by Kuapa Kokoo so we can borrow to keep our farms.
“The AGM (Annual General Meeting) is also very good. Farmers make their own decisions. Deserving societies get awards. Outstanding farmers get awards. We get to meet and hear from the partners. Over 2000 farmers attend (with two elected representatives from every village). They discuss the year’s business and vote on decisions including where the Fairtrade premiums should be used. For example, creating a network of free primary health care facilities. In addition to this, during the year village societies (all the Kuapa Kokoo farmers in each village) put grant applications to the Farmers’ Trust Fund (which is where the Fairtrade social premiums are banked) for community projects such as wells and schools.”
The Effect of Fairtrade
“Fairtrade deserves its name because it is fair. We would like more cocoa to be sold to fair trade because it means a better price for the producer.”