• Joanna

What is Fairtrade (and how it empowers producers to lift themselves out of poverty)

Fairtrade has been around for a while now, but because I never really knew exactly what it meant for producers, traders and consumers, I decided to learn and share about it in line with #FairTradeFortnight2020.

What does Fairtrade mean?

The Fairtrade Foundation addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminate against the poorest and weakest producers all over the world. They work with farmers and workers directly and discuss a minimum price for their work, which will guarantee a price to at least cover their operating costs; unfortunately, outside of Fairtrade standards, this is not often the norm.

They also protect workers and farmers from fluctuating market prices, because when these get higher than the agreed-upon minimum, the trader must pay them the difference. When global prices are very low, farmers may be receiving two or three times more from their Fairtrade sales than their sales to other buyers!

Producers also must meet certain standards and requirements (social, economic & environmental, as well as progress reports) in order to be certified. Today, there are over 1.6 million farmers and workers all over the world participating in Fairtrade. The products range from bananas, cocoa, coffee to cotton, flowers, wine, gold and much more!

Fairtrade Fortnight 2020

Fairtrade Fortnight are two weeks in the year that are dedicated to raising awareness about Fairtrade and the people positively affected by it. This year the focus lies upon cocoa farmers and the call for them to earn a living income. This years campaign is: 'She Deserves'. Fairtrade has been sharing stories on the women behind our chocolate bars, highlighting the hidden inequality experienced by the women of the industry, as well as encouraging individuals and businesses to participate and share it (which is why you are reading this now 😊)

Why cocoa farming?

90% of the world’s cocoa is grown on small family farms and is the livelihood of about 6 million farmers. The primary growing regions are Africa, Asia and Latin America, with Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana producing over 60% of the world’s supply.

Each phase of cocoa production generally is conducted manually; it includes planting, watering, gathering, fermenting and aeration (=the process of using equipment to either puncture the soil with spikes or removing some of the soil from the ground)

open cocoa pod (pic by Peter Caton)

Despite it being so labour-intensive, cocoa farmers barely make enough to cover their ever-rising production costs and household expenses. This has led to a decrease in numbers of farmers, whose average age is 50+.

Especially in recent decades, global cocoa prices have fluctuated wildly as a result of extreme weather and political unrest in Côte d'Ivoire. Between 2016 and 2017 global cocoa prices dropped by more than 1/3!

How does Fairtrade make things better?

Fairtrade aims to make their businesses more sustainable, so farmers and workers can better provide for themselves and their families. They not only do this by ensuring workers get paid accordingly for their product, they also pay a Fairtrade premium, which is an additional sum of money paid over the Fairtrade price, that goes into a communal fund for the workers and farmers to invest. In addition to that, they also provide essential training and support to farmer organisations.

A great example of this is the Kuapa Kokoo organisation in Ghana, who have spent their premium on building wells for drinking water, building public toilets and investing in leadership & management training.

To be honest, in the past I haven’t paid much attention to the Fairtrade symbol (luckily my favourite chocolate has it, I checked when researching for this 😊), but I will from now on. Sure, sometimes that means choosing a more expensive product in the supermarket but considering how difficult it is for some producers to have a sustainable, profitable business and how unfair and exploitative prices sometimes are, I think it is worth it.

At first I wanted to compare paying the higher price to charity donations, but actually, buying products with a Fairtrade symbol are so much better than just that, because the producers are not asking for charity, saviours or handouts. All they're asking for is a fair price for their hard work that will enable them to lift themselves out of poverty and build sustainable livelihoods.




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