Fair trade protects farmers from exploitation

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For decades, farmers have difficulties especially in marketing of farm produce. Many have been exploited especially because of the traditional way of agribusiness, where making profit is more important than safeguarding the livelihoods of farmers.

Civil society movements in Europe have, however, questioned the global free market system that emphasizes on demand and supply at the expense of agricultural production systems.

The campaigners insisted that prices of farm produce should be directly related to the actual production costs where all producers are given free and equal access to markets. The campaigners started what is called the fair trade movement. Its aim was to ensure that the poor and disadvantaged farmers in developing countries were on the world market. They wanted to stop the exploitation of farmers and foreign dominance in the marketing of agricultural products.

As a result of the campaign to fight for the rights of farmers, the World Fair Trade Organization was started in 1989.

Principles of fair trade

The WFTO operates on 10 basic principles:

Principle One: Creating opportunities for disadvantaged farmers

The Fair Trade Organization supports small-scale farmers in family businesses, farmers’ groups, associations or cooperatives, who are often marginalized. It works to change farmers from income insecurity and poverty to self-sufficiency and ownership.

Principle Two: Transparency and accountability

The organization is transparent in its management and commercial relations. The organization uses appropriate, participatory methods that involve employees, members and small-scale farmers in its decision making processes. It ensures relevant information is provided to all its trading partners. Its communication channels are good and open at all levels of the supply chain. It is also accountable and respects the views of its stakeholders while maintaining confidentiality of commercial information supplied to it.


Fair trade ensures small scale farmers get a fair price for their produce and safe working conditions. It also ensures they engage in practices that protect the environment, promote gender equality and reduce child or forced labour.


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Principle Three: Fair trading practices

The organization trades with concern for social, economic and environmental well-being of marginalized small-scale farmers and does not maximize profit at their expense. It is responsible and professional in meeting its commitments in a timely manner. Suppliers respect contracts and deliver on time and to the desired quality and specifications. Fair trade buyers recognize the financial disadvantages of producers (farmers) and suppliers face, and ensure all orders are paid on time and according to agreed guidelines. Farmers under Fair Trade agreement can get a prepayment of up to 50% if they request usually at a reasonable interest rate. Buyers also consult with suppliers before cancellation or rejection of orders – adequate compensation is guaranteed for the work already done. The organization maintains long term relationships based on solidarity, trust and mutual respect that contributes to the promotion and growth of Fair Trade.

Principle Four: Payment of a fair price

Fair price means an acceptable payment that considers the circumstances of the producers and is based on what they consider to be fair. Fair trade marketing and importing organizations support capacity building to farmers to enable them set a fair price.

Principal Five: No child or forced labour

The organization does not allow any labour that involves children, and neither does it support forced labour. Organizations registered with WFTO do not buy goods produced using child or forced labour.

Principle Six: Commitment to non-discrimination, gender equity and women’s economic empowerment, freedom of association.

The organization does not discriminate in hiring, remuneration, access in training, promotion, termination or retirement based on race, caste, national origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, union membership, political affiliation, HIV status or age.

Principle Seven: Good working conditions

The organization provides for a safe and healthy working environment for employees/members. It complies with national and International Labour Organizations (ILO) conventions. It ensures working hours and conditions of employees, and complies with established national, local and ILO conventions. Employers are required to raise awareness of health and safety conditions affecting farmers or producers.

Principle Eight: Capacity building

The WFTO seeks to increase positive developmental impacts for marginalized small-scale producers through fair trade. The organization works directly with farmers to improve their management skills, production capabilities and access to markets. Organisations buying fair trade products assist to develop capacity of producers that they work with.

Principle Nine: Promoting fair trade

The organization raises awareness of the need for greater justice in the world trade through fair trade. It provides its members with information about itself, its markets, and farmers organizations that make or harvest the products. Honest advertising and marketing are promoted.

Principle Ten: Respect for environment

Producer organizations must use raw materials from sustainably managed resources. Their production technologies seek to reduce energy consumption and where possible use renewable energy that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The Fair Trade agricultural commodity producers minimize their environmental impacts by using organic or very low amounts of pesticides wherever possible.

Buyers and importers of fair trade products also give priority to buying products made from raw materials that originate from sustainably managed sources and which conserve the environment. All organizations buying fair trade products use recycled or easily biodegradable materials for packing. Goods are dispatched by sea wherever possible.

Products with a Fair Trade label fetch a premium in overseas markets. Already a few farmers groups in the Kenya growing crops such as macadamia nuts, coffee, tea and cashew nuts have registered and sell these commodities on Fair Trade.

Organic or conventional farmers interested in selling under Fair Trade label can get information on companies buying produce under Fair trade terms on the following address:

Fair Trade Labelling Organization

5th Avenue Office Suite, Room 8 & 9

5th Ngong Avenue, Ngong Road

PO Box 3308-00200

Nairobi, 00200 Kenya

+254 20 272 1930

Email: info@ fairtrade.or.ke

www.fairtrade.or.ke

>>> Share your experiences with TOF and fellow farmers. Send email toadmin@theorganicfarmer.org,  leave a comment below this article or SMS to 0715 916 136.

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