How Fair Trade Africa Helps Farmers Succeed

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SEATTLE, Washington — Currently, one-third of all persons residing in Africa (422 million people) live on less than $1.90 per day. This population makes up 70 percent of the world’s poor. If nothing changes, it is said that by 2030, this percentage will increase to 87 percent. Fairtrade practices could have a huge impact on poverty. This article discusses how Fair Trade Africa helps farmers succeed.

Problems with Poverty

A common reason why so many African citizens are unable to escape poverty is the unfair labor practices they face. For instance, numerous wine industries in South Africa have been known to pay their workers less than minimum wage. They also prohibit their workers from joining trade unions and do not give their workers employee-employer contracts to sign.

Numerous cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast use child labor to harvest cocoa beans. Some of these children are as young as five. Many of them are taken from their families, whom they may never see again. They are forced to work long hours using dangerous tools for next to no pay if any at all. Upon recognition of these practices, as well as many other unfair labor practices occurring throughout industries in Africa, the nonprofit Fair Trade Africa was formed.

About the Organization

Founded in 2005, Fair Trade Africa is an organization that oversees all the Fairtrade certified producers in Africa. It ensures their practices meet fair-trade standards. This organization currently operates in 33 African countries, representing more than 1,050,000 producers. Fair Trade Africa works in industries that produce goods such as coffee, bananas, tea, cotton and cocoa.

Fifty percent of the organization is owned by farmers and workers. This nonprofit envisions a world in which farmers are able to live their lives to their fullest potential and gain control of their own future. To make this happen, the organization utilizes advocacy as well as different techniques to help producers gain secure access to the global market system. Fair Trade Africa ensures its producers have control over their future is by allowing them to be a part of the decision-making process within the General Assembly and on the Fairtrade International’s Board of Directors.

Establishing a Community Farm School

Fair Trade Africa also works on numerous projects throughout each year to ensure farmers’ rights are protected. For instance, in 2014, cocoa farmers from two fair trade unions in the Ivory Coast, Ecookim and Coopaako, were given pesticides by the government to help them improve their farming. However, while this was successful in removing pests from the plantations, production outputs still remained low. Because many of the farmers on these plantations were illiterate, they were using the pesticides improperly. Furthermore, they were storing them inside their homes, which negatively affected their overall health.

Wanting to put a stop to this issue, the organization helped the farmers of the Ecookim and Coopaako unions use their premiums to invest in a community farm school. Collaborating with chemical companies, this school trained farmers in the proper use of pesticides and fertilizer. It provided good agricultural practices, environmental management and a better understanding of fairtrade standards and working conditions. In addition, these farmers were supplied with protective clothes, atomizers (devices that convert the chemicals to a fine spray), regular medical checkups and a storage room for the chemicals.

Project Kahawa Shamba

Fair Trade Africa also launched Project Kahawa Shamba. In 2004, coffee industries in the Tanzanian city of Moshi were suffering because the fluctuating prices of coffee beans shrouded their future income in constant mystery. This affected their ability to plan for the future. When Project Kahawa Shamba was launched, the nonprofit helped farmers invest in a campsite for tourists to help them bring in more revenue. This campsite consists of 20 rooms. Tourists are able to enjoy coffee, learn about the coffee process and hike the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. Farmers earn their extra income by leading tours, managing the campsites and cooking for guests.

These two examples are just a few of the many successes Fair Trade Africa has had in ensuring producers are treated fairly. By visiting their website, people can register for the organization’s volunteer opportunities in advocacy and in helping them complete their current projects. Donations are also always welcome.

-Emily Turner
Photo: Flickr

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