Farmers on the frontline of the climate crisis

Fair Trade workers at the start of many supply chains are struggling.

Farmers of crops such as tea, coffee and cocoa are still being paid poorly for their produce and work. On top of that, they face low pay, volatile market prices and rising production costs.

Workers who make our products and clothes also face low wages and dangerous conditions. They have little power in the multimillion-pound supply chains they supply to.

Covid-19 has exacerbated these inequalities by slowing business activity and pushing families already struggling to make ends meet further into poverty.

But more worryingly, alongside the coronavirus crisis and market challenges, the climate crisis is wreaking havoc on their livelihoods.

a cartoonish picture of a coffee farmer watching a dead plant

Farmers tell us that they are feeling the effects of climate change now with freak weather, extreme rainfall, prolonged dry seasons and increasing prevalence of plant diseases all affecting their crops and therefore their income.

A farmer from a Fair Trade co-operative in Malawi told us:

‘Climate change means there are now seasons when the harvest fails. If this happens the immediate impact is hunger for the already vulnerable families’.

Fairtrade coffee farmer, Bayardo Betanco of the Prodecoop co-operative in Nicaragua, said:

There is a chain on earth that starts where the producers are. They are the ones who suffer the consequences of climate change, the ones who get the least help, and carry all of the burden. It’s not fair.’

A cartoonish picture of the earth

To rub salt into the wound, we know that countries such as Malawi and Nicaragua have contributed very little to global greenhouse gas emissions and climate change compared to more industrialised nations such as the UK.

Here in Scotland, as a nation of people which has come to love tea, coffee, bananas and cocoa – and as part of a nation which sources many other foods from overseas, these crises will affect us too. If we don’t take action now, availability of products such as coffee could decline to the extent that they become luxury items or completely unavailable to us.

For example, if current rates of warming continue, it is predicted that by 2050:

  • As much as 50% of global land currently used for coffee farming may no longer be suitable
  • Adverse climate conditions will trigger a drastic decline in bananas yields in 10 countries
  • Many regions in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, who produce over half the world’s cocoa, will become too hot to grow the crop.
  • As much as 50% of global land currently used for coffee farming

Now more than ever, we need to ensure that farmers receive fair pay, prices, and have power to make their own choices, meet their everyday needs and deal with the challenges posed by climate change.

Now more than ever, we need Fair Trade

In Scotland, we can do more. We can ensure that more money reaches farmers and workers through Fair Trade. We can also ensure that the burden of responsibility and regulation is not placed on already vulnerable communities.

We, in richer, industrialised nations and as contributors to climate change, must also take and urge urgent action to drive down emissions. That is why we supported the Fairtrade Foundation’s call to the UK government to stop dumping our emissions on poorer countries and ensure the government’s trade policy helps, not hinders, the path to net zero.

Whilst the idea of radically and urgently changing the way we do business and trade to respond to the climate emergency and build back better may seem like an overwhelming challenge, we know it must be done.

“The protection of the environment and longterm viability of natural resources and biodiversity are fundamental pillars of Fair Trade”.  International Fair Trade Charter

The Fair Trade model provides a framework on which to build for that new way of working. It is an example of how we can trade and do business with the interest of people and our planet at its heart.

Read more about Fair Trade, the 10 Principles and the International Fair Trade Charter.

Fairtrade farmers demand climate justice

Of course, a Fairtrade delegation was at COP26 representing Fairtrade producers across the world, and the millions of other small scale farmers, agricultural workers and artisans whose livelihoods are under threat from the climate crisis. The key message from the delegation was: Be Fair with your Climate Promise. Find out about the petition, read their open letter and read Head of Delegation, Mary Kinyua’s response to COP26.

Ahead of COP26, were signatories to a statement that put the case that the international community must confront trade injustice, enforce transparency and accountability in supply chains, and secure climate financing mechanisms, living incomes and wages for the world’s smallholder agricultural producers, artisans and workers in order to successfully address the climate crisis and guarantee a sustainable future for all.

Read the full position paper from Fairtrade, the World Fair Trade Organization, the Fair Trade Advocacy Office and other Fair Tarde organisations.

Find out more from the Fair Trade Advocacy Office.

What can you do?

Watch and share our Fair Trade and Climate Change films

Text showing the commitments by an MSP for the Fair Trade Pledge

Ask your MSP to support Fair Trade and sign our Fair Trade Pledge

Read our blog: No Climate Justice Without Trade Justice

5 changes to the way we do trade and business by Martin Rhodes ahead of COP26.

Listen to our podcast: The Faircast

Fair Trade Conversations about people and planet. We’ve produced 5 episodes where we talked to people who are doing their bit to make the world more sustainable and Scotland a Fair Trade Nation.

Watch and share recordings of our events about Fair Trade and Climate Change where we hear from Fair Trade producers

Watch our presentation about Fair Trade and Climate Justice aimed at schools, colleges, universities and young people

Other actions