Fair Trade: A lever for resilience and adaptation to the effects of climate change

The poorest are also the most vulnerable to natural disasters

Scientific studies indicate that coffee, cocoa, tea or cotton crops will be among the most affected in the coming decades by rising temperatures and scarcity of natural resources. We even wonder if these raw materials will still be available in 30 years. In fact, increases in temperature and humidity caused by global warming are helping the emergence and spread of new plant diseases and pests in crops that we don’t necessarily know how to treat and that are very devastating. This is the case with coffee rust, for example, which invaded 50% of the production area in Central America and decimated coffee trees.

Producers in developing countries are, and therefore will be, the most affected by these climatic phenomena, since their income depends mainly on the volume of their production. And they are already economically weak, and they do not have the means to make up for this lack of income or to fight these new threats by making the necessary investments.

It is therefore impossible to imagine fighting inequality and poverty on a planetary scale without taking into account climatic and environmental norms, and vice versa. Without economic justice there can be no climate efficiency. For all of these reasons, the Fairtrade/Max Havelaar movement’s core commitment to economic justice is paired with environmental action to support producers toward resilience and adaptation to these key challenges.

Hector Hermelo Perdomo, a coffee grower for the COCASJOL cooperative in Honduras, notes the damage caused by Hurricanes Eta and Eta.

Credit: Sean Hook

Is eating a product that comes from a faraway place a disaster for the environment?

Some products, such as cocoa, coffee and bananas, can only be grown in the Southern Hemisphere for climatic reasons. And when we want to choose responsible consumption, we ask about the effect of imported products. Contrary to what one might think, in the life cycle of a product, the transport stage is not the most carbon intensive.

In fact, in the food sector, the majority of carbon dioxide emissions result from agricultural production and roads. Thus, intensive and industrial agriculture has a negative impact on the planet more than other modes. At the production stage, the main environmental risks enter: water pollution, soil depletion, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, health problems of the population.

Products grown on the other side of the planet can be part of responsible consumption, provided they are produced in a sustainable way that respects biodiversity. And to reach the consumer by means of transportation with the least possible impact.

Strict environmental standards in specifications to preserve the environment

If producers can be severely affected by natural disasters, producers will have a direct and essential role in the fight against climate change. Environmentally unsustainable agricultural production methods can degrade the soil balance and biodiversity, and ultimately accelerate climate change. It’s a vicious cycle. That’s why the Fairtrade / Max Havelaar brand includes strict environmental standards in its specifications, as well as a range of social and economic commitments.

The rules that must be respected include, for example, the prohibition of the use of pesticides that are considered the most dangerous, the use of biological control as soon as possible, the controlled management of water with restoration and optimization of consumption, the prohibition of genetically modified organisms, the study and conservation of biodiversity in the plots Or even sustainable waste treatment. Producers benefit from technical support and training from members of the Fairtrade / Max Havelaar Producer Networks.

Training in Good Agricultural Practices on a Cocoa Farm, Acopagro, Peru. Credit: World Foodorama

Rewarding development at the service of agro-ecological transformation

The development bonus received by cooperatives participating in the Fair Trade is a major collective lever. It is a collective investment tool for the future. Hence, some organizations use it to develop ambitious and innovative agro-environmental projects, to combat deforestation, improve agricultural practices and also projects to diversify sources of income so that producers are more resilient.

The Century Cooperative and Credit Society, in Mauritania, decided to invest the development bonus in culture

And harvest the green cane that respects the environment the most. Credit: Miora Rajonary.

This is determined, for example, by members of the cooperative Cocavol In Honduras with the implementation of agroforestry experiments. Organic coffee plants were grown along with high-density biomass forages, shade trees and nitrogen-fixing plants on 30 test plots. At the same time, the cooperative has developed a nursery of 8000 fruit tree seedlings that 200 producers will be able to replant next to their coffee trees.

In addition to growing members’ food resources and diversifying the Cocafelol Cooperative’s income, agroforestry provides protection for coffee plants from bad weather or the sun. This mode of operation also makes it possible to restore soil fertility, store carbon and reduce water pollution.

Encouraging the transition to membership in the fair trade sectors

Fair Trade does not necessarily mean organic. But these are two complementary approaches that reinforce each other. Moreover, in France, more than 85% of products bearing the Fairtrade / Max Havelaar label are also labeled “Organic Agriculture”.

Today, the movement encourages labeled producers to switch to organic products. Those who grow organically receive higher rewards for their products. Arabica coffee, with a mandatory minimum price of $1.40 per pound, is purchased for $1.70 per product when organic, and $1.90 in total including development premium.

In addition to this financial boost, producers wishing to switch to organic products also benefit from technical support. Specific Network Consultants support them in the field and train them on these changes in practice.

Finally, the Fairtrade/Max Havelaar movement encourages labor organizations to invest their development rewards in the transition to organic farming. For example, thanks to the development bonus, co-op Konakaduheadquartered in the Dominican Republic, has funded a multi-year plan to shift to organic cocoa cultivation. The Bolivian cooperative ANAPKOYwhich specializes in the cultivation of quinoa, decided to cover with this assistance the costs associated with obtaining the organic certification.

Preparing and training climate change managers

To train producers on environmental issues, the Fairtrade/Max Havelaar movement has created dedicated programs. In Ecuador, Bolivia, Guatemala and Nicaragua, 112 young people from 41 organizations accredited by Fairtrade/Max Havelaar participated in the climate driving academy. This program aims to train tomorrow’s leaders to face the consequences of climate change.

In Kenya, a Climate Academy which was also created and brought together 8,500 farmers. As part of this training, they were able to discover the benefits of new agricultural techniques, for example, planting 20% ​​more shade trees in coffee production plots.

Training on a coffee plantation at the Climate Academy in Kenya – Credit: Fairtrade Netherlands.

Photo caption: Mao is a Fair Trade Certified Banana Producer/Max Havelaar within the BANELINO Cooperative in the Dominican Republic. He works in the nursery to grow new plants and develop solutions to combat climate change. credit: James Rodriguez

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