Fairtrade Africa celebrates its decade long achievements

WIL_7606More than 400 Fairtrade producers and partners gathered in Nairobi, Kenya to kick off our series of regional 10 year celebrations in style.

The two-day event, held at Strathmore Business School on 23-24 September, gave producers from across East and Central Africa the opportunity to share best practices and discuss their vision for the future of Fairtrade with businesses, NGO partners and Fairtrade staff.

In his key note address, the British High Commissioner, Dr. Christian Turner pointed out his morning ritual of consuming Fairtrade. “You have to come and see, I am a typical English man, I consume good Fairtrade tea from Kenya. Additionally flowers at my residence are Fairtrade,” he said.

Referring to Fairtrade statistics, Dr. Turner noted that 9 out of 10 people in UK know about the FAIRTRADE Mark and already 601 towns in UK are Fairtrade towns. He expressed his confidence in the Fairtrade movement citing that “Fairtrade’s agenda is right because agriculture is at the centre of Africa’s labour force.”

The High Commissioner, further congratulated Fairtrade Africa in its achievements in tackling poverty in farming communities.

“Fairtrade Africa plays a crucial role in helping to improve the lives of poor people in a sustainable way, by ensuring farmers receive fair prices for their products and workers receive better wages to help them support their families….Here in Kenya, Fairtrade Africa has played an important role in protecting workers from exploitation and improving working conditions. This has had a hugely positive impact not only to direct beneficiaries, but also their communities.”

In conclusion he also urged more businesses to commit to Fairtrade as the “right and smart thing to do”.

Topics covered over the two days included:

Workshops on Workers’ rights and Living Wage, Gender and leadership, Standards and Compliance, Innovative and Finance Mechanisms, Policy and Advocacy and Trade. There was also a session where 5 producer organisations shared their best practises.

“It is fantastic that so many producers have come to this event”, said Anna Mlay, member of Karagwe District Cooperative Union in Tanzania and Chair of the Eastern & Central Africa Fairtrade Network. “They see the benefit of networking, of getting information about the Fairtrade market, or the changes in Standards, or topics such as climate change. We want to increase this sharing, and improve the services to our members further in future”.

Download a summary of the event and presentations here


Middle East and North Africa

First certified producer in the Middle East and North Africa

Name of organisation: Al Shams Agro Group

Fairtrade since: 1999

Products: oranges and orange juice, pomegranate juice, tomato juice and paste, strawberries and strawberry juice

Fruit and juices organisation Al Shams Agro Group was, in 1999, the first certified producer in the Middle East and North Africa region. It was attracted to Fairtrade to increase sales, bring sustainable income to its workers and because it saw the Fairtrade minimum price as fair and attractive.

The Egyptian Hired labour farm produces oranges, orange juice, pomegranate juice, tomato juice and paste, strawberries and strawberry juice.  It has a huge juice factory.

Premium projects include establishing a bread bakery with proceeds shared among the workers. There is a subsidized canteen and a football pitch.

As Fairtrade members representatives have taken part in capacity building workshops and pan African events, including the 2010 African Assembly in Zimbabwe and the Africa Fairtrade Convention in Ghana the following year. The Convention gave them a platform to exhibit which enhanced their visibility, as the event was well attended by traders and potential buyers.

The organisation has experienced falling sales of its Fairtrade volumes, but still remains certified, in the words of its Fairtrade officer Lofty Shawky, “for the long haul”. “Through Fairtrade we have seen an improvement of workers’ commitment to production, in terms of quality and quantity. The environmental conditions of the farms have improved and the farm in general has become a fair and nice place to work in,” he adds.

Last year Al Shams added a new juice factory to its Fairtrade certificate, hopeful that this will lead to additional Fairtrade sales.

Western Africa

First certified producer in Western Africa

Name of organisation: Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union

Fairtrade since: 1993

Product: Cocoa

One of the best known names within Fairtrade, Kuapa Kokoo means ‘best farmer cocoa’. It has 100,000 members and continues to grow in strength and stature.

Its beginnings were on a different scale. In 1993 cocoa buying was run by the Ghanaian government, but the World Bank and IMF had insisted the country liberalise its structure. This meant private companies were about to make as much money from the cocoa industry as they could and they would all be heading to the bigger farmers to supply their cocoa.

Kuapa’s starting point was to ensure that small-scale farmers – those who produced less than five bags of cocoa a year – didn’t get left behind.

