The Producer Relief and Resilience Funds will help farmers cope with short- and long-term challenges of the pandemic
Fairtrade International and including its U.S. chapter, Fairtrade America, champion the rapid growth of two new funds to aid farmers and workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by providing immediate support as well as relief for the anticipated long-term effects. As an organization seeking to better the lives of producers in developing countries, Fairtrade has currently raised over $3.9 million in both funds including seeding more than half of this amount. The Producer Resilience Fund accepts donations from retailers, businesses, non-governmental organizations, and government agencies and has collected over $3.1 million in pledges to date. If secured, the pledges combined with the existing funds would result in $7 million in additional support to producer groups.
From Africa to Latin America to Asia, producers of heavily relied upon crops such as coffee and cocoa have faced unforeseen challenges due to COVID-19. The new Fairtrade Producer Relief Fund provides immediate support to Fairtrade certified producers to purchase masks and basic protective and medical equipment, temporarily cover wages for suspended workers, set up local food security initiatives, raise awareness of safety precautions, build emergency medical facilities, and pay for business continuity costs. Looking towards the future, the Fairtrade Producer Resilience Fund will assist with impending long-term challenges expected to impact global supply chains and trade. This Fund provides economic interventions, such as business restoration, technology-based capacity building, programs to address human rights risks, strengthening finances to tackle future risks, and advocacy -- most of which will be felt by farmers in the next harvest season.
“Fairtrade America and our international system partners work everyday to better the lives of farmers and workers by helping them earn a fair wage,” said Bryan Lew, Chief Operating Officer, Fairtrade America. “The global pandemic is putting a severe strain on these hardworking people and their families. It is our duty to help ensure their health and well being and the viability of their livelihood in the future.”
Fairtrade producers growing the products we enjoy everyday are trying to adapt to the new challenges presented by the pandemic. For example:
Cocoa farmers in West Africa Fairtrade are expecting an increase in cases of child labor in their communities, rooted in increased poverty. Cocoa farmers are losing income due to challenges with transporting and exporting their crops. Cocoa communities are at risk for contracting COVID-19 because of a high rate of pre-existing health conditions resulting from poverty and poor nutrition, as well as a lack of adequate healthcare.
Coffee producers in Latin America face challenges with harvesting, transporting and exporting coffee beans. Wider economic downturn is expected to slow prices, which are already historically low. Prior to the pandemic, nearly 61% of coffee farmers sold their coffee at prices under the cost of sustainable production.
Flower producers in all origins, including Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Ecuador, continue to be severely impacted with widespread job losses and reduced workers employed on farms to sustain minimal activity.
“The crisis won’t end when COVID-19 stops spreading. We’re already seeing a global economic crisis looming,” said Nygagoy Nyong’o, Executive Director of Fairtrade Africa, the producer network covering Africa and the Middle East. “Farmers and workers are resilient and creative. This additional fund will enable them to identify opportunities or alternative business models, as well as continuing to invest in the future of their communities.”
Fairtrade America is calling on US businesses to contribute to the Producer Resilience Fund, which will be allocated to Fairtrade certified producer organizations on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis. The funds will be managed by Fairtrade’s regional producer networks, which support African, Asian and Latin American producers on the ground. For more information, please visit our COVID-19 information page.