Two perspectives of accountability and impact of fair trade: grant makers and producers

Louise Herring talking about Comic Relief and its role as grant maker and fundraiser, a charity and a business.

How do you measure the impact of supporting fair trade producers? It’s a qualitative & quantitative process but how do we get everyone’s views?

We could build relationships with producers directly but you need to fully understand the relationships within that and how they work together.

Rather than just using the data Comic Relief collects themselves they will try and share it with chains (e.g. Sainsbury’s) so they fully understand it.

Comic Relief’s Fair Trade Focus on Africa, committed £5m over 5 years to support fair trade producers in Africa to building the capacity and accountability of the African fair trade network.

What are the key factors for ensuring that women workers and producers benefit equitably from trade?

What change has been made? (how can we prove the impact)

HOW has that change been made? (improving the impact).

How can all the key players share that data?

Joan Karanja, from COFTA, speaks about the role of producers; the importance of including them in standards development

COFTA is a network of fair trade producer organisations in Africa, working to eliminate poverty, by strengthening African membership in fair trade. COFTA is a grassroots network working with all levels of fair trade. It is a forum for collaboration and networking with over 100 members in 24 African countries touching 250,000+ beneficiaries. Currently there is no data / stats – this is something they are trying to measure.

Joan explains some of the issues encountered by producer organisations in Africa. Some cannot pay the fee to be accredited fair trade when they may well be practicing fair trade (the fee is $2000 – seems high).

Common producer challenges:

Collaboration and cooperation; business planning and production efficiency; product quality and product innovation; market understanding – e.g. there are no seasons in Africa so if selling to the West it’s important to know the seasonal market; gaining direct market access; access to finance is difficult as it is seen as an informal sector (so banks don’t lend); local infrastructure – important to understand all the nuances; and communication is essential.

COFTA programs focus on:

  • Network development
  • Membership development
  • Advocacy and lobbying
  • Market access (improving south to south trade not just access to Northern markets).

‘The overall idea of fair trade is to change the market’ (Joan Karanja), for example scaling up production through clustering (Swaziland, SWIFT) and Common Coordination (COFTA networks).

Fair trade is against child labour: the question is raised, ‘what is the solution when the head of a household is 17 and needs to earn a living?’

Joan suggests the solution is spending morning at school and the afternoon at work; we must remember the idea is to protect the young.

In providing direct market access for exporting in to Europe, COFTA provides linkages but currently is unable to supervise this any further.

80% trade is non food handicrafts. Issues surrounding coffee production and food are very different to craft – is it often forgotten? Do we need a fair trade mark for craft? Standardisation?

If we think producers should be involved in defining ‘fair trade standards’ – how to organise local producers (by broadcasting? Use of Technology?). A discussion for the open space session…

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