A farmer representative on the Cocoa Marketing Company of Ghana board (COCOBOD), Nana Aberese, gained the support of NGOs including ActionAid, TWIN and SNV, mobilised four other farmers and registered Kuapa Kokoo Limited in 1993.The company would belong to the farmers who would decide how the profits would be spent. They organized more farmers to supply cocoa beans to the new company.

Kuapa Kokoo started with 22 societies with about 2,200 members in the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions of Ghana and has since grown to cover all five cocoa growing regions in the country.

In 1995, Kuapa decided to apply for Fairtrade certification and created the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union (KKFU) which became the first Fairtrade small-scale farmers’ organization in west Africa.

KKFU’s output in terms of volumes of cocoa beans supplied by its members reached 45,000 metric tonnes in the 2014-2015 cocoa seasons, almost seven percent of Ghana’s total output for the season, with a healthy proportion sold on Fairtrade terms.

Members of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union held its 21st Annual Delegates Conference in August 2015 and announced impressive steps forward in health care, gender and other areas. Quality health care is seen as a priority. A referral clinic at the head office in Kumasi is providing quality health care to members and plans are well advanced to extend the service. A qualified nurse will be available to receive health complaints which will be transmitted electronically to a specialist for diagnosis and recommendations.

Kuapa’s achievements in the area of female empowerment are demonstrated by the composition of the current National Executive Council which has six female members including the second successive female president. There are 43 active women’s groups in 13 districts of the KKFU and these have been trained in income generating activities, increasing their family incomes and well-being. In the past, some women have shown a reluctance to put themselves forward for positions of responsibility. Anecdotal evidence indicates this might be because some are unable to read and write, so a pilot literacy programme has been established, directed at these women.

KKFU is also the majority shareholder of its own chocolate company – Divine Chocolate, a UK-based brand – and has received £19,000 this year as a dividend on its investment in the company.

Eastern and central Africa

First certified producer in eastern and central Africa

Name of organisation: Kagera Cooperative Union

Fairtrade since: 1990

Product: Coffee

Kagera Cooperative Union (KCU), in the north-west of Tanzania, is the oldest and largest Fairtrade co-operative in Africa. Its 60,000 coffee farmers are proof of what Fairtrade can achieve. Just 20 percent of KCU farmers are women – coffee is seen in the country as a man’s crop – but the cooperative has made recent strides to increase equality.

There are numerous other signs that KCU is an organisation which understands how to build security for its future and bring real benefits to local communities. It has constructed roads and bridges to link farming groups to the coffee collection areas, helping the farmers who have to transport their crops across the hillsides. It has invested in an instant coffee factory which exports to different African countries. It has helped with the construction of many schools and health centres. It has spent money on organic conversion to help the environment and to gain bigger returns for the farmers. It has purchased hulling machines to speed up the coffee product process, getting the coffee to market sooner. It even owns a cooperative bank and two boarding houses to ensure that, no matter what happens with the coffee price, its future is secure.

KCU is truly a successful business. It is run professionally, democratically and purely to benefit its members, their families and communities. Fairtrade Africa is proud to have these pioneering smallholders among the initial team that came together to form the first Board of Fairtrade Africa.

This organisation has provided a benchmark to other upcoming Fairtrade organisations including miners of east Africa who are soon to receive Fairtrade certification.

While addressing miners in 2014 during an exchange visit, John Kajangaile the Export Manager of KCU, explained, “Fairtrade is about learning from one another.” He was pleased to find out that Tina Mwasha, who is working with the Tanzanian gold miners to improve conditions and safety, is a former pupil of Hekima Girls Secondary School – a school supported by KCU as part of its drive to empower women through education.

Kajangaile explained that farmers selling to the Fairtrade market can be paid twice as much as those selling conventionally. He took the miners back to the very beginnings of Fairtrade in his organisation. “We took a risk and borrowed money in order to buy and sell a trial Fairtrade shipment. This hadn’t been done before. It was a very big gamble for us but we managed it. We were given advice on how to market and trade the coffee and we are now professionals.

“When we talk about Fairtrade, most people think of price and premium,” he added, “But for us it’s a connection point between small-scale producers and the rest of the world. We share and exchange ideas. We sell to the UK, Europe, Japan and even New Zealand. We hope to sell to the US next year, thanks to our new organic project.”

The next ten years

Looking to the future, Kajangaile says, “Fairtrade continues to attract the attention of producers and consumers who believe in responsible production, sourcing and marketing. I  see more awareness being created about behaving responsibily towards people and the environment.  Let each of us play our part.

“When we are united, small-scale African producers stand together to cope with this globalized world. This is the future we need with Fairtrade Africa.”

