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Dario Soto Abril, CEO Fairtrade International, explains why fair trade must become the norm rather than the exception to tackle child labour in West African cocoa production.
Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire together produce about 60% of the world’s cocoa supply each year. However, they do so with reliance on child labour. This is the harsh reality of the cocoa industry – and a stark reminder of the reality Fairtrade faces in our efforts to change the way the world does business.
It is estimated that more than 1.48 million children are engaged in hazardous child labour in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Fairtrade estimates that this number is likely higher, as we consider child labour through the lens of minimum age, hazardous labour and unconditional child labour. Unfortunately, these numbers do not come as a surprise to Fairtrade. Since 2009, we have been working diligently to tackle this problem – and not only in the cocoa industry.
What we know, without a doubt, is that there’s no single reason for child labour use in this cocoa sector; instead, there are many complex and interdependent causes. Poverty, low wages, labour shortages, poor working conditions, weak governmental involvement, lack of impactful educational opportunities, unsafe schools, exploitation and discrimination, political unrest and conflict – and now the effects of COVID-19, as well – all contribute to the use of child labour in the West African production of cocoa.
Poverty and discrimination remain formidable forces in pushing children into the workforce and unsafe environments. When farmers are trapped in poverty, they can’t afford to invest in more efficient methods to improve their income and, as such, resort to the cheapest forms of child labour. Also, when children’s rights are not respected, dependence on their labour can increase.
We say the guaranteed Fairtrade Premium is important, so that producer organizations can choose to implement the support their communities need, including building schools, to make it easier and safer for children to receive a quality education.
In 2019, we raised both the Fairtrade Minimum Price and the Fairtrade Premium by 20% to move cocoa producers closer to a living income.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that voluntary solutions are not enough. It must become a collective effort of all actors. Producers and their communities are already living in poverty. It is simply not realistic – or fair – to expect producers to bear the costs of implementing child labour monitoring and remediation systems when they don’t make enough to cover their basic needs. So, who’s going to pay to end child labour? Shared accountability is the only way to end child labour in cocoa production. Voluntary certifications have a critical role to play in raising the bar on expectations; designing and implementing frameworks for commercial partners’ and producers’ accountability, complementing legal requirements; and in providing much-needed on the ground support.
Consumers must demand accountability from chocolate brands, retailers, and human and environmental rights due diligence regulation from their governments. They must buy products aligned with their values: providing producers with stable income that allows them the ability to plan for their futures and decide how best to invest in their communities and farms.
It must not take another 20 years to turn fair trade from the exception to the norm.
The scheme will support most vulnerable cotton famers during Covid-19 and help keep our favourite clothes on shop shelves.
Fairtrade has received €80,000 from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the German development agency, to provide food and income security for smallholder cotton farmers fighting the impact of Covid-19 in India.
This comes as the global pandemic continues to expose the fragility of our economy and highlight the extent to which we rely on large numbers of low-paid farmers and workers at the very bottom of supply chains to provide us with goods and services. The apparel sector has been hit especially hard and faces a bleak future, with many businesses struggling to continue to operate.
On behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ has funded Fairtrade’s programme to ensure the incomes of approximately 2,150 smallholder cotton farmers in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh are safe and secure. It will also tackle both the immediate and mid-term crisis and protect the farmers in global apparel supply chains so that businesses can resume trading when the sector recovers.
Dr. Rossitza Krueger from GIZ, Project manager of the Global Programme Sustainability and Value Added in Agricultural Supply Chains (Cotton) in India, said: ‘Farmers who need assistance the most during this time of global crisis are able to sustain their farms and their family’s food security through this programme, delivered by Fairtrade. This will secure market access for the sustainable cotton under Fairtrade Standards whilst strengthening the entire global apparel supply chains.’
With the funding, Fairtrade will distribute subsidised GMO-free, cotton seeds and organic fertiliser to cotton farmers for the current season. Due to the decline in demand for cotton, farmers will also receive seeds to plant vegetables and grains on their land so they can feed their families and generate extra income at local markets. The seeds will enable them to grow vegetables such as tomato, okra, chillies, fenugreek, potatoes and border crops such as lemon trees, as well as a range of pulses and grains. Bio gas plants will also be installed in some regions to provide both energy for cooking and fertiliser for farms.
Subindu Garkhel, Fairtrade’s Senior Cotton and Textiles Lead, said: ‘We welcome the active role that GIZ is playing in supporting vulnerable apparel supply chains to tackle the immediate economic crisis and build resilience in the longer term through income diversification. In a situation like this, farmers need to rethink if they should continue to use their land’s full capacity to grow cotton this year, or only part of it.
‘The need for sustainability is set to become even more important for the apparel sector of the future as a result of Covid-19. Fairtrade is well placed to support this and we will continue to speak out about the clear need for living incomes and meaningful development assistance to build more resilient and sustainable supply chains and support farmers and workers struggling to withstand the pandemic’s impacts.’
More than six million people have contracted the virus in India, and more than one million people globally have lost their lives. Since March, business-as-usual has collapsed throughout the fashion industry. With retail shops having to close or limit customers and online sales slowed by the global economic downturn, countless fashion brands continue to struggle. Many of the hardships of this pandemic continue to fall on the most vulnerable members of the supply chain: the farmers and workers. This ripple effect is now trickling down to affect farmers. With demand for cotton continuing to fall, farmers will be worst hit and will face significant challenges to their income and food security.
Fairtrade reports that some cotton farmers are already unable to sell all their crops. The International Cotton Advisory Committee has forecasted that the consumption of cotton will drop by about 12% due to the impact of the pandemic. Global cotton prices are predicted to fall by 22% this year, according to the United Nations Conference of Trade and Development.
7 October 2020
Are you passionate about trade justice, environmental protection and Guernsey’s contribution to these two global issues? Then come along to the Fairtrade Steering Group meeting on Thursday 1st October, 7.30pm at Capelles Community Centre. Amongst other things we’ll be planning activities for Fairtrade Fortnight in Feb/Mar 2021 – which will coincide with Guernsey’s 15th anniversary as a Fairtrade Island. We’d love to see some new faces! Feel free to message us if you’d like some more info.
Tackling climate change is at the heart of the fair trade movement, as it threatens the livelihoods of those we are working to protect.
Fairtrade farmers are among the people who have contributed the least to the climate crisis but are already considerably affected; studies show Africa is the continent most vulnerable to climate change. It takes 21 people from Cote d’Ivoire to have the same carbon footprint as one person in the UK. Farmers rely on the land they farm for their livelihoods and yet, due to low incomes, those in the Global South often have lower resilience to face the impacts of climate breakdown.
Environmental protection is deeply ingrained in Fairtrade. 2.38 million hectares of farmland are protected by Fairtrade climate change adaptation plans. We support farmers to combat climate change through technical advice, fairer wages, special partner supported programmes and our environmentally friendly Fairtrade Standards.
Find out more……..
Fairtrade Guernsey very pleased to have a full page devoted to the work. “Fairtrade – an easy starting point.”
Also read it on-line at http://www.briefci.com
What is the Fairtrade Minimum Price?
Sidie is a cocoa farmer in Sierra Leone and sells some of his cocoa on Fairtrade terms. In this episode we find out what this means and why transparent trade is important.