Fair Trade Alliance of Kerala, (FTAK) a 4500-member co-operative of small farmers in southern India, has created an exciting initiative to articulate and put into practice what most fair trade farmer co-operatives understand empirically. Fair Trade is important but it’s simply not enough. It’s a starting point; a means to an end; certainly not the end itself. Like kicking off the day with a well-balanced breakfast, selling cash crops on fair trade terms is a foundation from which so much else becomes more possible. But, like the role that a healthy breakfast plays in someone’s day, it is what comes afterwards that brings true community empowerment, development, and social change. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘Food security’
Posted in Fair Trade, small farmer co-operatives, small farmers, fair trade, food security, food sovereig, Uncategorized, tagged Fair Trade, Food security, small farmer co-operatives on March 13, 2014| 1 Comment »
The following article was written by Phyllis Robinson and Lilian Autler of Grassroots International.
Anita Cecila Garcia Cruz, of Confianza community
Member of the CEPCO General Assembly (photo courtesy of Grassroots International)
Times are tough for rural communities in Mexico right now – as they are for small farmers throughout the world. Fair Trade coffee co-operatives have long offered their members concrete benefits – higher prices, credit, social programs, political clout, access to international solidarity networks, etc. These benefits have enabled many participating farmers to improve their economic conditions and their quality of life. In today’s economic climate, however, small farmers are taking the proverbial “one step forward, two steps back.” International trade agreements, national agriculture and economic policies that favor agribusiness and multi-nationals over small businesses and local communities, are making it harder for farmers to stay on their land, afford basic food staples, and care for their families.
Perhaps today more than ever, the chances of survival for a small-scale farmer are greatly multiplied if, rather than going it alone, they join with others to form a co-operative. If that co-operative happens to grow organic coffee and is certified Fair Trade, even better. Alternative Trade Organizations used to boast the slogan “Trade not Aid,” conveying the message that Fair Trade could change the balance of power and enable small farmers to find market niches and compete successfully in the marketplace. There’s something powerful in that message, but unfortunately political and economic power seems to be increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few; not the other way around. (more…)
The story of the CESMACH (Campesinos Ecológicos de la Sierra Madre de Chiapas) coffee co-operative in Mexico is a powerful example of what a group of far-sighted and tenacious farmers, with a commitment to protect the unique cloud forest in which they live, can accomplish when they set their minds to the task. Since 1995, when the co-operative was legally founded, the 270 coffee producers that live and farm within the buffer zone of the El Triunfo Biosphere, have dedicated themselves to organic farming as a way of protecting the Biosphere’s fragile resources and to create a more sustainable life for themselves and their families. Please read their story as they told it to us.
The CESMACH farmers are located in the Sierra Madre mountains in the southwestern part of the Mexican state of Chiapas. They farm within the buffer zone of El Triunfo, a U.N.- designated biosphere, rich in flora and fauna, containing many endangered and protected species. Within the nucleus of the biosphere, agricultural activities are not permitted as the area contains many endangered and protected species. Organic farming is allowed in the buffer zone, which separates the biosphere from the surrounding region, as long as it is done in accordance with a strict set of standards designed to protect the fragile environment of the rain and cloud forest.
Equal Exchange has been working with the CESMACH co-operative since 2005 when we offered to buy 10 containers of their coffee – 60% of their total production. Since that year, our relationship has been steadily growing. In 2008, we brought our first group of visitors, representatives of food co-ops across the United States, to visit the farmers. It was during this visit, that the founders of CESMACH told us the enthralling story of how they transformed themselves from individual farmers to a strong and visionary co-operative business selling high quality, organic coffee. “It’s been a very long road to get here, and when we started it was just a dream,” Victorico Velasquez Morales, a founding member and former CESMACH president told our group.
CESMACH has had tremendous success selling its members’ coffee into the specialty coffee market, thereby keeping the communities unified and raising their members’ standard of living. Still, the farmers live in highly marginalized communities and they face many critical social and economic challenges. Coffee is the only source of income for most farmers in this region and they are economically dependent on their individual plots which average only five acres.
Consequently, the CESMACH farmers have decided not only to become the supplier of the highest quality, organic coffee in the region, but to create and implement a variety of social development and environmental projects which will benefit its members and the fragile Biosphere in which they live. Three years ago, the co-operative leadership began actively working with the women members and the wives of members to implement small individual patio gardens and collective chicken farms in order to both diversify their families’ diets and to generate additional income. (more…)
The Via Campesina, the largest organization of small farmers in the world, has long advocated for changes in our agriculture and trade policies. For the past decade, they have been promoting the principles of Food Sovereignty as a way forward to protect rural communities, our food system, and the planet. As a movement that originated with small farmers in the South, there is much to learn from their concerns and their proposals. In a future blog article, I’ll talk more about the overlap between the Food Sovereignty and Fair Trade movements.
For now however, I’d like to just introduce you to some of the concepts being discussed in the Food Sovereignty movement…
A few months ago, I came across a very well-written and powerful article published by Food First, entitled, “Small farms as a planetary ecological asset: Five key reasons why we should support the revitalization of small farms in the Global South”, by Miguel A. Altieri, President of the Sociedad Cientifica LatinoAmericana de Agroecologia and Professor of Agroecology at the University of California, Berkeley. If you had any doubts about why small farmers are essential to our planet and our food system, and why we believe it is critical to support them, this article should answer any lingering questions.
I encourage you all to follow the link to his full article. Initially, I thought I might just try to summarize Altieri’s main points for those of you who might not have time to read the full article. To be perfectly honest, however, Altieri is so articulate and his points so well-made, I found it impossible to condense. So instead, and I hope he will forgive me, I’ve simply extracted many of his arguments verbatim.
Altieri identifies “…five reasons why it’s in the interest of Northern consumers to support the cause and struggle of small farmers in the South.” The following are excerpts taken directly from his article:
Farmers protest record profits of corporations while millions across the world are going hungry.
Alexandra Strickner, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)
Rome, Italy, 3 June 2008
Watch the 3 minute video on http://wsftv.net
Farmer and civil society leaders carrying out a peaceful action today in Rome, Italy at the FAO Summit on the Food Crisis were forcefully removed from the premises. At around 1:30pm farmers and representatives of civil society organizations staged an action at the press room to deliver a message that millions of additional people are joining the ranks of the hungry as the corporations that control the global food system are making record profits.
The issues of corporate control and speculation, which are leading causes of recent spikes in food prices, are not being discussed by the government delegations and the international agencies meeting in Rome to debate solutions to the crisis.
“We are outraged that such fundamental aspects of the food crisis were nowhere on the agenda for the Summit,” says Paul Nicholson, member of the International Coordinating Committee of Via Campesina and one of the farmer leaders who was expelled from the Summit. (more…)
Farmers mobilize around the world and propose solutions to the food price crisis
PRESS RELEASE FROM VIA CAMPESINA
Small farmer organizations and their allies are today celebrating the International Day of Peasants’ Struggle commemorating the massacre of 19 landless workers, women and men struggling for land in Brazil 12 years ago. Today dozens of groups, communities and organizations in more than 25 countries around the world are organizing more than 50 actions such as farmer’s markets, conferences, direct actions, cultural activities and demonstrations to defend their right to food and their right to feed their communities.