Spotlight on Producers:

March 25, 2010

SOUTH AFRICA:  The Highveld Cooperative
Like Mma Ramotswe in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novels, I’m a huge fan of “redbush” or “rooibos” tea.  So it was wonderful to discover that it’s possible to get Fairtrade Rooibos from South Africa.

Much of the organic Fairtrade rooibos available comes from two cooperatives: The Heiveld Cooperative and The Wuppertal Cooperative. The Heiveld Cooperative, established by 14 smallholder farmers in 2001, started under difficult circumstances. The Suid Bokkeveld, where the Cooperative is located, is quite isolated, and members’ live at a distance from each other. Prior to 1994, black South Africans were prohibited from organising cooperatives. The legacies of apartheid remained powerful even after the system itself was dismantled, and many rooibos farmers, lacking training and an understanding of markets, were selling to local traders at low prices. The organisation of the Heiveld Cooperative began the process of empowering the farmers involved; Fairtrade has hastened that process by trebling the price they received for their goods and enabling them to invest in their own equipment, so that they are no longer dependent on larger landowners. The farmers are now managing the packaging, processing and export of the tea themselves, and supporting a variety of business-related projects to improve women’s livelihoods and care for the environment.

To find out more, visit the FLO article on Heiveld here,  the Cooperative’s own website here, or the Equal Exchange website here.

PALESTINE:  Zaytoun Olive Oil

The situation in Palestine continues to be bleak.  Fair Trade is relevant here in that it brings hope to a seemingly hopeless scenario.  Here is an extract from the first 2010 Zaytoun Newsletter:

“Welcome to our first newsletter of 2010! Happy New Year to you all. As we start 2010 the situation in Palestine in many respects continues to be bleak. It is a year since Israel’s war on Gaza killed over 1400 people and the effects of the ongoing closure on all borders of Gaza see the population having to rely on tunnels and charity for passage of food and medical supplies. Zaytoun is still hoping that we can resume trade with the women’s cous cous coop in Gaza in the near future, the Israeli closure of the borders have prevented any trade with this group since 2006.

As we have mentioned in previous newsletters the 2009 olive harvest in Palestine has brought a very low yield; the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees cite it as being the worst in 30 years. The farmers we work with ask that we do stick with them through this hard year and also that we focus on building markets for other products. Whilst the politicians allow the continuation of the siege on Gaza, the expansion of illegal settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and the ongoing military occupation, we at Zaytoun are energised to be working with all of you in seeking constructive avenues in which we can work with our colleagues in Palestine. Looking forward to the next year to aim high to create new and sustainable markets for Palestinian products.”

Going Deeper –  the Fairtrade Premium
Most people know that Fairtrade involves producers’ getting a stable price for their products that covers the costs of sustainable production and a basic cost of living. What they tend to be less clear on is the Fairtrade premium — the additional money (normally a percentage of the Fairtrade price multiplied by the amount of product sold on the Fairtrade market) that is received for community development. This premium is, however, a key part of the way that Fairtrade enables sustainable development.

If you would like to “go deeper” and find out more about the premium, why not have a look at the guidance materials that the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO) has prepared for producer groups? It’s available here, and gives both an explanation of what the premium is and how groups are accountable for using it. Interesting and helpful stuff.

New Fairtrade Products
You can now buy Fairtrade melons (Asda and Morrison’s) and a wide range of Fairtrade bodycare products (26 at Boots, as well as a number available from smaller shops). In addition, last year the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation expanded its standards to cover all herbs and spices, so look for a wide range of Fairtrade cooking ingredients to appear in shops.