For fair trade to make a real and lasting difference for its intended beneficiaries (small-farmers and farm-workers), it has to provide more than just money. It has also to allow meaningful engagement by beneficiaries in all aspects of fair trade’s decision-making and governance.
Yet the reality is that they are the least represented stakeholders in the system.
EMG's work in this field aims to:
You might get a more tangible sense of the context we work in through one of EMG's "Untold Stories". In this case, we try to capture some of the struggles of a fictional farm-worker, Kobus February and the Place of Thorns
Bennet Malungane from Mabunda Farm writes in February’s AFIT newsletter that this is the culmination of a suggestion raised at the Ethiopia meeting last year.
Farm workers can now learn more about how they fit into the farming system, how the economy works, and the role of trade in the economy, through direct access to a free online training manual.
The manual was developed for the Association for Fairness in Trade (AFIT) by the Cape Town-based civil society organisation, the Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG), as part of their ongoing work to offer training and skills development for small scale farmers and farm workers.
The growth of fair trade in South Africa over the last few years has been exponential. There are currently over 40 agricultural entities who produce fruit, wine, tea and other goods for the international fair trade market. The small-scale farmers and farm-workers producing these goods are the direct beneficiaries of the system.
But there is more to fair trade than just money, and in practice, small-farmers and farm-workers are weakly represented in fair trade's governance structures. In 2005 a small group of South African fair trade beneficiaries decided to establish the Association for Fairness in Trade (AFIT), an exclusive network to represent their interests.
AFIT provides a platform for members to share knowledge, develop skills and unify their voice as they engage with and improve the fair trade system. AFIT is owned and directed by its members -- small-farmer and farm-worker organisations. Members use AFIT to build their capacity and to lobby for their needs. EMG currently acts as the network's Secretariat.
Rural farm-workers are amogst the most marginalised sectors in our society. Fair trade accredited producers are obliged to allow free assosciation and trade-union membership. We have been able to use our leverage with fair trade farms to run education and training for farm workers. In the longer term, fair trade farms should act as examples of good practice and hep expose the unsustainability of poor labour practices in the rest of the sector.
Training and capacity-building is a key focus of EMG's work in supporting fair trade beneficiaries. We run regular training events in conjunction with local FLO fieldworkers and trade-unions. The highlight of the year , and an annual 3-day Spring School
The fair trade movement began in the late 1950’s in response to the desire of socially-concious Northern consumers to support the development of Southern farmers and workers. These consumers understood that conventional global trade was driving unequal trading relationship and exploitative working conditions. By the 90s, the various fair and ethial trade initiatives had largely been consolidated under the Fairtrade International (FLO) which developed tools to assess and monitor the production and marketing chain and to ensure that producers were paid a "fair price" for their produce and that benefits went directly to the producers.
EMG has been involved in the governance of fair trade in South Africa and the region since the first South African producers were accredited. EMG staff member Mandy Moussouris is an active member of the board of Fair Trade South Africa and sits on the FLO Workers Rights Advisory Committee. Noel Oettle serves on the FLO International Board and the board of Fair Trade Africa.