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Showing posts tagged “fair trade”

Fairtrade Seeks to Unlock the Power of Local Leadership as an Important Key to Eliminating Child Labor

An article by Anita Sheth, the Senior Advisor on Social Compliance and Development at Fairtrade International. Read more about Fairtrade’s perspective on child rights here.

In June 2013, Fairtrade International passed a historic decision. Producers and workers became half owners of the Fairtrade system, with 50% of the votes in the annual General Assembly, the Fairtrade system’s highest decision making body. The decision is one that is rooted in Fairtrade’s vision of producers having more control over their own future.

“With rights come responsibilities,” says Marike de Peña, leader of the 400 member strong banana cooperative Banelino in Dominican Republic, and recently elected Chair of Fairtrade International’s Board.

“In the paradigm of shared ownership, I look forward to Fairtrade organizations becoming even greater change agents in a world full of injustice and unacceptable human practices linked to poverty, discrimination and inequality.”

In this spirit, Fairtrade International is also looking to the three Producer Networks in Asia and the Pacific, Africa and the Middle East, and Latin America and the Caribbean to scale up their responsibilities to support on the ground work towards increased well-being of producers, workers, children and young people. The recognition of the vital role of local leadership in development is not new.

However, all too often local ownership is interpreted as local people delivering on projects designed by outsiders. Concerns about capacity of locally-based groups to design effective local projects can hinder a genuine ownership and responsibility. Fairtrade has not been without these fears, but as we continue on our journey towards equitable, multi-stakeholder partnership, we have learned important lessons that reinforce the fact that local ownership and leadership is a decisive condition to increase Fairtrade’s impact and accountability to farmers, workers and members, and their communities.

This has become particularly evident in our work to eliminate and prevent unacceptable forms of child labor in Fairtrade organizations and their communities. The past five years have taught us that our Standards, based upon relevant international laws, must go beyond producer groups and their members simply being able to recite Fairtrade requirements on child labor. Instead, we see an increasing leading role for producer organizations to become change agents in the fight against unacceptable social practices.

Over the years, we have experienced diverse responses in producers’ willingness to acknowledge, and therefore address, the existence of child labor. We have seen producers take solid leadership in the fight against child labor in some places, while in others denial of the existence of unacceptable practices remains an obstacle to progress. Unless local communities lead the efforts and accept accountability for the well-being of children and youth, auditing and certification decisions on child labor is insufficient in addressing root causes.

Fairtrade producer organizations and their communities must exercise their right to discuss, analyse and make certain decisions based on their own local understanding of real or potential risks to well-being of children’s labor involvement. Fairtrade is therefore encouraging producers to establish Youth Inclusive Community Based Monitoring and Remediation Systems on Child Labor as a first step in a proactive process to increase the well-being of children and youth in Fairtrade organizations and local communities.

This system combines community realities with international and national legislation and enables producers, their communities (including young people themselves) and their representative Producer Networks to become key agents of change in the identification and remediation of unacceptable child labor practices. Based on pilots, training and testing by producer organisations in Zambia, Honduras, Cote d’Ivoire and Paraguay, a manual outlining this Youth Inclusive Approach to remediation is due to be published later this year.

Fairtrade has learnt from conducting rights based focus groups with approximately 500 children and youth in Fairtrade organizations and their communities in tea in India and Kenya; cocoa in Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Ghana; cotton in Burkina Faso and India; sugar in Zambia, Fiji, and Paraguay; coffee in Honduras; and bananas in Dominican Republic. Working children can teach us about their lives, the impact of their work on themselves and their peers and the alternatives as they understand them. Of those participating, only five children and youth in these communities saw any prospect of a sustainable livelihood in agriculture, almost all of them had engaged in farming work after school and during holidays and weekends, and reported not liking it.

When asked about the future of farming and who will be involved, more than 70% of them noted that it would be reserved for “the uneducated, migrants from poorer areas and countries, people who do not speak English, French or Spanish or grandparents and poorer relatives.” Young people’s own insights have helped us understand the need to be even more proactive in the prevention of exploitation and abuse involved with children’s engagement in agricultural production, especially with regard to hazardous labor and sexual harassment.

These are disturbing realities and Fairtrade International has reacted to them, through the trigger of our Child Protection Policy and Procedures. The development of these inclusive, producer and young people-led processes remain backed up by an increasingly rigorous standards and auditing process that has proved itself capable of both detecting and responding to allegations of child labor, including in its worst forms. In the last two years alone, seeking the advice of both international and local child rights partners, Fairtrade has investigated and responded on this issue in Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Ecuador, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Bolivia, India and Fiji.

However, we recognize that this is not enough. We need a bottom-up approach as well, where Fairtrade Producer Networks directly engage producer groups through their own Child Protection Policies and Procedures working through and with rights-based partners. Thus throughout 2013, Fairtrade has supported the capacity of the Producer Networks to develop among other things, their own child protection policies and procedures to ensure the increased well-being of children and youth within the producer groups they represent. In the Africa and Latin America networks, these will be in place by the end of 2014, with Asia currently in discussions.

