Cane sugar farmers facing double blow

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Urgent Malawi appeal launched in response to flood devastation

The Fairtrade Foundation will launch an urgent fundraising appeal on Wednesday 25 February 2015 to help farmers in Malawi rebuild their communities where homes and entire crops have been devastated by recent floods and lives have been lost.

In January 2015, unprecedented heavy rains led to severe flooding across Malawi, hitting farmers particularly hard.

Loss of life and income occurred in days, as the worst rains in four decades hit the country. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, and with four out of every five people relying on agriculture, the floods have shattered the livelihoods of many of the people who grow our tea, sugar and other goods. Over 300,000 people are estimated to have been displaced, with over a million affected by the destruction of agriculture.

Many farmers have lost everything. The floods washed away homes, livestock and the crops they rely on to make a living. In addition, many roads and bridges are now impassable, and other infrastructure has been destroyed, meaning farmers are going to struggle to get back on their feet.

Charles Chavi, from Kasinthula Kane Growers Association (KCGA), Malawi, will launch the appeal at the press screening of a new evocative short film Fairtrade Matters’ set in Malawi by the Fairtrade Foundation, created by GOOD Agency, produced by HLA and directed Will Robson-Scott.

Captivating, moving and sometimes stark, the film touches on the universal themes that affect us all – from providing for our children to planning for an uncertain future. With cinematic landscapes of rural southern Malawi never far away, the film features poignant portraits of tea producers Edson Maotchedwe, a 45-year old tea farmer and dedicated father of seven, and Tsala Mwale, a 28-year-old single mother of one, and a pioneer in her village where she was the first to bring Fairtrade Premium-funded solar power to her home.

At the end of the film, Edson warns ‘the rainy season is coming’. The film was in fact made just weeks before the rains started in January, and his comments are a haunting nod at the vulnerability of the people who grow our food. Thankfully, Edson and Tsala and their families are safe.

Film director Will Robson-Scott, known for featuring Shoreditch legend ‘John and his Dog George’, specializes in portraying people on the fringes of society.

He said: ‘Fairtrade Matters is about humanity, about day to day life in a part of the world which is normally shown in a single dimensional, sentimental light. This film is empowering and aims to trigger people into thinking about the choices they make.’

The appeal coincides with the publication of a new Fairtrade Foundation report, Sugar Crash, which warns that a reform of the EU sugar market, supported by the UK government, is putting the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of sugar cane farmers in developing countries at risk and could push 200,000 people into poverty over the next five years[1].

Following an EU decision to lift the cap on EU sugar beet production by 2017, small-scale sugar cane farmers in African, Caribbean and Pacific (APC) and Least Developed Countries (LDC) - including former British colonies and some of the world's poorest countries such as Malawi - will struggle to compete with European sugar beet farmers, who receive subsidies from the EU. Many of these countries have supplied Britain with sugar for generations, and have few other options for earning a living.

To make matters worse, the EU reform coincides with a sharp slump in the global sugar price, which has halved in three years[2]. As a result, sugar cane farmers are already being priced out of the market and risk losing their livelihoods much sooner than anticipated.

 

Fairtrade can’t stop the shocks that farmers are exposed to, political or natural, but it can help them prepare for and respond to them – so Fairtrade can continue to offer them a means to provide for and support their families.

And that’s why we’re asking for additional support from the public, to help farmers like Charles and Edson to recover.

Donations could allow Fairtrade to provide seedlings to replace lost crops and train farmers how to earn money growing short-cycle crops this year, pay for the restoration of roads and other infrastructure, so that farmers can continue to access trade links and earn much needed money. The first £5,000 of donations to the appeal will be matched by Shared Interest Foundation.

British shoppers can also play their part in standing by the sugar cane farmers that have been failed by politics, by choosing Fairtrade sugar or asking their supermarket to stock it. There are people’s lives in our shopping baskets, and we don’t believe people would want to buy sugar that costs a penny or two less per bag, if they knew that the cost was hundreds of thousands of people being pushed into poverty.

