Sugar farmers in Swaziland to benefit from £221,000 project

Picture of sugarcane

Sugar farming communities in Swaziland, whose livelihoods are under threat following changes to European legislation on sugar, are set to benefit from £220,926 investment from the Jersey Overseas Aid Commission.

This will fund a programme offering vital assistance to farmers affected by the European Union’s plan to remove restrictions on beet sugar production in the EU in 2017, which has already seen the price of sugar collapse in Europe and put pressure on smallholder cane producers in Swaziland and other developing countries. Swazi communities are particularly vulnerable, as the drought affecting countries across Southern Africa has already resulted in serious losses of cane and will lead to further poor yields in Swaziland.                              

The funding will enable Fairtrade Foundation and Fairtrade Africa to launch a new two and a half year programme helping 4,000 farmers in seven smallholder organisations in Swaziland adapt to these challenges.

Michael Gidney, CEO Fairtrade Foundation, said:

“Farmers in Swaziland, who are already vulnerable to drought and poverty are at the sharp end of policy decisions taken thousands of miles away in Europe. The industry once offered a route out of poverty and in 2014 Swaziland sold nearly 40% of its sugar to Europe but with the decline in prices in the EU their prospects are bleak. That’s why this generous funding from the Jersey Overseas Aid Commission comes at a critical time for farmers.”

Faith Muisyo, head of Region Southern Africa Network said: “Given the current situation with sugar cane farming, it is important that farmers begin to diversify their sources of income through crop diversification or other off-farm activities as well as finding ways of improving their productivity so as to remain competitive.”

A farmer who will benefit from this new programme, said: “Previously sugar cane was Swazi gold.  As time goes on, as the prices have been reduced, we don’t feel like we are holding gold, it’s like we are in the dark we can’t see where we are going...If I can get more money I can try to diversify, maybe start my own business, so that I can have my own income and be my own boss.”

Two of the seven farming organisations will pilot an innovative new project to reduce their reliance on sugar. Farmers will benefit from training on vegetable production and marketing, as well as receiving seeds, fertilizer and other start up materials. Farmers will also receive training on securing local markets for their produce enabling them to supplement their income from sugarcane farming.

All Fairtrade-certified farmers will benefit from agricultural training and climate change adaption to continue growing sugar in the most efficient way to maximise yields and keep down production costs during this period of price volatility in the markets. The seven farming organisations will also receive support with governance, business management and strategy planning.

NOTES TO EDITORS

Last year the Fairtrade Foundation ran a campaign highlighting that 200,000 cane farmers in low income countries would be pushed further into poverty by the European Union policy changes removing restrictions on production of locally-grown beet sugar in 2017. This has already had a substantial impact for cane sugar farmers in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. In 2015 the price of sugar in the EU was 30% lower than in 2006.

Since becoming Fairtrade certified Swaziland producer organisations have invested Fairtrade Premiums in projects including sanitary facilities, drinking water facilities and farm efficiency.    

About The Fairtrade Foundation

The Fairtrade Foundation is an independent certification body which licenses the use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on products which meet international Fairtrade standards. This independent consumer label appears on products to show that disadvantaged producers are getting a better deal from trade. Today, more than 1.5 million people – farmers and workers – across more than 74 developing countries benefit from the international Fairtrade system.

Over 5,000 products have been licensed to carry the FAIRTRADE Mark in the UKincluding coffee, tea, herbal teas, chocolate, cocoa, sugar, bananas, grapes, pineapples, mangoes, avocados, apples, pears, plums, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, satsumas, clementines, mandarins, lychees, dried fruit, juices, smoothies, biscuits, cakes & snacks, honey, jams & preserves, chutney, rice, quinoa, herbs & spices, seeds, nuts, wines, ales, rum, confectionery, muesli, cereal bars, ice-cream, flowers, sports balls, sugar body scrub and cotton products including clothing, homeware, cotton wool, olive oil, gold, silver and platinum.

Awareness of the FAIRTRADE Mark continues to be high in 2014, at a level of 78%. Estimated retail sales of Fairtrade products in 2013 exceeded £1.7 billion.

For more information contact:

Susannah Henty, Media and PR Manager, +44 (0)20 7440 8597, Mobile: +44 (0)7766 504947  susannah.henty@fairtrade.org.uk