14 October, 2019

Fairtrade is supporting farmers across the wider Pacific

A Fairtrade coconut producer in Samoa
by Astra Rushton-Allan

At Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand (Fairtrade ANZ), we collaborate with producers, businesses, civil society, non-government organisations and local government across the wider Pacific to advocate for better conditions for farmers.

When working across a region as diverse as this, it is important to ensure that all of our activities at origin respond to the needs of farmers and their communities, and are informed by the Fairtrade Standards for Small-Scale Producer Organisations.

This not only enables us to support the development of strong, locally led Fairtrade organisations that empower farmers to work collectively, democratically and without discrimination, but also enables us to connect with new groups who would like to enter the Fairtrade family and extend the benefits of Fairtrade to their communities.

The situation on the ground defines the work we do, and the ultimate aim of Fairtrade ANZ’s support in the wider Pacific is to ensure the sustainability and independence of all the producer organisations we work with.

Fiji

In Fiji, sugarcane supports nearly a quarter of the country’s population but the high cost of production can mean farmers often struggle to make ends meet.

Fairtrade ANZ works with three cane producer associations (CPAs), Rarawai & Penang Cane Producers Association, Lautoka Cane Producers Association and Labasa Cane Producers Association, who, combined, encompass all of the country’s 17,000+ sugarcane farmers. Through the benefits of the Fairtrade Premium, the three CPAs help lower the margins of production for sugarcane farmers through subsidies for transport and farming inputs, as well as funding community development projects that support local schools and women's groups.

A Fijian Fairtrade producer

This year, based on risk identification, the CPAs have decided to proactively tackle the risks of child labour and forced labour in their communities. Fairtrade certification has firm standards defining acceptable labour conditions, but in some countries where we work the risks of this kind of exploitation still exists. Rather than sweeping these issues under the rug, Fairtrade ANZ is committed to working with the CPAs to create systems that help members identify, mitigate and resolve any suspected problems.

Fairtrade ANZ also plans to roll-out an environmental management and climate change resilience survey with the three CPAs, to assess members’ current capacity to adapt and mitigate the effects of a changing climate. The results of this survey will inform future project development around our work in Fiji.

Samoa

For Fairtrade certified Savai’i Coconut Farmers Association (SCFA) in Samoa, aging coconut trees are a major obstacle to the productivity of local farms. To support the vitality of the coconut industry, SCFA has initiated replanting programs with members and invested Fairtrade Premium in farm maintenance equipment, such as chainsaws to help clear weeds. SCFA’s commitment to the sustainability of coconut farming is supported their trader Krissy Co., who works with the group to maintain quality and a steady supply of nuts.

Fairtrade producers in Samoa with chainsaws

To ensure the continuation of smooth business operations at SCFA, Fairtrade ANZ is working with their management to implement workshops on financial literacy and project management as well as working with SCFA to find ways to enhance the engagement of youth and women within the organisation.

Solomon Islands

“Labuhilla started in 2007 with only 20 farmers and has since grown with more people interested in coffee planting and group selling. Now that we are Fairtrade certified, our goal is to help farmers to sell their coffee so they can improve their family livelihoods and keep young people engaged in the rural sector,” Liston Brown, Manager of Labuhilla Coffee Farmers Association, said.

A Fairtrade producer from the Solomon Islands

Labuhilla Coffee Farmers Association (LCFA) is the newest addition to the Fairtrade family, having only received their Fairtrade certification in June, 2019. This first year will be busy for the producer organisation, as Fairtrade ANZ plans to support the group to find secure market linkages, work to improve their management capacity, increase membership numbers and strengthen the quality of the coffee.

Timor-Leste

In early 2019, Cooperativa Comercio Agricola De Timor (C-CAT) waved goodbye to their first shipment of Fairtrade coffee as it set sail for markets in Australia. C-CAT Manager Carlito Alves explains what this first sale means for the group:

“C-CAT are very happy to have made their first Fairtrade sale as it means we can start planning for the future of our organisation. This sale has motivated us to recruit new members and invest in improving the quality of our coffee”.

A Fairtrade producer in Timor Leste

To complement Fairtrade’s commitment to quality across all of the products it supports, Fairtrade ANZ will work closely with C-CAT to enhance the quality of their coffee, to help them reach new markets and enhance the benefits of Fairtrade for their members. This includes working towards organic certification which generates higher prices, and expanding membership in order to increase volumes.

Gender inequality is also a key issue in Timor-Leste and Fairtrade ANZ will harness its current focus on gender mainstreaming to support culturally appropriate ways to improve female participation and representation across all Fairtrade activities.

Tonga

“Drought and cyclones are the main issues for VGA. For the last four years it has been the El Niño that has slowed down the vanilla production. Water is vital for vanilla to grow but when there was a hurricane it came and destroyed the vanilla. Those are the only two things that us vanilla growers are really scared of,” said Amanaki Funanki, Environmental Officer for Vanilla Growers Association.

On the outlying island of Vava’u in Tonga, it has been two years since there has been a vanilla harvest. Tropical cyclones and unpredictable rainfall patterns have either decimated the vines or destroyed the flowers before the beans had a chance to develop.

Fairtrade producers in Tonga

But this year things are looking up. Favourable climatic conditions have meant that Fairtrade certified Vanilla Growers Association of Vava’u (VGA) has just finished buying green vanilla beans from members and is currently in the midst of preparing 2019’s crop for curing and export. This is great news for the farmers of Vava’u who not only have a renewed source of income from vanilla but also have the Fairtrade Premium to look forward to.

VGA is presently on a steady road to independence and Fairtrade ANZ is planning its support services so that the VGA management team can continue to strengthen its leadership and administrative skills as well as looking for ways to incorporate the thriving youth groups across Vava’u into vanilla focused activities and encourage intercropping to stabilise income for farmers.

Fairtrade ANZ’s commitment to supporting our island neighbours to grow and prosper through fair terms of trade is made possible thanks to our partnership with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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