Climate change puts millions of Fairtrade farmers at risks, says new report

The study assess potential climate change impacts on the production and producers of major crops, including cocoa, sugarcane, tea and cotton

A new study commissioned by Fairtrade International suggests that millions of farmers face financial collapse due to climate change.

The most affected areas identified in the Fairtrade and Climate Change report are Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, South America and South and South-East Asia.

Compiled by researchers from the VU Amsterdam and Bern University of Applied Sciences and funded by the EU, the study assess potential climate impacts on major Fairtrade crops, including cocoa, sugarcane, tea and cotton.

Farmers now face the challenge of reducing the risk of crop failure, and sustaining or improving crop productivity, as as the impact of climate change increases. Climate change impacts agricultural production in various ways, particularly through changing precipitation patterns, temperature increases and rising sea-levels. It also increases the incidence of pests, diseases and resistances towards pesticides.

But co-operative membership can help farmers to adapt to these changes, says report, adding: “By increasing and balancing out their assets, farmers can become more resilient towards climate change; in practice, this means for example increasing off-farm income, keeping savings, attending farmer trainings, or participating in co-operatives.”

The report lists the countries and produce most at risk: Ghana (banana and cocoa), Ivory Coast (sugarcane, tea), Tanzania (tea), Costa Rica (coffee, sugarcane), Dominican Republic (banana, cocoa), Honduras (coffee), Mexico (coffee), Nicaragua (coffee), Brazil (cocoa, coffee), Colombia (coffee), Peru (cocoa, coffee), India (coffee, sugarcane, tea) and Timor-Leste (cocoa, coffee).

Climate change will have different impacts in different regions and countries. The report says banana producers in the Caribbean and in Central America are expected to face less rainfall and more extreme temperatures while those in Southeast Asia and Oceania will see an increased risk of tropical cyclones. Similarly, coffee producers in Brazil, Central America and South India are likely to face encounter temperature spikes combined with drought. Cocoa farmers in the Dominican Republic and Peru, as well as in parts of West Africa could see more hot and dry weather periods, while producers in eastern Ghana and northern Côte d’Ivoire may face heavier rains.

“The report’s results are extremely alarming and a clarion call for immediate and comprehensive climate action,” warned Dr Nyagoy Nyong’o, Global CEO at Fairtrade. “The threat to the future of many supply chains is very real and our planet’s farmers and agricultural workers are on the frontline of this global climate crisis. We must do everything to ensure they are not left behind and that they are indeed a part of the solution.”

The study also points out that some adaptation approaches can be an opportunity to adopt agroforestry practices, adding that there is currently limited adoption of agroforestry practices for coffee and tea.

One of their adaptation approaches, diversification of crops and livelihoods, can also be an opportunity for Fairtrade to increase the portfolio of commodities as well as support farmers in becoming more resilient towards climate change and other risks

The research is based on literature reviews, a spatial hotspot analysis, expert interviews and a survey with farmer co-operatives.

This article has been amended. A previous version incorrectly referred to one of the institutions
behind the study as The Vrije University Amsterdam. It is VU Amsterdam.