Image thanks to Fairtrade New Zealand.
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.
Henerico Muberwa David is headmaster at the Katoma secondary school in Bukoba in north Tanzania. The Kagera Cooperative Union has donated funds to the school from their Fairtrade Premium earned for coffee purchased on Fairtrade terms.
Photo by Matt Crossick
We have some sweet news! For your baking, sprinkling and mixing pleasure, Fairtrade certified Tate+Lyle® Organic Pure Cane Sugar and Organic Turbinado Raw Cane Sugar are now available in the United States, along with Tate+ Lyle® Natural Pure Cane Sugar.
Tate & Lyle Sugars is one of Europe’s leading sugar and sweetener brands. Tate & Lyle Sugars sources Fairtrade sugar from approximately 20,000 small scale cane farmers, and the company is one of the largest single payers of the Fairtrade premium to Fairtrade certified farmers, which amounted to $7.6 million last year. These funds are used to support education and environmental programs in sugar farming communities along with other community building programs.
Find out where you can purchase Tate +Lyle® Fairtrade certified Sugars, find delicious recipes and learn more about Tate & Lyle Sugars’ commitment to Fairtrade at www.tateandlylesugars.com.
Photo 1 caption: Paraguayan sugar cane farmer posing in front of his bull-cart. Credit: Didier Gentilhomme/Fairtrade International
Photo 2 caption: Students smile after class at the San Narciso Roman Catholic School. The Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association constantly donates educational materials, paid for with the Fairtrade premium, to numerous schools in their communities. For every ton of sugar that Tate & Lyle Sugars purchases from Belize Sugar Industries, members of BSCFA receive an additional Fairtrade Premium of $60 a metric ton to invest in projects that will improve their livelihoods. Credit: James A. Rodríguez/Fairtrade International
Here are a few recipes to help you celebrate fair this holiday season. Also, don’t forget to sign up for the Fairtrade America newsletter between now and the New Year to receive a FREE online recipe book.