In most parts of the world, COVID-19 has now been part of our day-to-day for almost a year. It can be easy to forget, but this is also the case for millions of farmers and workers. In spite of the ongoing pandemic they keep working in fields and factories to produce the food and drink we love, trying to stay safe while also struggling to cover their spiraling production costs. They have also shown incredible innovation and resilience in doing so.
At Fairtrade we felt compelled to act and better support our farmers and workers. Last year, via several partners, we secured more than $17M in Covid-19 relief and recovery funding to enable Fairtrade producer organizations to keep their communities safe and start working towards long term economic recovery.
So far, it has helped to provide masks and protective equipment for farmers and plantation workers (who can’t work from home to produce the food on our store shelves), provided healthcare in places where the already fragile healthcare systems struggled to cope, and much more. Here are some examples of the impact to date.
Fairtrade stands together
Together with our partners, at Fairtrade we are running several activities to support farmers and workers against the negative effects of COVID-19.
Activities are carried out in 57 countries across Asia, Africa and Central and Latin America
Benefiting more than 900 producer organizations
The Relief & Resilience Funds will positively impact the lives of over 540,000 farmers and workers.
The funds could not have come at a better time. We have faced serious financial difficulties because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds have made it possible for us to support our workers by providing food during the time it is needed most. This goes a long way to helping us along our path to economic recovery.Producer representative from SCOOPS-COODIG, a cocoa cooprative in West Africa
Ensuring safe working conditions for tea workers
In Asia Pacific one of the organizations impacted was Hatton Plantations Limited, a multi-estate tea plantation in Sri Lanka. Not only did COVID-19 mean that the estate struggled to export their tea when shipping ports closed, but they also had to make drastic changes to their daily operations to ensure a safe working environment for their employees.
To achieve this, over 50 volunteers joined a COVID-19 taskforce to help prevent the spread of infection. Using Fairtrade funds they distributed medical essentials and protective gear, including over 30,000 reusable masks, sanitiser bottles, and disinfectant among the workers in the tea gardens.
“Through the Fairtrade Relief Initiative, we were provided with a fully equipped personal protective gear. All the five divisions in the estate have also received face masks, hand sanitisers for the entire work force. Our workers can now work safely in a protected environment. On behalf of the workers and the management of Dickoya Estate I sincerely extend our gratitude to Fairtrade, its partners, and the local liaison staff for facilitating this project.”
R. Murali, a tea worker in the Dickoya Estate.
Accessing healthcare and medication
Here is a story from a cocoa cooperative in Peru, APROCAM. At the height of the pandemic, Peru’s healthcare system struggled to cope, particularly in some rural areas such as those where many of APROCAM’s member farmers live. In some cases, doctors and nurses patients did not even have the right medicine or equipment to treat their patients.
With the funds, APROCAM coordinated with local authorities to provide vital medicine and protection kits to areas with high rates of infection. They then were able to provide assistance to their members by medical staff from local health authorities. In addition, the organization secured masks and kits with medicine and sanitizer particularly during the critical months up to October, when the COVID-19 infection rates began to stabilize.
These fund granted health care services to 60 producers part of native indigenous communities and 30 additional families in the rural areas of Copallin, La Peca, Cajaruro, El Parco, Aramango.
“In the months of the pandemic, they have helped us with masks to protect ourselves and have continued buying our products and at the end of the year they gave us food supplies, and I want to thank all the support they have given us. Thank you”
Faustina Jimenez Hernández, APROCAM associate.
APROCAM also received funds to help them cover their increased production costs. This allowed the organization to reactivate its collection centers and export to the international market, benefiting its 246 members. The organization was also able to hire seven temporary workers to help with the collection and processing of cocoa to fulfill their contractual orders as many members were ill or unable to take on this task during the pandemic.
Keeping communities safe, while generating extra income
Going to Africa, let’s take a look at the West Akyem Cooperative Union, in Ghana. Due to strict restrictions implemented to prevent spread of infection rates, they struggled to sell their cocoa, with a lot of working capital tied up in stocks that could not reach the market. They received no new sales contracts from buyers in 2020, and farmers, unable to sell, struggled more than ever to make ends meet.
As part of their activities to work on recovery, the Fairtrade funds enabled women groups in the cooperative to start making liquid soaps. This great project has two benefits – the cooperative distributes the soap to its members to promote handwashing as part of its COVID prevention campaign, and the women can also sell the soap to generate extra income for themselves and their families.
“The production of liquid soaps by the women’s group and the youth of West Akyim Cooperative Union has the potential to create jobs and increase their income. The adverse effects of Covid-19 have been so devastating and therefore this fund has come at the right time’’
Sampson Edu Essel, President – West Akyim Cooperative Union, Ghana
More to come:
These are just some examples, and many more activities are being rolled out across all regions to support farmers and workers to stay safe, and build their resilience to the long term economic impacts of COVID-19. Stay-tuned for more updates and in the meantime, continue to choose Fairtrade and support farmers and workers around the world to rebuild their livelihoods and make a fairer world.
Our partners include:
- German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in cooperation with the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ);
- Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO);
- British Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO); via the Vulnerable Supply Chains Facility (VSCF) set up by the FCDO in August
- Impact investor Incofin IM;
- and Fairtrade member organizations’ own funds
We’re in this together
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