Fairfood Fiesta event raises awareness for Central American food workers

21 May 2015

On 7 May 2015, Fairfood International organised a joint fundraising event with the University of Amsterdam and the International Student Network Amsterdam (ISN). During this benefit concert featuring a variety of artists, we were able to raise €1,000 for our programmes. The main aim was to create awareness for our Occupational Safety and Health programme, with a particular focus on our sugarcane project in Nicaragua combating Chronic Kidney Disease of non-traditional causes (CKDnT): a work-related epidemic sweeping through Central America.

If music be the food of love

The event was held at the urban farm Buurtboerderij Ons Genoegen in Amsterdam, which is run by volunteers from The Rainbow Group, a Dutch organisation that supports vulnerable people to help them achieve active social participation.

Fairfood used this idyllic setting to host a series of concerts by Sam John, Max Kortlander, Kirsikka Manninen, Charlie Chipchase, 44verses and Alcuna Wilds. There were also drinks and snacks served by the Fairfood fundraising team.

OSH Programme and CKDnT in Central America

The Fairfood Fiesta raised funds for our Occupational Health and Safety Programme, which aims to put pressure on food and beverage companies and governments to ensure positive change in the lives of food workers by implementing safe and healthy working conditions. We also lobby governments to put policies and practices in place in order to regulate companies and prevent human rights abuses.

Special attention was paid during the event to raise awareness about sugarcane workers in Central America who are increasingly suffering from the deadly epidemic CKDnT. This disease can be easily prevented by reducing the number of hours worked and increasing access to shade and water. We are discussing these issues with food and beverage companies throughout the entire sugarcane supply chain, as well as governments, to ensure sugar producers in various Central American countries implement wide-reaching changes.

Dying for work: CKDnT in Central America facts and figures

  • At least 20,000 people have died from Chronic Kidney Disease in Central America over the past decade;
  • In sugarcane producing countries such as El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Costa Rica Chronic Kidney Dis­ease is among the top 10 of main causes of death;
  • There is increasing evidence that the CKDnT epidemic is linked to long working days in warm working conditions with lack of access to drinking water and shade, causing heat stress and dehydration;
  • During the six-month harvest period, sugarcane workers in Central Ameri­ca work up to 12 hours a day, 6 to 7 days per week;
  • In severe heat stress conditions, such as in the Central American sugar­cane industry, workers can lose up to 12 litres of fluid per day;
  • In most Central American countries, sugarcane workers have to bring their own water to work;
  • Access to shade during breaks is limited – even though temperatures in the field rise above 35°