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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

carbon footprint
It is a bold and innovative plan. A plan to reduce an entire country’s carbon footprint to almost zero, and Ethiopia plans on achieving it by 2025.  The scheme currently set into motion centers entirely around sugar.

Day to day life in Ethiopia relies heavily on sugar, from drinks to pastries, many of the daily activities of life require sugar.  So much so that Ethiopia can’t meet its own sugar demands and has to import 200,000 tons of sugar a year. The rising costs of petroleum used to refine the sugar has also increased the cost of sugar. Ethiopia does not produce its own oil and has to import petroleum as well.

Six years ago, the country decided to solve its own problems. It implemented hydroelectric, geothermal and wind energy. Ethiopia found it could produce molasses as a byproduct of sugar refinement. This molasses can then be turned into an ethanol-based bio-fuel. Co-generation, which is the use of agricultural waste to create energy, began to be explored as well.

There are currently three sugar plants in full production, which produce over 300,000 tons of sugar a year as well as 62MW of electricity due to co-generation and ethanol production. These numbers are a significant increase since the program began, when half of all power was used by the plant.

Gossaye Mengiste, Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, believes the country has the potential to produce 600MW of electricity once the 13 factories are complete.” Once complete, all 16 factories, including the three already in production,  are slated to generate enough exportable sugar to give it an earning projection of $300 million for the country.

In addition to making up the sugar deficit, there are almost no emissions produced by these sugar-based bio fuels when used in cars, stoves and generators. The elimination of car emissions is one of the biggest steps to reducing the country’s carbon footprint and achieving its stated goal of zero emissions by 2025.

These ambitious talks have come under fire by some, who say that it is a “condescending plan drawn up mainly by people living in highland areas but affecting the lowland population.” Sugar plantations require huge tracts of land. Pastoralists are the ones to which many officials are turning. The pastoralist people are southern nomadic groups that herd grazing animals from pasture to pasture. They comprise roughly 11 percent of the population and use about 63 percent of the land.

The Ethiopian Sugar Development Agency cautioned the government about this as early as 2008 saying, “Government’s strong support in clearly defining the policy with respect to bagasse energy development is critical to the successful achievements of substituting bagasse cogeneration for imported fossil fuels or diversifying electric energy source based on renewable energy source.”

Frederick Wood II

Sources: New Agriculture Trust, ESI-Africa, Gasand Oil
Photo: Flickr

Sugar Does Not Sweet in Nigeria
When seeing the productive land for sugar, northern Nigerian farmers have expressed frustration because they say that productivity is wasted without big-time local buyers. Farmers sell sugar cane as snacks on the street while the country imports 97 percent of the sugar it consumes.

Mallam Usman Abdu Gubuci describes himself as one of the sugar-farming “giants” in his area, with five hectares of land. He states that his part of northern Nigeria could be a major supplier of sugar to West Africa, but that farmers no longer even bother to grow sugar that can be refined. “There is special sugar cane for that sugar, which we were introduced with. But when we planted it, there was no buyer… so we ended up wasting our money,” said Gubuci.

Sugar officials say Nigeria spent $620 million on sugar imports in 2012, and they do not expect that number to decline soon.

Hajiya Bilkisu Mohammed, who heads the Association of Women Farmers in northern Nigeria, asserts that part of the reason local farmers cannot sell sugar for refining is that factories in this part of Nigeria have to battle constant electrical shortages. The factories must rely on expensive generators, driving up costs and making their products more expensive.

The Nigerian government also has announced plans to reduce imports of other food products in recent months. In January, President Goodluck Jonathan promised to increase food production by 20 million metric tons by 2015. He announced that increased food production will create 3.5 million jobs and reduce Nigeria’s dependence on imports.

Lack of electricity may be just one reason for the heavy costs of production. Local areas may also need more advertisements. Furthermore, the lack of proper and efficient infrastructure does not allow sugar to be transported effectively within Nigeria.

Potential for economic success is usually accompanied by challenges. For the Nigerian sugar industry, government support and intervention are needed. The local sugar industry needs to help from different directions. To start, it would be advantageous if the government were able to solve the shortage of electricity for factories and give some strategic policy and financial support to cut down the cost of sugar production. Additionally, it is important for the government to strengthen sugar and trade facilities, and transportation infrastructure. Offering more benefits and welfare to workers would attract more investment and encourage more people to get involved. In this way, local factories and farmers become more profitable and can expand their businesses. In this way, Nigeria would have the capacity to become a net exporter of sugar.

– Caiqing Jin(Kelly)

Source: VOA
Photo Source: ROPAfrica