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the BSCFABelize’s sugar cane production has been a major staple to its economy since the 1800s. Today, it supports the livelihood of around 15% of Belizeans, contributes to 6% of Belize’s foreign exchange income and adds 30% gross value to the country’s agriculture. Due to its overall importance, organizations have taken great steps to help protect sugar farmers and improve their working conditions. A major step toward this goal was when the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) became Fairtrade certified in 2008. Since then, the value of sugar from Belize has grown and better working conditions and human rights have been established.

Sugar Cane Farmers in Belize

Sugar cane farmers and plantation workers often struggle because sugar prices in international markets are low and processing sugar cane is long and expensive. Smaller farms also have trouble getting access to lucrative markets that would buy more sugar. The compensation smallholder farmers receive for cane often fails to cover the costs they incur to produce it, leaving them in a debt trap and with little capital to reinvest in farms. They also cannot pay for newer equipment that would help make the process easier, faster and cheaper. The significant amount of time invested in farming to provide an income often leaves little time to engage in other opportunities that can pull them out of poverty, such as education. Fairtrade aims to alleviate these problems by helping people and organizations get better representation in the market and better prices for their crops.

The Impact of Fairtrade Certification

Since 2008, Belize’s sugar cane exports have increased greatly, particularly in the European market. In the first five years of the BSCFA becoming Fairtrade certified, Belize’s sugar cane gross profit grew significantly. Belize has also been able to increase the amount of sugar cane produced every year due to farmers getting resources to control pests in the early stages of the growing process and access to better farming and processing tools. From 2018 to 2019 alone, Belize went from producing 150,000 tons to more than one million tons of sugar cane.

Impact on Communities in Belize

A huge benefit of being Fairtrade certified is that organizations will receive premiums — extra money that farmers and workers can invest in their businesses or the community. The BSCFA gets around $3.5 million in premiums a year and has used that as grants for education, building and repairs, community spaces such as churches and libraries, funerals for impoverished families, water tank systems and more.

The BSCFA has continued advocacy and empowerment efforts to improve the working conditions of sugar cane farmers. In 2015, the BSCFA took a strong stance against child labor, lobbying the government to make laws against child labor and personally suspending support of farms that violated fairtrade practices.

Due to advocacy efforts such as these, the government of Belize has taken steps to stop child labor, such as working on bills that help others identify child labor situations and updating its Child Labor Policy to add additional protection for children. It also established a Child Labor Secretariat that works on identifying and reporting child labor cases.

Fairtrade and the BSCFA have made significant strides in protecting the rights of sugar cane farmers while expanding the economy. These efforts are lifting people out of poverty and ensuring that fairness prevails.

– Mikayla Burton
Photo: Flickr

Ben & Jerry's Pays Cocoa Farmers a Living WageWith 75 flavors spanning from classic Vanilla and Chocolate Fudge Brownie to Phish Food and Chunky Monkey, Ben & Jerry’s operates in 38 countries. Yet, the ultra-popular brand name signifies more than a tasty frozen treat. For much of its history, Ben & Jerry’s has been an outspoken supporter of social justice movements.  Ben & Jerry’s most recent efforts to create a more equitable future prioritize providing a living wage to cocoa farmers in West Africa.

Cocoa Farming in West Africa

The vast majority of the world’s cocoa beans are grown in West Africa, and especially in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Côte d’Ivoire alone exports 30% of cocoa beans sold to such chocolate makers as Nestlé and Mars.  The global chocolate market is a large one. It generates huge profits for the mostly European manufacturers who create chocolate bars and other sweets. In addition, it is extremely profitable for the retailers who sell these products on their shelves.  In 2014, for instance, sales for chocolate confectionary added up to $100 billion.

The value chain is incredibly lopsided, though. Côte d’Ivoire exports more cocoa beans than anywhere else in the world. Around 25% of the country’s population relies upon income generated from cocoa.  Yet these cocoa farmers earn barely $1 per day, less than the $1.90 that marks the extreme poverty line. International sales for chocolate depend upon these farmers and their laborers, but they will see just over 5% of a chocolate bar’s final value.

Cocoa farmers have long faced the challenge of a volatile market since predicted demand and harvest yields can drive prices up or down. Tim Adams highlighted this problem in The Guardian after the price Côte d’Ivoire farmers received fell sharply in 2017. At the same time, Barry Callebaut, which ranks among the world’s biggest cocoa processors and chocolate manufacturers, earned 12% more the next year, with a profit of $288 million.

Improving the Supply Chain with Fairtrade

Fairtrade International is one organization working to change this disparity. Since its founding in 1994, Fairtrade has sought to give small producers a square deal by creating more transparency in the supply chain. Although the organization now works with farmers on multiple continents growing a wide variety of crops—including bananas, tealeaves, sugar cane and coffee beans—cocoa was one of its first targets. This has meant that buyers of any Fairtrade-certified chocolate bar can be sure that:

  1. The Fairtrade Minimum Price cocoa farmers receive is geared towards covering production costs, even when prices fall.
  2. Farmers also receive a Fairtrade Premium that they can use to pay for any project they wish. In the past, these have included buying new trees and improving storage facilities.
  3. Cocoa producers agree to provide good working conditions for their hired workers. Discrimination, forced labor and child labor are all banned.

