Fairtrade Africa highlights its commitment to gender empowerment, to mark International Day of Rural
Women with the 2019 theme: “Rural Women and Girls Building Climate Resilience”. Research has
shown that despite making up almost half of the workforce, the majority of women farmers in
developing countries receive lower pay than men, are often unable to own land and are excluded from
business loans or agricultural training that male farmers benefit from. At Fairtrade, we believe in
empowering women along the agricultural value chain. We do this through programmes designed at
empowering women to gain confidence, diversify their income and to take active part in decision
making within their farmer organisations. As part of gender inclusiveness also, Fairtrade embeds
gender awareness in its capacity building trainings for producer organisations.
In a quest to address improvement in livelihoods in the Cocoa sector, Fairtrade Africa trains women in
Cocoa in West Africa, through the Women’s School of Leadership which was launched in 2017 in Cote
d’Ivoire. The programme is being implemented with partnership from two UK businesses – leading
convenience retailer Co-op and the Compass Group UK & Ireland, the UK’s largest food and support
services firm. Through the programme, the women gain skills in finance, negotiation, and decision-
making as well as greater awareness of gender equality and in turn act as role models to impact their
community. So far 19 women and 03 men have been trained. The second cohort was launched in April
2019 targeting 30 women and 10 men.
More than 15 women coffee and flowers farmers Ethiopia in North Eastern Africa have also benefitted
from the Women School of Leadership. Konst Mirktu is a woman farmer at Sher Ethiopia farms who
benefited from the Women School of Leadership training. This training was organised as part of a
Finnish funded programme “Dignity for All” (D4A), being implemented by Fairtrade in Africa and Latin
America. Through the D4A programme, Fairtrade advocates for sustainable livelihood for farmer
households, worker households and sustainable trading by supporting gender empowerment, social
inclusion and protection for vulnerable groups as well as advocating for climate resilience. Konst is
happy about the training received from the Women’s School of Leadership. The training received
helped Konst to advocate for a gender policy within her organisation. “The management & leadership
training modules have helped me. I am cascading this knowledge to other workers who are not part of
this training. As a member of the gender committee, together with my colleagues, we have been able to
advocate for effective policies to ensure that female workers’ rights are respected, such as the push for
4 months maternity leave for female workers and having breastfeeding time at work”.
Fairtrade certified producer organisations are also empowered to support their female members to
diversify their income. Janet Aframea is a 62 year old cocoa farmer in the Eastern Region of Ghana.
Through the climate smart agricultural practices she learnt from Fairtrade, she has been able to
significantly increase her yield. In addition to growing cocoa, she grows bananas. Through farming, she
is able to provide for her family and pays her children’s school fees. She says: “I have benefitted a lot
from the training I received from Fairtrade. Today, I am able to pay for my children’s school fees. One of
my children is currently at the university, and I am happy that my earnings from farming have helped
him reach this height in his academic life”.
In Eastern and Central Africa, Fairtrade represents 73 producer organizations in coffee and 40 in tea.
Besides providing certification support, Fairtrade’s work in coffee has been geared towards helping
small holder farmers improve production, build farmer resilience to the impact of climate change and
promoting the inclusion of women in the coffee value chain. Through the Growing Women in Coffee
Project which ended in 2018, Fairtrade successfully worked with women coffee farmers in Kabng’etuny
and Kapyikai Women in Coffee Associations in Kenya. With the previous, Fairtrade trained women 300
women in Good Agricultural Practices for increased coffee production. Most notable was the campaign
in Kapyikai encouraging men to transfer ownership of coffee bushes to more than150 women resulting
in greater independence and income. The hallmark was the collaboration between the two associations
to launch Zawadi Coffee- the first Fairtrade Certified coffee owned by small holder women coffee
farmers in Kenya.
Through the Climate Academy Project, Fairtrade Africa is also working to build the resilience of coffee
farmers to the effects of climate change. This has seen the distribution of 300 improved cook stoves to
women coffee producers in Kenya. Consequently, women now spend less time collecting firewood.
Extra time is used on more productive activities such as a small businesses which cooperative
members have been empowered to start through training on Alternative Income Generating Activities
(AIGA). Training on AIGA coupled with funds from the Village Saving and Loaning Association (VSLA)
whose formulation is facilitated by the Climate Academy Project, has seen women draw significant
Catherine Ndunge, a coffee farmer and member of Musilili Farmers’ Cooperative Society is one
beneficiary: “Coffee is good but the payment method discourages us since we receive payment an year
after delivery. We can’t use the money to buy food or invest in other sustainable businesses. Also,
many farmers do not know how to manage the huge coffee payment that comes once in a year. VSLA
has helped me to get money to take my child to a good boarding school, buy a goat and hen, improve
my house and above all start a green grocery business. The grocery helps me get money to repay the
VSLA loan. I can also buy input for the coffee using money received from VSLA. My family’s life has
changed since I joined the VSLA group in Musilili FCS.”
In our work with small holder farmers, the crucial role that women play in ensuring the sustainability of
rural households and communities, improving rural livelihoods and overall wellbeing of communities
continues to be more evident. They make significant contributions to agricultural production, food
security, nutrition, land management and building climate resilience. As such, Fairtrade Africa will
persist in its work to push for the meaningful inclusion of women in the entire agricultural value chain.