Fairtrade Africa participates in the International Flower Trade Expo

Fairtrade Africa participated in International Flower trade Expo, the biggest fair of its kind in Africa. The event took place from 3rd – 5th June 2015 at Oshwal Centre in Nairobi Kenya.


Hon Margaret Kenyatta, First lady of Kenya, making a tour to different exhibition booths during IFTEX

Her Excellency the First Lady of Kenya, Hon Margaret Kenyatta opened the fair, and in her speech, she applauded women in the floriculture industry, who form a vast majority of the workforce.

She went ahead and assured consumers of the highly acclaimed flowers from Kenya and how the workers continuously strive for responsible and safe production of cut flowers. “We also strive to protect, conserve the natural environment and promote the welfare of all farm staff for sustainability,” she concluded.

As she walked through the exhibition booths, she commended the beautiful blooms, which were a sight to behold. In particular, she was drawn to flowers from one of Fairtrade Africa’s newly certified producers, Batian Flowers. They had exhibited, some of the premium roses produced in their farm, whose varieties included, Mondial, Deep Purple, Red Naomi and Royal Porcelina.

Fairtrade Africa with the support of Fairtrade International also exhibited and visitors thronged the booth in all three days. Most visitors expressed interest in matters to do with certification and Fairtrade Sales. Others were keen to learn about Fairtrade while others expressed their heartfelt gratitude at the benefits they have enjoyed as a result of Fairtrade certification.

Ann Mugi, from Wildfire Flowers based in Naivasha Kenya, expressed her gratitude at the growth their Flower farm has experienced since they received Fairtrade certification. “Before Fairtrade, we used to sell 60% of our produce direct and 40% through the auction. Nowadays we sell 100% direct and 30% of our produce is sold as Fairtrade,” says Ann. “We have benefitted through various trainings facilitated by Premium and as workers we have benefitted from home improvement projects proposed and approved by the workers. Through Premium our households now have basic amenities and most recently we installed solar lanterns to light up our homes.”

Munyao sharing his story

Nicholas Munyao recounting the benefits he has enjoyed from Fairtrade since he became a worker with Oserian.

Nicholas Munyao a happy worker at Oserian Flowers Ltd, explains, “In 2013/2014, I did a diploma in Logistics and Management, sponsored by Fairtrade Premium. This consequently earned me a promotion which came in with a better package.  In my coffers I had some disposable income to support my two younger brothers’ pay their school fees for secondary school.”

I further got an opportunity to work for Stokeman Rozen Kenya ltd, a sister company to Oserian Ltd, which does propagation of rose plants and summer crops. “I am happy with my current job and in the near future I hope to advance my career in the logistics field,” adds Mr. Munyao.

During the fair, Fairtrade Africa and Fairtrade International facilitated a round table on the living wage.  Fairtrade’s approach to living wage takes a holistic approach that will advocate for transparency around wage levels, use of living wage benchmarks, promotion of collective bargaining at sector and workplace level, removal of barriers to workers collectively bargaining and creating transparency around costs of production so that buyers understand what it costs for an employer to be socially sustainable and estimating  the effect of raising wages on the total costs of production as a basis for discussion.

The topic had been received with mixed reactions by the farm owners initially closed to the idea but with furthered explanation by Fairtrade Africa’s Flower Manager, they welcomed the proposition as an all-inclusive approach.


‘Made in Rwanda Fairly’

February 10th 2015 saw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between C&H Garments, Rwanda Development Board and Fairtrade Africa.

C&H is a newly established Rwandan garment manufacturing company striving through Fairtrade Standards to pioneer the concept of “Made in Rwanda Fairly.” This will contribute to significant job opportunities especially for women who will form a majority of the workforce and generate much needed export earnings for Rwanda.

In collaboration with Fairtrade, C&H plans to establish a transparent sourcing plan. Ultimately sourcing Fairtrade cotton fabric made from certified cotton across Africa.

They plan to sell their “Made in Rwanda Fairly” cotton T – Shirts directly to top-end brands in USA and Europe. Fairtrade Africa made important introductions for C&H to Max Havelaar France who have begun exploring links with buyers in France.

During the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, James Mwai, Director of Programmes representing Fairtrade Africa, said. “Today marks a milestone in Fairtrade Africa support to the growth of an integrated cotton supply chain in Africa. By collaborating with a textile manufacturer, we are expanding the Fairtrade footprint into textile processing thus enabling us pilot the Textile Standard and position Fairtrade in this fast growing industry.”

