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Bananas Lend Stability in Post-Conflict Colombia

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An Evaluation of Fairtrade Impact on Smallholders and Workers in the Banana Sector in Northern Colombia (PDF),” a recently-released report by the Corporation for Rural Business Development (CODER), looks into the impact of Fairtrade for small-scale banana farmers and workers on banana plantations and how Fairtrade has contributed to greater stability in these regions.”

During the conflict, the once-thriving banana sector of Urabá and Magdalena suffered heavily and local economies ground to a halt. Many farmers abandoned their farms or could not visit them. At the end of any conflict, providing options for displaced farmers and veterans was of vital importance for maintaining the peace.

The improved security situation set the stage for a revival of the banana sector and a major increase in the number of Fairtrade producer organizations. In 2007, there were just four Fairtrade producer organizations, a number that grew to 36 as of 2013. The country exported 6.2 million boxes of Fairtrade bananas in 2012, mostly to the UK and the Netherlands, representing 35 percent of global Fairtrade banana sales.

Much of this growth is due major commitments in 2010 from Dutch retailers to stock 100 percent Fairtrade bananas, and commitments from UK retailers. This led to the development of an innovative public-private partnership involving the Colombian Banana Growers Association (AUGURA), the Banana Growers Union of Urabá , Fyffes, Max Havelaar/Fairtrade, and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (read the original story here).

The CODER study confirmed that Fairtrade has had a positive impact for small-scale farmers and workers in the last three years thanks to implementation of Fairtrade Standards and strong sales on Fairtrade terms, alongside the establishment of a strong labour union, and the support of the public-private partnership.

For small-scale farmers it was found that:

  • The Fairtrade Minimum Price increased household income and stability for farmers enabling housing improvements and improved access to health services and education.
  • The Fairtrade Premium was instrumental in lowering production costs and increasing productivity. Producer organizations elected to spend 35 percent of their Premium on these kinds of improvements.
  • Farmers have managed to sell an average of 80 percent of their bananas on Fairtrade terms, resulting in increased membership, improved services and a stronger business position.

For workers on plantations, it was found that:

  • Workers encountered greater stability as a result of the Hired Labour Standard’s requirement of formal contracts, which resulted in additional rights and protections linked to contracts.
  • Responsible use of the Fairtrade Premium allowed the workers to set up a loan fund with better terms than could be found elsewhere.
  • Workers considered home improvement important and during the last years, 60 percent of Premium funds have been invested in housing. Investments in housing increased the demand for other services and goods stimulating local economies.
  • Workers from different plantations united to establish a foundation allowing them to execute large-scale community projects (read about  their first project on our blog).

However for all of the positive outcomes, the study found that prices paid for bananas remain at an unsustainable level for many. Rampant consolidation in distribution channels and a sustained price war between retail outlets continue to put price pressure on banana producers.

In a banana price review implemented in January 2014 , Fairtrade International implemented a substantial increase to the Fairtrade Minimum Price based on system wide research. It is hoped that this will give small producer organization and plantations a stronger position for negotiations. Fairtrade continues to monitor the impacts of the pricing change.

Download the full report here (PDF 2.39MB).

For more information on the impact of Fairtrade bananas, please click here to download report produced by Max Havelaar Netherlands.

The research was commissioned by Max Havelaar Netherlands in close collaboration with Fairtrade International and the Dutch Embassy in Colombia.

SCAA 2014

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Photo by: Sean Hawkey

Imelda Rojo, the vice president of Danilo Gonzalez Cooperative in Nicaragua, depulps coffee. Her cooperative is part of the CECOCAFEN Cooperative, which is made up of 10 cooperatives and two cooperative unions with a total of 2,600 producers, more than 700 of whom are women.

Many Fairtrade coffee farmers, including representatives of Imelda’s cooperative, will be in Seattle this week for the world’s largest specialty coffee conference. Visit us along with Fairtrade Internationalthe CLAC NetworkFairtrade Canada, and Fairtrade Africa from April 25 - 27!

Happy Earth Day!

Climate change related events are on the rise, notably in developing
countries. Producers around the world are increasingly feeling the
brunt of climate change effects, including higher temperatures, increased
rain, floods, and droughts, but Fairtrade is committed to sustainable
development tactics in these areas. Learn more about how Climate Change is addressed by our Fairtrade Standards.
Divine Chocolate has released 5 new and delicious Fairtrade bars! Indulge in either Dark Chocolate with Whole Almonds, Milk Chocolate with Whole Almonds, Dark Chocolate with Mango and Coconut, Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle or Milk Chocolate with Toffee and Sea Salt. To purchase the bars, visit your local Fair Trade retailer or visit their online shop!

Divine Chocolate has released 5 new and delicious Fairtrade bars! Indulge in either Dark Chocolate with Whole Almonds, Milk Chocolate with Whole Almonds, Dark Chocolate with Mango and Coconut, Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle or Milk Chocolate with Toffee and Sea Salt. To purchase the bars, visit your local Fair Trade retailer or visit their online shop!

We are pleased to share this awesome documentary on fair trade coffee from Kivu. A team of journalists visited three coffee cooperatives in this region on the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda, which is chiefly known for its endemic violence. The documentary shows how fair coffee can impact the living conditions of the local population, even when the circumstances are tough.