Finally, Fairtrade is working to establish living incomes for small-scale farmers and agricultural workers, over and above nationally set minimum wages. According to Fairtrade, a living income should allow people to afford nutritious food, decent housing and other essential needs with a small amount set aside to pay for unexpected emergencies.

Ben & Jerry’s Commitment

Here is where the ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s is stepping up to help the cocoa farmers. The company is a longtime supporter of Fairtrade. Additionally, it has paid millions in Fairtrade Premiums to small-scale farmers growing key ingredients like cocoa. Now, however, Ben & Jerry’s has committed to paying higher prices so that 5,000 farmers in Côte d’Ivoire will earn $600,000 more per year. Divided equally, each farmer will receive about $120 in additional income.

While the price increase will not immediately fill the gap between minimum wages and a living income, Ben & Jerry’s Chief of Social Mission Dave Rapaport has hopes for the future. He told Forbes that Ben & Jerry’s work with Fairtrade is an integral part of a larger strategy—and not just in Côte d’Ivoire. “This is one further step on a longer-term journey that will continue for us,” he said, “[because] we are really committed to helping farmers in our supply chain obtain living incomes and we will be expanding those efforts to supply chains beyond cocoa.”

Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Cocoa Farmers in Africa
As the fourth largest export in the world, cocoa production has been a part of the global market ever since its introduction to Nigeria in 1984. Many big brand chocolate and ice cream companies such as Mars, Hershey and Snickers are dependent on this market, though much of the revenue does not go towards cocoa farmers or workers. In 2014, chocolate sales reached up to $100 billion, yet cocoa farmers were living off a wage of $1.25 per day. Here is some information about cocoa farmers in Africa and how Ben & Jerry’s supports them.

Child Labor in Cocoa Farming

With rising demands for cocoa production and insufficient compensation, cocoa farmers in Africa are less reluctant to discontinue the use of child labor. A study from the University of Chicago reported that about 1.6 million children work in cocoa farms, mostly found in Ghana and Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire)—the two largest cocoa production sites. Ghana and Ivory Coast occupy two-thirds of the world’s cocoa bean production, both of which exploit poor children as young as 5-years-old that need to support their families.

Despite the slowed rates of child labor in Africa’s cocoa production, farmers and working children struggle to maintain any comfortable income to support themselves. Cocoa trees take years to cultivate and harvest, which is too time-consuming for a volatile and unreliable market price. Nongovernmental organizations that strive to end child labor in Africa speculate that the cocoa farmer’s insufficient income stems from supply chains. Although programs are in place to reduce child labor and raise farmers in the supply chain to be self-sufficient, cocoa production does not yield enough to combat poverty among the farmers and workers in the industry.

Ben & Jerry’s and Fairtrade

On Nov. 17, 2020, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brand released a statement that announced its commitment to paying a livable wage to the cocoa farmers in Africa. In partnership with Fairtrade, Ben & Jerry’s plans to allocate funds towards Fairtrade’s Premiums, which are supplemental bonuses that farmers receive for quality work. With extra funding, cocoa farmers have been able to build health facilities and install essential services such as a water pump or solar panels.

Fairtrade also released its new mission statement to provide a livable income for its workers in the cocoa sector. By focusing on multidimensional poverty alleviation for cocoa workers, Fairtrade plans to allocate funds to implement assistant programs, make partnerships to push for sustainability, and push for policies to protect small stakeholders in poverty. By collaborating with Ben & Jerry’s, both brands guarantee financial support towards the 168,000 cocoa farmers abiding by environmentally-friendly structures and producing quality ingredients.

Looking Forward

Ben & Jerry’s continues to promote Fairtrade and the push for liveable wages in Ivory Coast and Ghana’s cocoa bean plantations. In its recent statement, it announced, “As part of our new price commitment for the cocoa we will work with Fairtrade to evaluate and be sure we are making a positive difference for farmers.” By marking its Fairtrade partnership on cocoa-based ice creams, Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie will now be a reminder that consumers are supporting businesses in Africa.

– Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr

Benefits of FecovitaFecovita stands for the Federation of Argentine Viticulture Cooperatives; this group comprises 5,000 winegrowers that makeup 29 cooperatives. This group’s control of the wine market totals at 22 percent, with it owning roughly 30,000 hectares of land as of 2015 and producing over 260 million liters of wine in 2014. There are many benefits of Fecovita throughout Argentina. 

Fairtrade Advantages

The wineries that benefit from Fecovita operate as officially recognized Fairtrade producers. In this case, Fairtrade is an accredited certification company that works to provide a more equitable trade system for farmers and workers across the globe. Only four countries out of the 50 wine-producing countries in the world adopt Fairtrade labeling for their wine products including South Africa, Lebanon, Chile and Argentina.