Fairtrade International is looking forward to continuing to support the Producer Networks in achieving this strong vision with their members. It is now for Producer Networks to lead the way in consulting with communities, including working children and young people, and identify more ways for Fairtrade to move beyond adherence to standard requirements on child labor to become the best in its class in enabling the well-being of children and youth in and around Fairtrade Organizations.

“Producers have always been in the driving seat of Fairtrade. They have always led as they organize their co-ops, decide on how to use the Fairtrade Premium or build their trade,” said Harriet Lamb, Chief Executive of Fairtrade International. “In addition, they now have a more central role in the institution of Fairtrade, as well as on their co-ops. This provides a unique opportunity for Fairtrade to make sustainable gains in correcting child labor practices on a continuous and improving basis and thereby substantially reduce the current risks to children’s well-being.”

New Chair of Fairtrade International, Marike de Peña, agrees: “Fairtrade enables vulnerable people to empower themselves and their organizations and start to take individual and collective control over their lives and futures. Small farmers and workers, thanks to Fairtrade, are already questioning and fighting injustice, inequality and poverty. They are, and should be the engine of change to move us towards a fairer world.”

We had a great time at the Natural Products Expo West last week.

Captions (left to right, top to bottom)

Image 1: Catherine Dilley from FLO-CERT was busy answering inquiries from companies on how to get Fairtrade certified.

Image 2: Actress Marilu Henner stopped by and picked up some Fairtrade flowers. Marilu is a featured chef at Wholesome Sweeteners.

Image 3: Shannon Brown from Fairtrade Canada (left) and Arly Aguirre are busy meeting companies with new and exciting products.

Image 4: The team from Divine Chocolate stopped by the Fairtrade America booth.

Taking a Stand against Climate Change

For Magda Reza of the Sonomoro coffee cooperative in Peru there is one single threat to the future of her small coffee farm and her entire cooperative: climate change and its devastating effect on their farms. Seasons are changing and rainfall has become unpredictable. Last year was particularly challenging for her and many others in Latin America, as a fungus known as “La Roya” wiped out large numbers of coffee bushes, and with it many farmers’ main source of income.

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But the 57 year old mother of five does not give up so easily. Together with nine other farmers from her cooperative, Magda took part in a training program organized by Fairtrade, Twin Trading and Lidl, a chain of German grocery stores. 

A demonstration farm was established where farmers can learn about best practices to help mitigate the effects of climate change and manage their land better, including shade and weed management, composting, treatment of waste water, and more. Now she is taking her new-found knowledge to train others in her cooperative, so they are better equipped to confront the effects of climate change. Watch a film about the project here

“For me, it’s been very important this work with Fairtrade on climate change and environment because we learn to take care of our environment and improve our farming techniques,” said Magda. 

Magda sees herself as an ambassador – for the other members of her cooperative – but now also for the public. Last September she was invited to Germany as part of the annual Fairtrade Fortnight there, and toured the country, explaining to schools, community groups and businesses the need for Fairtrade and climate change support.

“We don’t want charity,” said Magda, during a video chat with Fairtrade supporters in Germany. “We just want the opportunity to work together with you, and to work our own way out of the challenges we face”.

Read more stories from our series inspired by International Women’s Day.

Women Lead the Way

Recognizing the vital role of women in agriculture this International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day – and it’s high time that women around the world get the recognition they deserve.

Around 70% of agricultural work is done by women, according to FAO figures. Yet a recent TWIN report finds that women’s crucial role in farming is often unrecognized, unpaid and invisible. Men own most of the land and take responsibility for transporting crops to market, and subsequently they retain much of the control over household income.

Recognizing and investing in women farmers is good for development. The report found that investing in programs targeted at women smallholders can have a positive impact on education, health and food security.

At Fairtrade many women are catalysts for change in many of their communities. One in four Fairtrade producers is a woman, and on plantations this figure is even higher, with women making up 47 percent of hired workers in Fairtrade. Women are active in all aspects of Fairtrade, from farming to processing, and in some cases, management of producer organizations and cooperatives.

We’ll be featuring stories of three women taking on a leadership role in their own way, and providing powerful examples to others. Read Alida Strauss’ story below.

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A modest, but smart young woman, Alida left her parent’s remote rooibos farm to attend school in Cape Town, 400 kilometres away. When she returned, the Heiveld cooperative had recently formed, enabling black farmers to unite in a cooperative for the first time. She successfully applied for the job of bookkeeper for the cooperative in 2002, and has worked there ever since, getting promoted to General Manager in 2010.

From small beginnings with just 14 members and very little technical knowledge or marketing savvy, Heiveld has grown to 64, and exports organic rooibos tea around the world.

Behind Alida’s unassuming demeanor lies a passion for her work and her community, and a determination to pass this on to young people. She is glad she had the opportunity to return, and wants other young people to do the same.

“At Heiveld, we try to do things to keep people here, to make it exciting for them and give them the self-confidence to believe in themselves,” says Alida.

Her message to the young people in her village: “Go get your education, but come back and do something for your community”.

