Did you know the Fairtrade mark is the most widely recognized ethical label globally?
Did you know the Fairtrade mark is the most widely recognized ethical label globally?
Like most people in his village, Pardaali Holov is a pomegranate farmer. So were his parents and his parents’ parents. The mountainous area around the village of Varganza, Uzbekistan, where he and his family live is famous for its pomegranates, which represent life and fertility in Uzbek culture. Despite the rich symbolism of this juicy red fruit, the farmers there face challenges.
Holov is the coordinator of the Fairtrade producer organization Dustkul Bogi, based nearby Samarkand - the famous ancient city of the Silk Road - in Uzbekistan. Since becoming Fairtrade-certified in 2012 and with their first Premium project already underway, Pardaali is positive about the future.
The 51 members of Dustkul Bogi are small-scale farmers with small plots of land mostly located in front of their houses where they grow pomegranates and subsistence crops. They also sell almonds on Fairtrade terms, but don’t have their own land for them; instead they travel further up the mountains by donkey to collect the wild almonds growing where they grow best - high up.
As Pardaali explains, “Here we grow everything we need to live, but the money we earn from selling pomegranates and almonds helps us with extra things like our children’s education”.
Living in the mountains poses several challenges for the farmers. Transportation of products is difficult due to the bad roads, particularly in winter when they are icy. However, now that they are selling at least 50 percent of their pomegranates on Fairtrade terms, the trader supports them by collecting the fruit from many farmers with a van. Previously Pardaali would go from market to market to sell his products never knowing how much he would sell, but now he can focus on the quality of his produce, safe in the knowledge that a large percentage of his sales are secure and receiving a good price through the long-term relationship they have with a trader.
However the villagers face a trickier challenge living on the ridge: consistent access to scarce water resources. Currently gates in canals upstream direct water flow from the river to Varganza. The surrounding villages have a system to determine when each gets access to the river flow.
This can lead to tensions, so when it is Varganza’s turn to receive water for irrigation, the farmers often guard the gates so that other villages don’t redirect the water flow their way. Assuring this minimal amount of water involves a concerted effort as the water gates are located 15km away.
The issue of water access is apparent in many conversations with the villagers and confirmed by Jamila Sharipova, a member of Dustkul Bogi, and her husband Mr. Aliev, who is responsible for organizing the irrigation and harvest. He explains that while they have a well in the community, they need electricity to be able to pump up enough water for irrigation since the water is around 70-100m below ground level.
However installing such a pump and improving electricity supply – currently they have electricity for about 2 hours per day – is expensive and could not be covered by their first Fairtrade Premium funds. So together with coordinator Pardaali, the members of Dustkul Bogi came up with a plan. With their first Premium payment in hand, the farmers opted for a different but exciting project: they are constructing a tea house.
A tea house is the cultural and social centre of any typical Uzbek village, but since Varganza is a newer village - the houses were built there in 2004 - it doesn’t yet have the infrstructure of an established village. A tea house is where meetings, discussions and celebrations are held. It’s a typical place where the ‘white beards’ (Aksakal) - or the wise people - of a village gather and where others seek their counsel. Constructing such an important and visible centre for the village is a huge step.
“This is all part of our big plan. Once other farmers see our finished tea house, they will all want to join Fairtrade and then with a larger group we will work together to receive a higher Premium,” Pardaali explains. “And then we will install the water pump.
“If one day we achieve our three main aims with the Premium (the tea house, the electricity and the water pump), it would be just fantastic - like a dream come true.”
He smiles proudly, “but first you must visit us again next year and we’ll drink a tea together in the tea house”.
If you are interested in sourcing Fairtrade fruit or nuts from Uzbekistan you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image Caption: Fairtrade coordinator of Dustkul Bogi, Pardaali Holov
It’s an uncomfortable truth that for poor farmers and workers in supply chains - including Fairtrade supply chains - to earn a living wage, we must be prepared to pay more for goods such as tea and bananas. It’s one of Fairtrade’s radically conservative propositions: a little less profit at one end of the supply chain can mean a lot more dignity for people at the other. The time to rebalance the scales is long overdue so we have to pick up the pace of change.
