Fairtrade… We all recognise that familiar green, black and blue logo plastered on coffee, hot chocolate and bananas. We know that it means *something good* and that we should probably choose the item with the Fairtrade sticker on it if we can. But how many of us actually know what it means? What difference does Fairtrade make to those who have grown and farmed the product we’re purchasing, and the surrounding environment?
For starters, Fairtrade is more than just a logo, or an organisation. It’s just what it sounds like…fair prices for fair goods. It is a movement for trade justice, working to support the farmers and workers who are facing increasingly more obstacles and barriers. Fairtrade amplifies the marginalised voices of these frontline farmers, implements strict standards for environmental protection, and ensures farmers are paid a fair living wage. The sticker means that they have been certified by the Fairtrade Foundation, the most well-known of its kind.
Fairtrade Fortnight occurs yearly from the end of February to the beginning of March to highlight all the good things fair trade does, and to raise awareness around what we as consumers can do in terms of buying more ethically and sustainably.
Coffee and Climate Change
Climate change is the one of the biggest challenges we all face. 12 million people have experienced poverty so far as a result of climate change, and many more will join them in the coming months and years.
Sadly, it’s the people in developing countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Honduras, who have done the least to contribute to climate change, that are disproportionately affected by the consequences of global warming. For example, 21 people from Cote d’Ivoire have the same carbon footprint as just one person in the UK… Yet Africa is the continent most vulnerable to climate change.
Farmers in these parts of the world are usually dependent on their land to live, and so this is an increasingly urgent matter. Consequences of climate change like extreme weather, infertile soil and failing harvests have all negatively impacted farming in the global South, causing farmers to completely abandon their fields and livelihoods in order to migrate.
Experts are particularly concerned about coffee. Because of unsustainable agriculture practices, up to half the land currently used to grow coffee is predicted to be unusable by 2050. This would result in a significant increase in the price of coffee, meaning that everyone’s favourite caffeinated beverage could soon become a rare luxury.
In addition, effects of climate change, such as temperature increases of just 2 to 3 degrees, would push Arabica coffee bean production higher into the mountains and forested reserves, which would in turn displace both biodiverse wildlife and the indigenous communities that live there.
Sooner or later, these issues will affect us all, even if we aren’t feeling it yet. If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s how interconnected we all are. An issue in one part of the world is an issue for us all.
So, how does fairtrade help?
Fairtrade for Planet
Environmental protection is deeply ingrained within the Fairtrade ethos. In order to qualify as Fairtrade, farmers must adhere to strict rules on the protection of natural resources and are trained to reduce their own environmental footprint.
Climate change has led to a myriad of agricultural issues for farmers, such as pest outbreaks, harvest failure, infertile soil, soil erosion, disease outbreaks and low crop yields. Not only does Fairtrade ensure that farmers are using best practice to prevent these types of issues, but they also provide them with training to navigate these issues in a more environmentally friendly way. For example, Fairtrade training offers advice on developing nutrient-rich soils that support healthy plants and encourage wildlife to help control pests and diseases.
As most of the world’s 25 million coffee farmers are smallholders who rely on the land for their livelihoods, they have lower resilience to face the impacts of climate change. As such, the Fairtrade network, which operates across Latin America, Asia and Africa, provides access to finance, support and expertise in tackling climate change, supporting long-term sustainability.
Fairtrade for People
Without farmers, we have no food. With more and more farmers abandoning their crops due to falling prices, it’s more important than ever that we pay them a fair living wage. For most Fairtrade products, farmers are paid a Minimum Price to act as a safety net to protect them against these fluctuating markets.
Fairtrade also protects female farmers. Despite the fact that 70% of labour in coffee production is provided by women, they have systematically lower access to resources such as land, credit and information than men, resulting in a measurable gender gap in income. Fairtrade enforces the same Minimum Price for women as men, and distributes resources equally.
And it’s not all about pay! Fairtrade helps farmers feel confident enough to negotiate the terms and conditions of their work through trade unions. The support network of trade unions and co-ops provide bargaining power, as farmers can use their collective voice to push for better policies.
Fairtrade is all about showing the producer at the beginning of the supply chain the respect and dignity they deserve.
Fairtrade for Communities
Of course, it is not simply the farmers in isolation who benefit from Fairtrade’s policies. Entire communities in developing countries are on the frontline of the climate crisis, facing struggles caused by droughts, floods, unpredictable weather and the rapid spread of diseases.
As such, the Fairtrade Premium that workers receive to invest in projects of their choice is beneficial for the community at large. Whether they choose to invest in a community development project to alleviate poverty in rural areas, or into education, housing and schools for better facilities, or into agricultural practices to help the community react to climate emergencies, the Fairtrade Premium is an excellent initiative empowering local workers to invest in what they think is important.
Thanks to Fairtrade, generations of farmers and workers are less likely to experience poverty, and have been able to invest in sustainable, long-term farming.
At Vivo, we are passionate about combating injustice wherever we see it. We couldn’t make a coffee without ensuring it was Fairtrade certified - that’s why our Fairtrade Magic Coffee is ethically sourced from a family-owned co-operative in the Lekempti region of Ethiopia. Social injustice and climate injustice are deeply entwined, and we’ve tried to formulate a product that gives something good back to both the people and planet.
Small choices can make a huge difference to those at the beginning of the production line. Next time you’re perusing the shelves and find yourself dithering between products, I hope you’ll opt for the one with that familiar green/blue/black logo, armed with the knowledge that you’re contributing to a better, more sustainable future for all of us.