Alida holds talks at the local school, and invites teachers to bring their students on excursions to the cooperative. Heiveld uses a portion of the Fairtrade Premium to enable young people to go to university in Cape Town with the hope that they will bring their new knowledge back to the community.

The job is not without its challenges, but Alida is proud of what she and others in the cooperative have achieved, and encourages others to feel the same.

“I’ve learned a lot and I am still learning,” she explains. “But it’s our job to educate people and tell them, ‘you have a right to have your say: it’s your cooperative. Be proud of what’s yours.’”

Sowing Seeds of Change: The Seed Guardians of Chetna Organic, India
In a country where 90% of all cotton is genetically modified, the women of Chetna Organic in India are playing a pivotal role in the fight to preserve non-GM cotton. 
 “Women have always been the custodians who have protected seed. This has steadily disappeared,” says Arun Ambatipudi of Chetna Organic. “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.” 
By protecting and collecting the seeds, these women are not only preserving organic farming, but providing a vital lifeline to the farmers. Instead of being stuck buying new cotton seed year after year, farmers can now plant the preserved seeds. That saves them huge costs, and helps to make farming viable and sustainable for them.
“We know that the situation won’t change overnight. But we are seeing successes of women seed guardians gaining respect and decision power,” Arun adds. 
Read more about the seed guardians in this powerful blog.

Sowing Seeds of Change: The Seed Guardians of Chetna Organic, India

In a country where 90% of all cotton is genetically modified, the women of Chetna Organic in India are playing a pivotal role in the fight to preserve non-GM cotton. 

 “Women have always been the custodians who have protected seed. This has steadily disappeared,” says Arun Ambatipudi of Chetna Organic. “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.” 

By protecting and collecting the seeds, these women are not only preserving organic farming, but providing a vital lifeline to the farmers. Instead of being stuck buying new cotton seed year after year, farmers can now plant the preserved seeds. That saves them huge costs, and helps to make farming viable and sustainable for them.

“We know that the situation won’t change overnight. But we are seeing successes of women seed guardians gaining respect and decision power,” Arun adds. 

Read more about the seed guardians in this powerful blog.

Enter Divine Chocolate USA’s contest celebrating International Women’s Day for a chance to win their new Hazelnut Truffle bar.
(Pictured above are Kuapa Kokoo farmers Sarah Ayipah and Esi Konadu Gyeduakese.)
In honor of International Women’s Day, you can enter to win Divine Chocolate USA’s new Hazelnut Truffle bar which supports Kuapa Kokoo’s Women’s Empowerment program.
Since 1993 Kuapa Kokoo, the cooperative of family farmers who owns Divine, has promoted training of women cocoa farmers. Their focus is helping women improve cocoa yield and increase family income as well as encouraging women to be leaders in their cooperative. Divine is supporting Kuapa’s efforts to expand agricultural training to more women and give women access to much needed literacy programs. Your purchase of Divine helps keep this and many other unique programs going.
Divine will be picking two winners every day from March 5-12. Enter here.

Enter Divine Chocolate USA’s contest celebrating International Women’s Day for a chance to win their new Hazelnut Truffle bar.

(Pictured above are Kuapa Kokoo farmers Sarah Ayipah and Esi Konadu Gyeduakese.)

In honor of International Women’s Day, you can enter to win Divine Chocolate USA’s new Hazelnut Truffle bar which supports Kuapa Kokoo’s Women’s Empowerment program.

Since 1993 Kuapa Kokoo, the cooperative of family farmers who owns Divine, has promoted training of women cocoa farmers. Their focus is helping women improve cocoa yield and increase family income as well as encouraging women to be leaders in their cooperative. Divine is supporting Kuapa’s efforts to expand agricultural training to more women and give women access to much needed literacy programs. Your purchase of Divine helps keep this and many other unique programs going.

Divine will be picking two winners every day from March 5-12. Enter here.

Manifesto of the Poor: Fairtrade Co-Founder Releases New Book

Twenty-five years ago Frans Van der Hoff and friends kicked off the Fairtrade movement bringing the first bags of Max Havelaar coffee to shelves in the Netherlands. The movement they started, alongside the farmers of UCIRI in Mexico, has grown to comprise over 1.3 million farmers and workers in 70 countries working toward a more dignified life (Read about Fairtrade’s 25th Anniversary here).

‘Manifesto of the Poor’, a new book by Van der Hoff, re-ignites and re-affirms the principles on which Fairtrade was founded. In it he shares the inside story of how Fairtrade began and a clear vision for how it can help alleviate global poverty with dignity and a focus on self-reliance.

Harriet Lamb, Chief Executive of Fairtrade International, adds:

The global economy continues to pursue the impossible – unlimited, infinite growth without equal attention given to human rights or limited resources. Frans’ book shows us the way forward.

The social enterprises in Fairtrade seek to tackle injustice and inequality head-on. They seek to bring dignity to global trade in a partnership that spans the entire trade chain and puts respect for people and the environment at the core.

Read Lamb’s foreword to Van der Hoff’s book here.

You can order ‘Manifesto of the Poor’ online here or ask your local bookshop to stock it.

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