Accountability and Impact (Ian Barney, Twin Trading)

TWIN is a membership organisation that has been running for 25 years. Focused on Latin America and Africa, TWIN’s work started around bartering; e.g. swapping cigars from Cuba for coffee in Africa.

TWIN only works with small holder farms, building democratic systems. They believe in a better equitable distribution of risks and rewards; a different kind of relationship (networks of alternative trades). Part of their role is being an intermediary between buyer and seller, strengthening governance of farming organisations; enabling basic business management with a focus on quality. TWIN works to influence trade, with practical support on how to do this.

The development of brands such as Cafe Direct, Divine chocolate, Agrofair, Liberation, has helped change UK attitudes to food sourcing policies and to underpin the Fairtrade market in the UK.

Case studies presented by Ian:

Divine & Kuapa Kokoo: Participation in Divine has improved confidence in farmers after their trading suffered; it is now recognised as one of the best coffees.

Ian spoke about their partnership with Southern African Nuts. Integrated supply chains were developed; 2005 saw the first sales through the fair-trade market (the co-op), and supermarket partnerships in 2006; liberations established in 2007 (42% farmer owned); aflatoxin testing was brought in (2008), and mechanised processing in 2008/9.

Established fair trade supply chains have since been used to feed in to nutritional supplements (tested in Darfour, with significant improvement measured).

The fair trade premium is not hugely different to mainstream.

There have been various studies to show that fair trade in the region has captured more than just monetary value.

Ian talks about the international nut producer cooperative.

‘Liberation’ works by bringing the producers together to explore issues with the whole value chain. By understanding the complex distribution chain producers can be empowered to contribute to decision making about the strategic direction of their businesses.

By promoting democratic structures at community levels, greater governance issues can be brought down to the grassroots. As shareholders, famers have a direct link to the West; and a more democratic process has helped the farmers get involved in all aspects.

At the AGM for the international nut producer cooperative (where 5 candidates are elected to represent farmers) debates are held with farmers from Brazil, Bolivia, Malawi, Mozambique. All are engaged and addressing problems, brainstorming, everybody contributing together. Fairly. This is ‘democracy in action’. It is solidarity; people coming together from different environments as equals.

Sales yield premiums which is important but there are other benefits, such as the importance of social empowerment. Increasing the self esteem of farmers can impact many other areas.

Trade is not enough; Ian talks about the other aspects TWIN gets involved in. The quality of the product must be good enough; businesses must be run effectively; risks must be managed. Enhancing income, access to expertise and ability to influence all need to be considered.

To create long term sustainable impact, long term real commitment is required. This involves investment in capacity, collective action/network, transparency and trust, participation in decision making, connecting further up the chain (ownership) results in sustainability, increased confidence /accountability, enhanced capacity and influence.

The TWIN model is a bottom up approach, using farmer organisation partnerships. But are they really taking control themselves?

How can producers have more of a voice in fair trade?

We discussed the concept of ‘fairness’ in fair. Who decides what is fair? Farmers need to be involved in the strategy of determining what is fair. Imposing democracy v fair trade.

What is the real impact of co-operatives? (needs more research).

What about the mainstream? In terms of Twin’s work with Africa and South America, competing in a global market will have a significant impact particularly with competition from China. Ian believes the time to invest is now – though he acknowledges the risks.

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