Who’s Growing Organic And Fair Trade Food In Africa?
There are more than 410 fair trade-certified food-producing businesses, associations and coops in African agriculture involving hundreds of thousands of farmers. Fair trade promises better pay and working conditions for laborers.
In some of the harshest social, political and climactic conditions on Earth, fair trade farmers and laborers make food that is of the highest global standards.
Organic agriculture is meant to sustain the health of soils, ecosystems, biodiversity and people. It relies on local conditions rather than on external influences that sometimes have
adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines traditional knowledge, innovation
and modern science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships
and a good quality of life for all involved.
Organic agriculture is developing rapidly. It’s now practiced in more than 120
countries and almost half the organic farmers are in Africa, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
Fair trade aims to help farmers and workers get a better deal, influencing socio-economic conditions along the value chain of certified products to the benefit of farmers and workers. These conditions include wage levels in hired labor companies such as plantations and factories.
“The duty to help workers materialize this right does not rest on employers alone,” says FairtradeAfrica. “The entire global value chain needs to play its part.”
Fair trade stimulates demand by organizing consumer campaigns to encourage buying of Fairtrade-certified products.
Fairtrade is an alternative approach to conventional trade based on a partnership between producers and consumers. It offers consumers a way to reduce poverty through their everyday shopping.
The Fairtrade label appears on food as a consumer guarantee that disadvantaged producers in developing countries are getting a better deal.
As a consumer you will pay higher prices for organic products. Products do not have to be organic to be fair trade but it seems a natural marriage in many cases. Fairtrade premiums are often used to train producers in organic and sustainable techniques such as composting and using recycled materials.
African fair trade practitioners are producing dried fruits, rooibos tea, coffee, cocoa, cotton, cut flowers, and commodities such as shea butter, among others. Here’s just a sampling of who’s growing organic and fair trade food in Africa.
Vanilla: Mubuku Moringa Vanilla Farmers, Uganda
Joseph Mbusa, chairman of the Mubuku Moringa Vanilla Farmers Association in Uganda, stands in front of a house in his community built with Fair Trade income.
Fairtrade certified since 2005, Moringa produces 16 metric tons of organic and Fair Trade Certified vanilla to international markets annually. It’s considered some of the highest quality vanilla in the world, farmed in the Ruwenzori Mountains, an area of breathtaking beauty.
The vanilla is cured and sold in the form of pods. Fairtrade premiums have been used to build a health clinic, roof over a local school and provide computers and training to farmers.
The Moringa association is an umbrella for 14 vanilla farming cooperatives, encouraging farmers to improve quality and production techniques, and access better markets.
Arabica: Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union, Tanzania
Thousands of farmers who form the Kilimanjaro Native Co-operative Union are part of Africa’s oldest co-op union in the foothills of Africa’s highest mountain. It includes 70,000 coffee producers organized in about 92 village cooperatives.
Fairtrade certified since 1993, the union produces and exports Arabica and has used premiums for education funds to sponsor children of poor farmers.
Premiums have also been used in establishing coffee nurseries and environmental funds.
When market prices for coffee fell, the union established a Fair Tourism Project as another source of income to farmers. The project gives tourists and Fairtrade buyers the chance to experience a typical day in the life of a Tanzanian coffee grower. Visitors can participate in all activities undertaken by farmers in the field.
White tea: Iriaini Tea Factory Company, Kenya
Kenya is the world’s third-largest tea producer and its largest exporter, according to Fairtrade.
Fairtrade certified since 2006, Iriaini relies on 7,137 smallholder farmers who supply green leaf to the factory. The Iriaini factory produces 3.5 million kilograms of tea annually. Members each farm half a hectare (1.25 acres) on average.
Iriaini is in partnership with the British multinational retailer Marks and Spencer.
The biggest benefit associated with Fairtrade, other then financial gain, is capacity building to all member farmers who have taken factory ownership, according to Iriaini. This provides them with a sense of belonging and pride, has resulted in improved quality and has increased individual responsibility.
Fairtrade for the main company has opened up market opportunities. Farmers have been able to diversify into other supplementary economic activities to increase their income, including bee keeping, dairy farming, rabbit keeping and aquaculture.
Cocoa: Kuapa Kokoo Union, Ghana
When internal marketing of cocoa was liberalized in Ghana, a group of farmers led by Nana Frimpong Abrebrese established Kuapa Kokoo as a farmer’s cooperative in 1993. Kuapa Kookoo means “good cocoa farming.” It is the only farmer-owned organization among the many private companies granted government licenses to trade cocoa out of Ghana.
Kuapa Kokoo buys cocoa from members on behalf of the state-run cocoa board, which also controls all exports. It represents about 50,000 small-scale cocoa growers who produce about 5 percent of Ghana’s total cocoa production.
Members of Kuapa Kokoo are mostly poor small-holders living in the most remote and under-resourced parts of Ghana. Many of the coop’s 1300-or-so participating cocoa-growing villages lack paved roads, potable water, health clinics, cars and electricity. Most lack schools.
Local communities have benefited from free trade income, which helped build schools
public bathrooms, wells, mobile clinic and income-generation activities for women.