Fairtrade International Executive Director Harriet Lamb on the challenges facing the global Fairtrade movement following its 25th Anniversary.
Having control over seed is the essence of Fairtrade. Fairtrade is not only about pricing. It is about farmers owning agriculture. Without seed there is no agriculture. The most basic human right is control over seed.
- Arun Ambatipudi of Chetna Organic
Image thanks to Fairtrade New Zealand.
The world has lost a great leader, but his legacy will certainly live on.
Fairtrade International’s Reykia Fick met with the Fairtrade cotton cooperative Chetna Organic’s CEO, Arun Ambatipudi and Technical Head (Entomology), Ram Prasad Sana at the Textile Sustainability Conference in Istanbul.
“Having control over seed is the essence of Fairtrade. Fairtrade is not only about pricing. It is about farmers’ ownership over agriculture. Without seed there is no agriculture. The most basic human right is control over seed.”
So says Arun Ambatipudi of Chetna Organic when we meet at the global Textile Sustainability Conference in Istanbul last week. Everyone from hip clothing brands to factory owners to scientists have come together to discuss how to make the clothing we wear in harmony with nature.
But perhaps no organization present embodies this vision of sustainability more than Fairtrade and organic certified cotton cooperative Chetna Organic. For Chetna Organic, Fairtrade is just the beginning.
Chetna is at the heart of the fight to preserve non-GM cotton in India. More than 90% of all cotton in India is genetically modified. And much of the remaining cotton is hybrid and thus does not produce seeds that can be replanted. This means farmers are stuck buying their cotton seeds year after year.
“Seed is the most vital input. Almost 50% of farmer’s expenditure in cotton goes towards buying seeds. There are even times where the seed companies create artificial seed shortages to drive up prices,” Arun explains.
Chetna has partnered with international and local government research institutes for their participatory seed multiplication and seed conservation programs. The scientists are identifying and developing natural varieties of cottonseed suitable for the local growing conditions and organic agriculture. Chetna is training their member farmers to save cotton seeds to plant for the next season.
The focus on seed is much more than a vague philosophical notion of sustainability. It is a lifeline for farmers. According to Chetna’s Ram Prasad Sana:
“When the cost of cultivation is high, farmers are not able to get their investment back and the result is suicide or migration. Low cost cultivation is vital for farmers, and this means organic and sustainable methods of cultivation.”
Control over seed is furthermore bound together with control for women.
“Women have always been the custodians who have protected seed. This has steadily disappeared. We are now working to revive and preserve this practice through developing women seed guardians. When women become seed guardians, it means women have a greater say.
“As men usually make the decisions, we are lobbying in favor of female control over farming. With the Fairtrade-supported interventions in place, we are now witnessing their husbands slowly starting to support them.”
“Our interest in Fairtrade is to move towards being women-centric, how women can also have more control within cooperative structures though it requires investing substantial time,” says Arun.
Arun tells me that along with seed saving, one of Chetna’s goals is “reduction in drudgery for women”. Women now spend a lot of their time on menial, laborious tasks. For example, a woman can spend three to four hours each day just carrying water.
“If we can ensure faster access to water for women, then women can use that time more productively in educating their children, managing local enterprises, etc. The cost of women carrying water is extremely high on India’s GDP.”
Chetna is working to provide appropriate tools for farm women – pushcarts so women don’t have to carry heavy loads, lighter and better quality gardening tools that don’t need to be sharpened as often.
“Women usually squat to weed with sickles, so we came up with the idea of promoting a weeding tool which resembles a golf stick. Women can just swing it back and forth from a standing position. It is much faster for them and doesn’t hurt their back.”
Arun concludes: “We know that the situation won’t change overnight. But we are seeing successes, of women seed guardians gaining respect and decision power.”
Find out more about Chetna Organic’s seed guardian program here.
Read a past blog post about Chetna Organic’s Premium projects here.
