Think 3EN and you think computers. You probably think of computers in Belfast or Bonn. Think again. For four years now 3EN has been helping Fairtrade International set up an integrated global system. Committed as the company has been to Fairtrade, I wasn't a bit surprised when they were quick to get involved in the Fairtrade Awards. We had decided to award the best Fairtrade Smallholder Group and Workers Committees in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Dale and Alison of 3EN took the idea one step further: why not give the groups an iPad as a prize? And 3EN offered to sponsor 6 of them, with the audit and certification body, FLOCERT covering the rest.
Competition for the prizes was hot, with applications rolling in from all over the world, putting the judges in a terrible position as they struggled to choose the six best producer groups in Fairtrade. But the choices were made and the prizes awarded.
Earlier this year I visited Harvest Limited’s farm, two dusty hours outside Nairobi in Kenya, where they grow beautiful spray roses. A smaller plantation, they were chuffed to bits to have won the Fairtrade Prize for Best Workers’ Committee in Africa and had immediately starting using their iPad prize to tweet (@HFairtrade) as their way of giving back to the Fairtrade community.
They also started using their iPad to do some research. Samuel Otieno, Chairman of the Workers Committee, explained how they decided about investing the extra Fairtrade Premiums they earned: they talked to the workers and did a local needs assessment, and then they looked at the upcoming United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (to be decided in New York later this year, successor to the Millenium Development Goals), and at Kenya’s 2030 ambitions – and decided to line-up their efforts behind these national and global goals. Samuel said: “If I move as an African, as a Kenyan, as a worker, then I can have more impact. The Sustainable Development Goals are about us as workers.”
So they invested in tree-planting, in vaccinations, in school desks, even in giving sanitary towels to girls so they can stay at school. Their work has succeeded in reducing drop-out rates due to school fees by 50% at secondary school, while college enrolment is up by 20%.
I was blown away by the workers’ vision, how they were seeking to join wider efforts, and bringing these vast global goals alive from the bottom up. They gave me hope that global discussions on big themes could indeed be translated into concrete positive change for people.
It was an inspiration too, to see how one small prize could have an impact. Harvest Limited believe that the award has helped them secure further Fairtrade orders – an experience backed up by Kibinge Coffee Farmers from Uganda who emerged the winner on the Small Producer Organisation in Africa category.
Due to the Fairtrade Awards, Kibinge Coffee Farmers have been able to increase their international contacts of buyers, donors and social lenders. The farmers’ pride has greatly made them loyal to the co-operative, and consequently farmers/members of the co-operative have reduced side selling and been prompted to improve the quality of coffee. They have become a recognized Fairtrade brand ambassador of Uganda as well as technical facilitators of Fairtrade standards. Twenty-three co-operative societies in Uganda and two organizations from Kenya have paid for exposure visits to Kibinge to learn from their experience.
David Lukwata, the General Manager of Kibinge Coffee Farmers adds that the increased visibility has got them the recognition required to move to the next level. They have for example been earmarked to spearhead the formulation of coffee policy in Uganda. They have also been able to participate in national and international events like AFCA 2015, Biofach in Germany, Fairtrade Fortnight in UK and the SCAE in Sweden.
Apart from the producer organisation awards, Fairtrade International also honoured special efforts or innovations by outstanding individuals within the global Fairtrade system under a category known as the “Fairest Fairtrader”. Dr. Ananda Sarath Ranaweera , a pioneer of Fairtrade in Sri Lanka, came first in the hotly contested category. The award gave him a lot of visibility and he has been invited to speak at a number of meetings about fair trade internationally. His story was also featured in a Sri Lankan newspaper.
And now, 3EN have just offered once again to sponsor the awards, to be announced in 2016 (Click here to find out more about Fairtrade Awards 2016). Applications have just opened and we cannot wait to read all about people’s outstanding achievements.
Thank you to Harriet Lamb and Fairtrade International for guest blogging this week! If you would like to learn more about Fairtrade and the work and good they are doing world wide please go to http://www.fairtrade.net/.