Fairtrade Fortnight: about Fairtrade

What’s Fairtrade?

Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices (which must never fall lower than the market price), Fairtrade tackles the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the most vulnerable. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives. With Fairtrade you have the power to change the world every day. With simple shopping choices you can get farmers a better deal. And that means they can make their own decisions, control their future and lead the dignified life everyone deserves.

WHAT FAIRTRADE DOES

Fairtrade is a simple way to make a difference to the lives of the people who grow the things we love. They do this by making trade fair.

FACTS AND FIGURES ABOUT FAIRTRADE

There are over 1.66 million farmers and workers in 1,411 producer organisations across the Fairtrade system. 

THE IMPACT OF FAIRTRADE

They support small scale farmers and workers who are marginalised from trade in a variety of ways and carefully monitor the impact of Fairtrade on these communities.  

Fairtrade has been shown to increase standards of living and reduce risk and vulnerability for farmers and workers. The Fairtrade Minimum Price provides a safety net for farmers which can mean they are less vulnerable to price volatility. In turn, this can mean a better cash flow, greater access to credit and the ability to save more easily. 

Food security is linked closely to economic growth, stable incomes and reduced risk and exploitation. A better income means more money to buy food and the ability to invest in generating other food sources, such as growing new crops. 

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION

Environmental protection is a key element of Fairtrade’s view of sustainability. Fairtrade Standards require smallholder farmers and larger hired labour production set-ups to comply in key areas. The Standards also promote training for farmers, which can include advice on switching to environmentally friendly practices. This has been shown to lead to good agricultural practices, which have encouraged environmentally sustainable production. The Standards also guide producers in adapting to climate change and mitigate their impact.

MARKET ACCESS AND FAIRER TRADE

Fairtrade is about doing trade differently. It empowers farmers and workers to take control of their lives, businesses and communities through trade. Fairtrade also enables businesses – and through them, consumers – to understand the whole supply chain because it is tracked from producer to buyer.

Challenging unfair trading practices is also a crucial part of what Fairtrade does.

PRODUCTIVITY AND QUALITY

Fairtrade believes the role of women in agriculture needs more visibility, recognition and value, and that gender equity is important to social sustainability. Currently, 350,000 women farmers and workers are part of Fairtrade, a quarter of the total. But we know there is a significantly larger number involved in Fairtrade supply chains that are not registered as formal workers or members of co-operative.

ACCESS TO BASIC SERVICES

The Fairtrade Premium enables farmers and workers to invest in their communities to improve access to basic services. Co-operative members or workers on plantations are consulted to identify the most urgent needs and where Premium money can have most impact. Fairtrade Standards stipulate that farmers or workers decide together how they want their communities to develop, and prioritise and plan projects that benefit as many people as possible. They are also in close contact with other community leaders, such as head teachers and local government authorities, to discuss what’s needed. This participation in decision-making offers a sense of ownership and is vital if rural communities are to be sustainable.

THE ROLE OF WOMEN

Fairtrade believes the role of women in agriculture needs more visibility, recognition and value, and that gender equity is important to social sustainability.

Currently, 350,000 women farmers and workers are part of Fairtrade, a quarter of the total. But we know there is a significantly larger number involved in Fairtrade supply chains that are not registered as formal workers or members of co-operatives. New research into the part women play in co-operatives found that there are barriers to their membership and leadership, such as practices creating a bias towards men, and the burden of unpaid care and domestic work women carry that limits their free time. While this is a widespread issue, the research shows how Fairtrade co-operatives can bring about positive change – such as introducing gender strategies that promote women’s involvement and activities that can develop skills and ownership. When comparing Fairtrade organisations with non-Fairtrade organisations, studies identified that in certified small producer organisations women have had higher participation. The Fairtrade Premium is often used to support women to develop new ways of earning income or cut down on the time they spend on unpaid tasks by improving access to water, healthcare, childcare and transport – benefits that could encourage them to take a greater role in their organisations. But there is much more to be done. Fairtrade is launching projects aimed at tackling some of the issues. For example, an ‘asset-transfer’ initiative in Kenya saw the women of Kabngetuny co-operative become owners of a small number of coffee bushes belonging to their husbands. They joined the formal structure of the co-operative, enjoying an independent income for the first time, and generated a 20 percent higher yield. Gender is a highly complex issue and our research shows that we have a long way to go to directly change social and institutional norms that prevent gender equality.

Information taken from the Fairtrade website. BB