"You cannot attach a monetary value to what we learn in Fairtrade on transparency and the environment." - John Kanjagaile, Export Manager at KCU, a Fairtrade cooperative of 60,000 farmers in Tanzania. Read more about his story here.

"You cannot attach a monetary value to what we learn in Fairtrade on transparency and the environment." - John Kanjagaile, Export Manager at KCU, a Fairtrade cooperative of 60,000 farmers in Tanzania. Read more about his story here.

Climate Change: Committing to helping producers adapt

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Today, top scientists from the IPCC warned climate change is having, and will have, a devastating impact on our planet. They predict that drought and floods will lead to life-threatening food shortages.

Unpredictable weather means that food prices will shoot up, while food quality, and access to it, will go down. Tim AldredHead of Policy at the Fairtrade Foundation, explains what Fairtrade is doing to help smallholder farmers, who feed  70% of the world’s people, mitigate and adapt to climate change.


It has long been past the point where we can pretend climate change is something that will not impact us in our own lifetimes. Today’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) outlines in even greater detail the catastrophic effects greenhouse gases are having on our planet, and the impact this in turn is having on agriculture – specifically food production, human health and ecosystems, now – not within centuries.  

The picture is not positive for the millions of smallholder farmers who produce the food for 70 per cent of the world’s people. Several studies have predicted that by 2050, the productivity of coffee, cocoa, tea or cotton will be severely affected and production in some areas might even disappear. Many farmers will need to adapt their practices, or risk losing their livelihoods.

Earlier studies from the IPCC predicted that crop yields from rain-fed agriculture will likely fall due to global warming – by up to 50 per cent by 2020 in some African countries and by up to 30 per cent by 2050 in Central and South Asia.

Coffee farmers are already experiencing the spread of pests and disease. Higher temperatures, erratic rains or periods of drought are disrupting production. For the KDCU cooperative in Tanzania, which has produced Fairtrade coffee since 1995, changing weather patterns are disrupting coffee growing. Its 17,838 members have been left with a vastly reduced output of coffee beans as a result, with a crippling drought from 2011 wiping out some members’ coffee crop. Fairtrade coffee producers in Latin America are currently being severely affected by the spread of the leaf rust disease, which is affecting over 50 per cent of the total coffee growing area in Central America. Climate change has been identified as a key factor in the outbreak.

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Flood damage in Costa Rica caused landslides through coffee fields in 2009


Tea production in East Africa is likely to become less viable at lower altitudes within the next few decades as rainfall increases and becomes less predictable, while a reduction in quality is also likely.

Cocoa production is threatened by the increased susceptibility of trees to drought – in West Africa, where large volumes of cocoa are produced for the chocolate we love here in the UK, variability in seasonal rainfall is already affecting cocoa yields, and farmers’ livelihoods.

The reality is that all agricultural output will be affected by changing temperatures and erratic rainfall. What is Fairtrade doing to support the farmers and workers in the Fairtrade system? Fairtrade is working to help smallholder farmers adapt, by enabling technical and financial support to help confront the challenges ahead. We want to enable vulnerable producers to adapt to climate change and support them to mitigate the impacts, as part of promoting good sustainable development practices.

Fairtrade standards include strong environmental standards to promote both sustainable development and good agricultural practice. These include measures like banning the use of listed pesticides and ensuring farmers are trained properly in the correct disposal of harmful waste that could impact both the producer’s health and the environment. Producers are required to protect existing natural resources and are encouraged to reduce their energy consumption. Soil conservation, using animal and green manure, agro-forestry and water harvesting are all part of sustainable farming methods being used by Fairtrade farmers.

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Banana farmers have also been affected by erratic weather conditions, like the hurricane that hit Saint Lucia in 2011


But, we are also helping our producers go beyond the standards.

For many smallholders, the need is for small loans to make investments in their more sustainable production methods and technologies, or to diversify into new varieties or crops. Fairtrade helps by encouraging companies buying from Fairtrade producers to provide pre-financing. Producers can also decide together where the Fairtrade Premium is used, and can choose to invest in technologies to help adapt to climate change or other environmental sustainability measures.  More stable and additional finance like this helps farmers working with Fairtrade invest in adapting to climate change and mitigate against its impacts on their livelihoods.

But the challenge is massive, and much more needs to be done.

In our 2013 report, Powering Up Smallholder Farmers to Make Food Fair, we said that governments, international donors and multilateral institutions needed to greatly increase investment in promoting sustainable agriculture and helping farmers adapt to climate change. This recommendation is just as relevant today. Donors providing climate change funding also need to consult smallholder farmer groups closely so their needs are kept central to plans.

Businesses too need to increase investment in climate adaptation techniques and technologies for the smallholder farmers with which they work, and from whom they source. Apart from being the right thing to do, it is in their self-interest to do so: today’s report makes clear that without such investment their ability to source food products from staple crops such as cereals and fresh fruit, to commodities such as coffee, cocoa and tea in the future is profoundly at risk.

Perhaps such a realization would also encourage the business community to raise their voice more loudly to increase pressure on governments to move quicker and with greater ambition to reduce CO2 emissions.

Fairtrade is ready to play its part in helping producers adapt to climate change. But we can’t do it alone – we need businesses and governments to step up their level of commitment. I hope that the stark warnings from the IPCC help to make that happen.

You can read more about Fairtrade’s approach to climate change here

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