Certification group gives farmers incentive to grow more

Farmers in the country have received a boost for their produce with the introduction of Fair-trade Eastern Africa which roots for better prices for their produce allowing them to earn more while introducing ethics in farming. The main driving element in the program is the premium payment that the farmers receive in addition to the market price through the sale of their products to certified fair-trade buyers.

Fair-trade International which has been partnering with farmers, suppliers and buyers to initiate the program for the local consumers has already achieved tremendous success in the international front with tea, coffee and horticulture producers being the lead gainers. The current efforts are geared towards promoting the consumption of the local products and at the same time leaving the farmers satisfied and encouraged to produce more of the products and add value to them therefore giving them an edge over their competitors.

This arrangement is billed to shift the focus of Fair-trade certified producers not only to strike the export market but also eye the local market through players like Tuskys, Uchumi, Java cafe, among others who will market local products with fair trade Mark. The main goal is to inculcate a norm among the local consumers to always demand for products that are Fair-trade mark certified.  “The Fairtrade Mark will be the first ethical label launched in Kenya as  Fair-trade producers receive a minimum price, which ensures they can cover the cost of sustainable production, and a premium which is invested in projects that benefit the producers and their communities,” explained Wandia Rachel the market development manager for Fair-trade.

According to a survey conducted by fair-trade, 8percent of Kenyan consumers when asked would look out for the Faitrade Mark when shopping, while 73 percent would be prepared to pay extra for a product with the label on it a clear indication that majority of consumers are ready to support sustainable agriculture. The beauty about Fair-trade concept is that one consumes a product with the knowledge that the producer of the same was treated fairly and is happy to continue with the production’s process.  

Fair-trade partners with companies, cooperatives or small holder farmers registered under a particular organization. In order for these entities to be Fair trade Mark certified, they need to fulfill a number of obligations based on proper governance which entails rules governing inclusion of members, transparency in book keeping details and environmental friendliness like ensuring that the activities of the group do not pollute or degrade the environment.

The certification process entails yearly auditing of the organizations’ undertaking by Fair trade personnel who visit the group from time to time to ensure the quality of the produce meets the international standards. The personnel also ensure that proper methods of production are adhered to by the farmers, for instance they offer expertise on the types of seeds to be grown and also the type of pesticides and fertilizers to be applied.

The certification process may take 6 months or onger depending on the level of an organization’s management as those with already existing management structures will conform to the standards easily. The process also requires monetary expenditure on the various permits for international standards certification and the high quality inputs like seeds, pesticides among others that it calls for. “Fair-trade Mark concept is not a charity entity and therefore any group willing to adopt it has to incur the costs for the certification process. However, for those willing and do not have the financial muscle to incur the certification costs, we offer support for the process,”noted Wangeci Gitata of Fair-trade.

Fair-trade premium is the extra amount of money that the producer receives from selling his products to a fair-trade certified buyer apart from the market price. For instance, if a farmer sells a kilo of tea at Sh100, there is an extra agreed percentage that he receives from a certified buyer in addition to Sh100  which motivates them to produce even more.

The fair trade premiums are then re-invested for the benefit of the community and the farmer's production although the decision on the premiums’ expenditure entirely lies with the members. “The most notable project that has been achieved as a result of the premiums from the horticulture flower industry is the Nakuru Women’s Hospital which is worth over Sh100 million,” explained Giitata. This hospital was built using the premiums of workers from 6 flower companies in Nakuru.

In 2012, the amount of Fair-trade premium that went back to the farmers and workers globally, in Africa and Kenya are $ 80 million, $ 17 million and $ 6 million respectively. The Current Fair-trade products found in Kenya are Dormans Safari Fair Trade coffee and Cadbury Dairy Milk. Dormans purchases coffee from three major cooperatives for the Safari blend: Rumukia, Ndumberi and Gikanda. Fair-trade also has four new tea lines that will soon be hitting the supermarket shelves which include Iriani Tea and three Kericho Gold Specialty Teas.

In Kenya, there are over 179 groups who have embraced Fair-trade Mark and they deal with various produce including tea, coffee, horticulture among others. Majority are small holder farmers pooled together in groups to maximize the benefits of the concept. Kenya’s launch for local fair trade mark campaign makes it second to South Africa which embedded the idea in 2009 in addition to it being the first African country to produce fair-trade wine.

Fair-trade Africa was established in 2005 and is a member of Fair-trade International. The group unites over 700,000 Fair-trade certified farmers and workers across the African continent. All these producers share ownership of the Fair-trade system ensures members have an equal voice in decision making.  All producers are certified against international Fair-trade standards producing traditional export commodities such as coffee, cocoa, tea, cotton, cut flowers, bananas, pineapples, mango and non-traditional commodities including shea butter, rooibos tea, vegetables and fresh and dry fruits.