Kuapa Kokoo now owns about 45 percent of Divine Chocolate Ltd. and 33 percent of Divine Chocolate USA, Inc., which sell Fair Trade certified Divine and Dubble chocolates in the U.K. and U.S. This allows Kuapa Kokoo’s members to increase their profits from the chocolate sales and enhance their knowledge of the western chocolate markets where their beans end up.
Sources: Fairtrade, Kuapa Kookoo
Arabica: Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative, Ethiopia
An Ethiopian agricultural cooperative federation, Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative was established in 1999, representing 102,950 coffee growers, processors, and exporters of the Oromia Region of southern and western Ethiopia. The union’s members are organized into 115 cooperatives. They grow arabica coffee exclusively, and produce both conventionally grown and organically grown beans. The union bypasses many of the middlemen that characterize the international coffee trade, sorting, roasting, and exporting its own coffee rather than simply growing and picking it the way most other Ethiopian coffee farmers do, according to Oxfam.
The union returns 70 percent of its gross profits to its cooperatives.
Hibiscus and dried mangoes: Cooperative Agricole du Kenedougou, Burkina Faso
The primary objective of the Agricultural Cooperative Kénédougou at its inception in 1963 was to market mangoes which the whole Orodara region was producing. Orodara is known as the orchard of Burkina Faso. The coop helps create jobs for young people in Kénédougou Orodara municipality.
The cooperative provides all expenses for the sales function in fruit farming and food: bundling, packaging, transportation, quality control and monitoring of organic farming, according to CanopyBridge.
The coop has 163 producer members. Its newest product, dried mangoes, has snowballed. Demand is huge for dried fruit snacks and it takes care of one of the coops past persistent problems — fruit rotting in containers.
Dried mangoes: Association Ton, Burkina Faso
Fairtrade certified since 2004, Association Ton has the capacity to produce more than 50 tons of dried mango. There are more than 1000 mango varieties. The main ones available are Amelia, Brooks, Kent and Lippens. The association is located about 700 kilometers (435 miles) from the port of Abidjan.
Located in southern Burkina Faso, close to the border of the Ivory Coast, TON’s mango producers have seen difficult circumstances in which to do business. The association has about 2,800 members. Many of the farmers grow mangoes and a large part of the co-operative’s income comes from harvesting, drying and selling organic mangoes for export.
Each year, TON buys thousands of tons of fresh mangoes from members and dries them at their drying station. Drying is done mainly by the women, providing income during the five-month mango season from April to August. This work enables the women to eat well, educate the children and buy medicine.
TON runs literacy classes for children and adults, a theater group that tackles issues such as child trafficking, and sex education. In addition to the higher price they receive for being Fair Trade, co-op members also get a social premium that they decide collectively how to use. Premiums have built a health center, new classrooms, medicine and mosquito nets.
Source: EqualExchange, Fairtrade
Citrus, green beans and table grapes: Magrabi Agriculture, Egypt
Magrabi Agriculture is one of the leading agriculture companies in Egypt. It owns about 9000 acres divided into six farms. The company is located in the desert.
The company employs 3000 permanent employees and about 3000 seasonal workers.
Fairtrade premiums are managed jointly by workers and management. They focus on worker’s health, education and transportation. The company provides 52 cars and four buses for daily transportation.
A mini hospital was built to provide health care to Magrabi Agriculture workers and their families as well as people living in the surrounding Noubaria area. An ambulance was also
Literacy classes are have seen 200 workers graduate and 62 workers are continuing their
education through distance learning or at universities.
Rooibos, Driefontein Small Farmers Primary Cooperative, South Africa
Driefontein Small Farmers Primary Cooperative produces organic rooibos to better the lives of its 36 farmer-members and their families on a Fairtrade-certified rooibos farm near Redelinghuys, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of Cape Town in the heart of rooibos country.
Farmers draw on their indigenous knowledge of rooibos handed down from one generation to the next.
Forming a small farmers’ cooperative in 2010, they started out with enthusiasm, willingness to learn business skills, and a desire to succeed.
Today, they are seeing the fruits of their labor. A trust fund ensures that children can attend schools. The first child of a Driefontein farmer has attended university and the farmers are saving to buy their own land.
The Western Cape is the only place on the planet where rooibos occurs naturally and it has grown in the Cedarberg region forever, virtually unheard of for most of its natural history other than by the Khoisan people.
The Khoisan used rooibos as a herbal remedy but the herb almost stopped being used as the population of the isolated tribe dwindled. Now it’s sold all over the world.
Wine grapes, Kleine Zalze Wines, Stellenbosch
The owners of Kleine Zalze Wines in Stellenbosch claim to have “Fairtrade hearts.” It’s their philosophy that to produce wine sustainably in South Africa, a company has to operate in an ethical way.
They claim that many of the criteria and standards required by Fairtrade were already in place on the farm before accreditation a year ago.
Kleine Zalze is one of at least 27 Cape wine producers who make Fairtrade wines.
A portion of the price paid for every bottle of Kleine Zalze Fairtrade wine goes into a fund for worker empowerment, care and improving livelihoods. An independent joint committee made up predominantly of workers manages the funds according to needs such as education, healthcare and entrepreneurship.
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