2013 was a great year for Fairfood’s cause. This year, we successfully started to implement our new way of working, focusing our advocacy interventions on 5 specific country-commodity ‘hotspots’ namely: Madagascar – Vanilla, Philippines – Pineapple, Nicaragua – Sugarcane, Morocco – Tomato, Thailand – Shrimps). We have made good progress in these hotspots towards our commitment of improving the socio-economic conditions of farm workers – especially women and children and smallholder farmers, who are vulnerable in the supply chains of multinational brands and retailers.
In our Madagascar – Vanilla hotspot, we finalised our field research and have started active engagement with brands and flavour houses, asking them to do more to improve the income insecurity of smallholder vanilla farmers in Madagascar. In November 2013, we have presented our Vanilla project at the Vanilla 2013 Symposium, a platform where a lot of the big industry players were present.
During the year, we successfully launched the awareness-raising phase of our Philippines – Pineapple hotspot. Vulnerable farmers and workers at the beginning of the pineapple production chain on the island of Mindanao are caught in a vicious cycle of poverty. With a primary focus on the Dutch public, we used social-media, radio, newspaper adverts, billboards and articles to reach hundreds of thousands of people, to make them aware that the sweet pineapples they buy are often produced with long working days, extremely low pay and child labour. With their support 2014 we are directly engaging with the companies involved to ensure that Mindanao can truly become the Land of Promise.
Our Nicaragua – Sugarcane hotspot finalised its field research on the occupational risk conditions of cane workers in relation to the epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease of unknown origin (CKDu). The outcomes of the field research will be presented in the beginning of 2014, after which we will engage with the relevant stakeholders in the industry to improve labour conditions of the workers.
Our Morocco – Tomato hotspot teamed up with a local partner in Morocco to conduct field research on the socio-economic conditions of tomato workers and producers in the Souss-Massa region. In spite of the hard working conditions in this sector, the current minimum wage of Moroccan agricultural workers is only 1,648 Dhs (€146 per month)[i], which is in fact lower than the Moroccan poverty threshold[ii]. Our ultimate goal is that these Moroccan tomato workers are paid a living wage.
In our hotspot Thailand we have started our research into the worrying conditions and the welfare of the workers in the Thai shrimp industry. With a shortage of labour, the Thai shrimp processing industry mostly employs vulnerable groups such as women, children and (undocumented) migrants from Burma.
Our WE project successfully concluded capacity development trainings to labour unions in 6 countries: CGT in Honduras, KSBSI in Indonesia, GFL in Ghana, CMTC in Costa Rica, CGT in Colombia and CONSAWU in South Africa. Our ‘Roads to Sustainability’ project concluded the year having set up some working groups and given several workshops via webinars to various German food and beverage SMEs.
Progress on Fairfood’s development
This year we continued making progress on our quest to become a stable, professional and efficient organisation. We successfully implemented our new organisation structure and have become fully operational with 40 paid employees and about 34 volunteers. In July, Fairfood and CNV International signed a 3-year cooperation that will enable Fairfood to empower local trade unions as agents of change to also act on social, economic and environmental issues in supply chains. In October, the Dutch National Postcode Loterij announces that it will continue funding Fairfood for the coming 5 years (until 2018). Also, during the year, we welcomed former Dutch member of parliament and former Groenlinks party leader – Jolande Sap to Fairfood’s supervisory board and re-united the organisation with its founder Eelco Fortuijn, who now takes up the role of Director of Policy & Advocacy.
While a lot has been done this year, much more is expected next year. I am very excited about 2014 and the prospect it holds both for the further development of our organisation as well as for the betterment of conditions for global food production and the people who produce our food. Next year, I am particularly looking forward to sharing with you our 2013 annual report and our strategic vision and plan for 2014-2016. I am also eager to see Fairfood take the lead in uniting food movements in the Netherlands and around the world to influence governments and private sector towards a transformational agenda on food.
Undoubtedly, without the generous contributions of our supporters, strategic partners and donors, we would not have made this much progress. Our employees and volunteers are the bedrock of our achievements, without whom we would not have come this far. Together, our commitment to Fairfood’s development and cause is unwavering. We will continue to influence food companies and governments to solve harmful socio-economic and environmental issues affecting food production and vulnerable people in global food chains. Our hope is that each success we realise will bring us a step closer to ensuring a fair and sustainable food system. I look forward to working with you all in 2014.
Happy New Year!
Executive Director, Fairfood International