Flower farmers to increase their market visibility through innovative online platform

Fairtrade Africa has partnered with an online flower platform to increase visibility of Fairtrade flowers through profiling them through online platforms such as FlorAccess ( www.floraccess.com).

“This is intended to help producer organizations increase Fairtrade sales,” says Caleb Lang’at, Fairtrade Africa’s Flower Manager.

The platform allows Fairtrade – certified flower organisations to request for login details, which enables them to upload their flower details and farm profile. This includes and is not limited to: length, variety, type, head size, CSR activities, and Fairtrade premium projects.

Over 60 Producer Organizations globally have been exposed to the system’s usability.  The pioneers, including three farms from East Africa, have begun processing their applications, enrolment and subscription.

Today over 90% of floriculture buyers use the internet as their prime source of information when looking for products thus confirming the viability of this support for Fairtrade Flowers.

Buyers will now be able to search for a combination of product name and the Fairtrade certification. The cooperation between Fairtrade and the online platforms shall create a unique selling point thus helping increase markets access and sales for Fairtrade Flower producer organizations.


Producers in Tunisia express interest in Certification

Saber Ben Mbarek, Fairtrade Africa’s Liaison Officer for Tunisia, participated in the 11th edition of the International Fair for Agricultural Investment and Technology “SIAT 2014.” The event was held in Tunis from 29 October to 1 November 2014.

The conference brought together, Government officials and stakeholders in the Tunisian agricultural sector. With the limited awareness of Fairtrade in the country, and very few certified producers, the fair provided a good opportunity for Saber to talk about Fairtrade.

He was able to reach out to the non-certified producer organisations who were exhibiting products ranging from olive oil, dates, and vegetables.

The producers expressed interest in learning more about the Fairtrade system and how they could benefit in finding markets. As a way forward, Saber is planning further engagement with the interested unions, and to have a networking session together with the exporters.

“I believe it will be a great opportunity, to bring together producers and exporters. They will learn more about Fairtrade, and eventually produce on Fairtrade terms,” he says.

Cocoa Network consultative committee meet in Ghana

The Cocoa Network Consultative Committee visited the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) on 26 November 2014. The aim of the visit was to learn about possible value addition projects from cocoa bi-products as well as new agronomic practices for improved cocoa yields.

The members of the consultative committee who include, Fairtrade cocoa producers, Fairtrade Africa and Fairtrade Foundation (UK) initiated discussions on possible partnerships with the institute.

The partnership will see producers receive training on good agricultural practices and commercialisation of their cocoa bi-products for additional income.

Also present was a representative of the World Cocoa Foundation, Sona Ebai, who came to share information and discuss Cocoa Action. Cocoa Action is the cocoa industry’s framework for an aligned sustainability strategy.

The Executive Director of the Research Institute, Dr. Anim-Kwapong, stated that, “there has been low uptake of research findings from the institute by farmers. This has largely been contributed by low levels of organization among cocoa farmers and lack of resources to invest in the application of the findings.”

Now that the institute is open to collaborations, there should be an improvement of farmer utilization of research findings.

Cocoa producers receive training on Fairtrade Sourcing Program

It is one year since the launch of Fairtrade Sourcing Program (FSP) by the Fairtrade system. With big chocolate brands like Ferrero signing up for 20,000MT of Fairtrade cocoa in three years, cocoa farmers are out for a great start.

Cocoa producers from 14 Cooperatives across Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana have been trained on improving Internal Control Systems, governance, financial management and GAP trainings.

“This workshop equipped me better in terms of organisational management,” commented Kwame Asa-Ofori; President, Suhum Cocoa Farmers ‘Cooperative Union, in Ghana. “We were empowered to do our own needs assessment and teach others to do same. The hands-on training method was ideal for adult learning.”

This producer support underpins the FSP Cocoa program. This comes at an opportune time with February 2015, seeing Mars Chocolate UK and Fairtrade Foundation extend their partnership to source Fairtrade certified cocoa for MARS® Bars in UK and Ireland.

Speaking about the commitment, Blas Maquivar, President, Mars Chocolate UK, said:
“I’m really proud that our iconic MARS® Bar brand is at the forefront of Fairtrade’s new Cocoa Sourcing Programme. It’s a crucial next step in our global commitment to certify that 100 percent of our cocoa has been produced in a sustainable manner by 2020 and it means that all three of our top UK chocolate brands now source certified cocoa, supporting farmers to improve productivity and yields and ultimately leading to improved income and better quality of life for farmers, their families and their communities.