Photo of Fairtrade cotton farmer members of Chetna Organic
Belaynesh Mamo, from the Shilcho Primary Cooperative, in Ethiopia:
Thanks to Fairtrade, my coffee prices are higher. If the consumers buy our coffee our lives will be better. Fairtrade markets are better than other markets. The Fairtrade Premium has changed our lives. With the Premium, we have been able to develop our society. We have, for example, built two schools and installed electricity in them. We have also invested the Premium in a health center.
Countless projects like these have been made possible by the actions of conscious consumers like you.
On behalf of the international Fairtrade system, including more than 1.3 million farmers and workers in developing countries around the world, we extend our heartfelt thanks for your continued support of people like Belaynesh.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Photo Credit: Linus Hallgren
This article is the first of two where we will feature stories about how cooperatives and their partners are working to create greater opportunities for youth in their communities.
Even before the ink was dry on the diploma certificates for the 30 graduates of the Rural Development with an Enterprise Vision Program at the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) Managua in Nicaragua, the students were asking about full degree opportunities in the same program.
In 2009, the UCA established the Rural Development Program in cooperation with Irish Aid, the Irish Fairtrade Network, and Fairtrade International. A full degree may be available soon, but the fact that these graduates – 15 women and 15 men mostly between the ages of 20 and 28 – had a program to attend in the first place is a remarkable achievement in itself.
The UCA and the organizers aimed to take the classroom setting and bring it to a practical environment: a Fairtrade-certified producer organization. After conducting two pilot projects with local students, the Nicaraguan university partnered with Fairtrade producer organizations across the border in Honduras to provide each student with a real-life environment to apply the lessons they were learning.
For a week every two months, the students returned to the university for classroom work, but most of their time was spent in the field working on projects that directly benefited the producer organization and its members. These projects included research and development in organic composting, certification compliance and internal control systems, financial planning and administration, and even cupping.
Currently many of the graduates are working in some capacity with the Fairtrade producer groups that sponsored them. Sandy Yaneth Cabrera Arita and Douglas Antonio Marquez López, for example, are working respectively in the administration and quality control areas of COAGRICSAL, the Honduran coffee cooperative they worked with during their studies. Marvin Yovani Machamé Ortiz – the son of a founding member of the Fairtrade cooperative COAPROCL – is now working as a technical assistant with the Honduran Coffee Institute.
With the success of the Rural Development Program at Nicaragua’s UCA Managua, other programs are popping in the region under the coordination of Fairtrade International’s regional support program. A similar diploma programme - Management of Cooperatives and Associations - was launched this year as a pilot project through the Guatemalan Universidad Rafael Landivar with 25 students from 11 Fairtrade-certified organizations in Guatemala participating. The Polytechnic University of Nicaragua (UPOLI) also has a pilot program for two certificates in Rural Development (basic and intermediate) with SOPPEXCCA, a Nicaraguan coffee cooperative. Sixty students, most between the ages of 17 and 24, have completed one or both certificates and several are working on projects within the cooperative.
By providing students with opportunities to find work and education in their region, producer organizations and communities are benefiting from Fairtrade efforts to secure a future for the next generation of coffee farmers.
These efforts in innovative delivery of education are just some of the work done by Fairtrade’s field staff in partnership with other organizations. In addition to our blog, check out the Fairtrade International blog to see more ways the Fairtrade teams on the ground are making a difference for producers.
Update: We are excited to announce that our online recipe book, Fair Drinks and Desserts, is now available to all of our fans. With recipes that are perfect for the holidays and every day — it’s our way of saying thanks for your support. We wish you and your loved ones a safe, joyous and fair holiday season. Don’t forget to take this opportunity to stay up to date by signing up for our quarterly newsletter.
Celebrate fair and enjoy Fairtrade drink and dessert recipes during the holidays and throughout the year. Everyone who signs up for our quarterly newsletter by January 1st will receive a free online recipe book.
By signing up, you’ll also stay up to date on Fairtrade news and promotions, and hear stories from farmers about how the fair trade cooking, baking and buying choices we make every day are having an impact.