First launched in 1995, this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight campaign will turn the spotlight on producers who grow some of the British public’s favourite everyday commodities – including cocoa, sugar and tea – to show the difference that Fairtrade makes to their lives. For more information about Fairtrade Fortnight 2015, visit www.fairtrade.org.uk/fortnight. Fairtrade Matters will be screened in cinemas around the country from 25 February.

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Case studies and images available at http://tinyurl.com/ls2m4pg . For previews of Fairtrade Matters, the short http://fortnight.fairtrade.org.uk/  90 minute and full version at 15 minutes https://vimeo.com/118723466 , more information or interviews please contact Martine Parry, Media & PR Manager, on 0207 440 7695/ 07886 301486 or email martine.parry@fairtrade.org.uk.

Notes to Editors
Businesses supporting Fairtrade Fortnight range from pioneering Fairtrade brands such as Clipper, Cafédirect, Green & Black’s and Divine Chocolate, to Ben & Jerry’s, major brands such as Cadbury Dairy Milk, high street retailers including Sainsbury’s and the Co-operative, which both stock branded and own-label Fairtrade products, and out-of-home outlets such as Starbuck’s and Greggs.

While the majority of the world’s tea is produced on big plantations or estates, it is also grown on small plots of land by smallholder farmers.  These farmers are regularly hit by low fluctuating prices for their green tea leaf – the Fairtrade Minimum Prices acts as a safety net when prices fall below what it costs to produce. The Fairtrade Premium, the extra sum that farmers and workers receive, is there to be invested not just in community projects like ambulances and clean water but business initiatives too, to support improvements in productivity and quality.

Increasing sales of Fairtrade tea is vital to improving conditions for tea farmers and workers, who are also facing the challenges posed by climate change. Research shows that where co-operatives and estates sell Fairtrade tea, the combination of Fairtrade Standards and Fairtrade Premium has improved conditions and deliver other benefits for farmers and workers.

 

Will Robson-Scott

Born in London Will began his career as a photographer documenting people living on the fringes of society. He has produced several seminal and highly acclaimed books, his photographic coverage of notoriously clandestine subcultures becoming hugely successful. His two year project ‘Top Deck’ was exhibited in the gallery space of Mother, London.  His foray into film has found him wide acclaim including five Vimeo ‘Staff Picks’. His films continue his interest in people who are urban outsiders with his short film ‘Chi Raq’ becoming a YouTube phenomenon.

 

HLA: Founded in 1987 HLA is one of the longest running and respected production companies in the UK, delivering pioneering films for the biggest brands and companies around the world. HLA continues to reinforce its reputation as the original production company for recognising and nurturing new directing talent.

GOOD Agency: We’re an integrated communications agency that creates powerful and emotive campaigns that enrich people’s lives to inspire them to act. We develop integrated campaigns that are multi discipline; PR, Marketing, Campaigning and Fundraising and cross channel; advertising, direct response, digital and social. We have doing this for 20 years; there are 50 of us based in Waterloo all committed to creating campaigns that unleash the good in people and organisations. For further information, please visit www.thegoodagency.co.uk

 

About Shared Interest Foundation: Shared Interest Foundation is an international development charity that provides business support in the developing world. We aim to decrease poverty, improve livelihoods and create sustainable communities. We work in partnership with local network organisations and training providers to deliver our business support.  Funding for our work comes from a mixture of large, institutional grants, smaller trusts and personal donations. Shared Interest Foundation is the sister organisation of Shared Interest Society.  Established in 1990, Shared Interest Society uses investment from UK residents to lend to fair trade businesses across the globe. For press enquiries about Shared Interest Foundation contact Stina Porter on 0191 233 9132. For general enquiries contact Lucy McMahon on 0191 233 9118 or visit www.shared-interest.com/foundation



[1] Impact of EU Policy Reform on Developing Countries, LMC International & ODI for the Department for International Development, January 2012

[2] www.tradingeconomics.com/commodity/sugar