Fairtrade Fortnight: How you can help cocoa farmers to earn a living income

This year’s campaign will encourage British people ‘not to feed exploitation’

The Fairtrade movement celebrates a milestone in 2019, marking a 25-year presence in the UK.

The highlight of the year is the Fairtrade Fortnight, which starts today – 25 February – and runs until 10 March.

Campaign banner
One of the farmer members who improved their lives through Fairtrade

This year’s campaign will encourage British people “not to feed exploitation” and instead to support a living income for some of the world’s poorest farmers and workers.

According to the Fairtrade Foundation, the average living income for a cocoa farmer is £1.86 a day – but yet a typical cocoa farmer in Cote d’Ivoire lives on just 74p a day.

The movement is campaigning for a living income for cocoa farmers in West Africa. To encourage consumers to buy Fairtrade, the Foundation is running the She Deserves a Living Income campaign, introducing customers to the women who produce the cocoa used in the chocolate they buy.

Fairtrade works with 1.6 million farmers and workers across 74 developing countries, many of them members of co-ops. The Fairtrade premium received allows these communities to improve access to education, healthcare and housing.

Rosine and her husband
Rosine Bekoin and her husband outside her house in Cotes d’Ivoire

Since joining Fairtrade co-operative CAYAT, mother-of-five Rosine Bekoin has become leader of the Women’s Society, through which women can invest money from the Fairtrade Premium to set up enterprises that boost their incomes. Instead of selling her cocoa to local middle men, she is now marketing it through the co-operative. After receiving training from the co-op she also managed to increase production by 50% and boost her income.

She says: “Fairtrade Premium encourages us, as women cocoa farmers, to be able to achieve certain things. We know that with Fairtrade there is a pPremium waiting for us, and for each woman, you can do what is in your heart.”

Her husband Assi Florent added: “How do I feel about Women’s School of Leadership? I was a bit frustrated at first because it was taking up a lot of Rosine’s time. Then I realised it was something very good. We’ve been in this house for one month. We have five children and one foster child.

“I work in infrastructure and land division, but I help my wife out when I have time. Since doing management training, I first attempted not to let her go, but then I realised that she is serious and Rosine is shining and I began to like it. I can see the impact of the programme.

“Other men asked me where my wife was going and I had to explain. I’m proud of her and we now divide things differently in the household. Sometimes she supports me when I don’t have money to pay for things and now when I have money, I give her a portion.”

More than 6,000 events were held during last year’s Fortnight. The Fortnight is backed by a wide network of campaigners, chefs, foodies and businesses, including co-operatives.

Co-operators can get involved by signing a petition to the UK government to make sure trade with developing countries puts poverty reduction first, delivering living incomes for all. Co-ops are also encouraged to host events to draw attention to the issues facing cocoa farmers or fundraise for the Fairtrade Foundation.

The Co-op Group’s campaign for the fortnight –‘Co-op Fairtrade Pledge’ – calls on customers and members to  swap just one product they purchase each week for a Fairtrade one.

The Group remains committed to sourcing 100% Fairtrade cocoa for its Co-op own brand products. It is also funding a Women’s School of Leadership in Cote D’Ivoire to empower women from farmer groups as future leaders.

The Co-op was the first UK Supermarket to sell Fairtrade bananas and first to sell in all stores.

Divine chocolate bars
Divine chocolate bars

Divine Chocolate, which is 44% owned by a cocoa co-operative in Ghana, is launching a new Limited Edition Smooth Dark Lemon and Juniper bar. The business celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Daniel Morey, head of commercial partnerships at the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “This Fairtrade Fortnight, as we shine a light on the cocoa farmers behind the chocolate that we love to indulge in – businesses and consumers are showing their support for the cause too – and we’re encouraging the public to get involved, by taking part in events, and gifting Fairtrade chocolates.

“There is so much choice across our high streets, and when shoppers buy Fairtrade they are helping farmers get a better deal.”