Fairtrade labeling in Argentina has led to a floor price for grapes, which allows farmers to receive proper wages as well as improvements in farming practices, education and health care. As a result of Fairtrade labeling, workers have also been able to receive eye and dental care, help with nutrition and even community support for schools and health centers. 

Additional Benefits of Fecovita

The wine industry in Argentina has grown to thrive off of the foreign market. The Federation has provided small cooperatives with a seat at the negotiating table with much larger foreign and domestic wineries. As of 2015, Mendoza, a province to the west of Buenos Aires, supplied 70 percent of the world’s Malbec, becoming a massive wine influencer. Although reliance on exporting wine creates a sensitive reaction to the global economy, cooperatives and the contratista (contractor) system have helped to shield workers from this instability.

The contratista system entitles workers to a percentage of total grape sales every year, providing a voice when the meetings occur. Viñasol, an association of small wine companies, has used the extra profits that Fairtrade obtained for computer education for the children of the contract workers and also gave some money to a worker who was constructing a home for his family.  

Additionally, to ensure the production of quality products, Fecovita offers education and technical assistance. Some examples include the purchase of equipment, fertilizers and pesticides for individual members. The Federation also offers to local cooperatives for other necessary equipment, such as netting to prevent hail damage. Further, the cooperatives are able to transport the wine to the bottling facility just outside of Mendoza without cost.

All of these services come at a high cost that the cooperatives would not be able to afford without the support from key investors. Due to these investments, there are profound benefits to Fecovita. 

Altogether, the benefits of Fecovita have provided smaller vineyards and wineries the leverage needed to greatly impact markets and the support required to maintain stability for the businesses and the workers.

Scott Boyce
Photo: Flickr

Support Women in PovertyHelping those in need begins with the basics. The same is true when it comes to helping women in poverty. There are simple, actionable ways to change the lives of these marginalized groups. Becoming mindful consumers, giving to reputable charities and raising an impactful voice are ways to support women in poverty.

Mindful Consumption

One should be mindful of where their purchases come from when they purchase food, drink or clothing. Becoming a conscious consumer can directly support women in poverty. It is a simple lifestyle choice that results in purposeful outcomes.

Many jobs and markets exploit women by giving women unfair prices for the goods they produce or work in unsafe environments. Fairtrade is one of the leading establishments coming together to ensure women around the world are not taken advantage of. This cooperative set forth stringent standards on what qualifies as responsibly sourced goods. Items that qualify carry the “Fairtrade Mark,” which allows consumers to know they are spending money where it counts the most.

The sourcing of general products may originate from human trafficking rings. In these rings, forced labor produces goods. When consumers purchase items that have unethical roots, they inadvertently fund those crimes to continue. More than 70 percent of individuals that endure trafficking are females and they must work under horrifying conditions without pay. Consumers can download and use applications like Free2Work, which informs the public of the behind-the-scenes of where their money goes.

Charity

Financially supporting nonprofits with missions to uplift women out of poverty is crucial. Various reputable nonprofits focus on a wide range of obstacles that women face. A core issue is making sure these women have the available resources necessary to receive an education. Funding for schools in impoverished rural areas is one battle. However, females encounter other challenges that cause them to miss or stop attending school altogether.

Girls around the world who lack access to menstrual education and products miss at least one week of schooling every month during her period. This holds girls back and can lead to them dropping out of school altogether. The organization AFRIpads recognizes this crisis and has made it its mission to address it. AFRIpads supplies reusable menstruation pads to regions where girls do not have access to sanitary products. With this simple and effective solution, many girls can attend class no matter the time of the month. Small donations to a cause like AFRIpad’s will help the continued support of women in poverty.

Another reason girls drop out of school is due to unplanned pregnancies. Nonprofits like Global Health Partnerships (GHP) prioritize providing birth control to women and empowering family planning. When The Borgen Project had a chance to speak with the Vice President of GHP, Dr. Ruth O’Keefe, she spoke about the impact that providing Depo shots to villages in Kenya makes. “I’ve never seen a calendar in anyone’s house, but they all know exactly when it’s time to get their next shot,” she said. It is evident that GHP has empowered women to utilize family planning. Meaningful causes to support women in poverty like GHP’s become sustainable through donations.

Voice

When it comes to fighting for the underdog, every voice matters. Writing to members of Congress lets leaders know how significant funding for vital poverty acts is. Breaking the cycle of poverty starts at the education level. Providing this betterment opportunity for women allows people to help them so they can help themselves. Reaching out to local and national media channels is another useful action. Sending messages to news sources is a great way to have one’s voice heard. The increase in coverage of women in poverty will raise greater awareness and support for this humanitarian matter, and in turn, bring more legislators attention to it as well.

Raising a voice to support women in poverty costs little time and effort. Meanwhile, it can change the lives of so many women. Straightforward actions support women in poverty. Voicing opinions on this issue helps legislators focus on this matter. Financially supporting those who make a difference every day in marginalized communities is crucial.

Ariana Kiessling
Photo: Flickr