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Cape Town, 2 November 2011 – The countdown to Durban has begun as Fairtrade farmers prepare to participate at COP17! Despite the devastating impacts climate change is having on their farms, the voice of Fairtrade farmers has not been heard within the climate change negotiations. A continued failure to do so will have drastic ripple effects across the developing world. In response, Fairtrade Africa has taken the lead in engaging the Fair Trade movement in the climate change policy process.
Fairtrade farmers are clearly feeling the effects of climate change. Yvette Konstadopoulos is a wine farmer in Western Cape South Africa, in an area that receives less than 20mm of rain each year and is heavily reliant on the Orange River to ensure their table grape crop. “Two floods came down river at different times that put 15 rows of grapes underwater. We were very lucky really, as the floods came two weeks after we had harvested the last of our table grapes. If that had occurred in the middle of the harvest we would have lost a lot of produce, and this would have had a very harsh financial impact on us. The destruction of a full crop can put you out of business, and that would put a lot of people out of work in the community.”
Fairtrade is an international system that works to protect and support small-scale farmers and workers in the South. Its mission is to connect disadvantaged producers with consumers, promote fairer trading conditions and empower producers to combat poverty. Fairtrade Africa represents the African farmers in the global system. Over half a million farmers and workers directly benefit from Fairtrade in Africa and one and a half million globally.
Fairtrade seeks to work towards a fair playing field in the area of trade for farmers in developing countries. However, climate change will erode any gains in this regard by creating an even more unfair playing ground given small scale farmers’ lack of access to knowledge and financial mechanisms that will enable them to respond to changes in the climate. A failure to respond will mean decreased resilience (ability to withstand shocks) which will affect sustainable livelihoods. A decrease in production will be accompanied by loss of income and jobs which will further erode livelihood bases for affected populations. Such effects, replicated across agricultural sectors, will undoubtedly be felt at national levels throughout the continent and across the world.
Although Fairtrade provides a safety net and significant support, much more is needed in order to help producers adapt to such challenges, according to Nokutula Mhene, COP17 coordinator of Fairtrade Africa: “In order to address tissues of livelihood protection for farmers, an enabling policy environment that focuses on agriculture is needed. More specifically, an environment that is able to respond to the needs of vulnerable groups such as Fairtrade farmers in developing countries who are currently significant contributors to trade and development in their respective regions.”
Fairtrade Africa is participating at the upcoming 17th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP17) to raise the voice of Fairtrade producers. Fairtrade Africa urges policymakers to consider the needs and plight of Fairtrade producers in the face of climate change. Fairtrade producers are at the frontline of the battle against climate change and therefore call for the leaders of the world to realise that climate change is set to destabilise the vulnerable livelihood bases of millions. It is the duty of those who caused climate change to ensure that poor farmers and workers, who had very little to do with its advent, are able to salvage their sources of livelihoods. This begins with the recognition of the real impacts of climate change and is enabled by appropriate and sufficient financial and political support.
For further information, please contact:Nokutula Mhene firstname.lastname@example.org
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