“One fifth of the world’s humanity live in countries where many people think nothing of spending $2 a day on a cappuchino. Another fifth of humanity survive on less than $1 a day.”
Fairtrade is a way of trying to tackle some of the trade injustices that exist in the world which lead to a stiuation where the majority of people live in poverty whilst the minority enjoy wealth and security…
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.
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.
Some of the farms that supply Fairtrade citrus fruits are part of the Thandi initiative. This supports the establishment of empowerment projects in South Africa, where workers become co-owners of fruit farms.
The Kuapa Kokoo cocoa-growing co-operative in Ghana own half of The Day Chocolate Company, which makes Dubble chocolate bars
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.
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