Fair Trade Practices Not Helping The Poor In African Countries

Written by Kevin Mwanza

Written by Mary O’Hara | From Vice News

A recently published four-year study suggests that many of the poorest workers in coffee and other farming industries are even worse off when employed by fair trade cooperatives.

The “Fairtrade, Employment and Poverty Reduction in Ethiopia and Uganda” study — which was published Sunday by University of London — focused on small farms in Uganda and Ethiopia and interviewed the lowest-wage freelance farm workers.

It found that even when fair trade premiums helped boost incomes for farm owners — ranging from small families to large plantation estates — the benefits failed to trickle down to workers that make up the majority of the industry’s labor force.

In some cases, the study found, improvements to working conditions such as modern toilets were reserved only for senior managers, and money that cooperatives designated for schools for the children of workers went to build teacher’s housing instead.

At one school, the farm workers couldn’t afford the fees charged by the school they said was built by fair trade dollars.

Across the board, people hired to work on farms that sold fair trade products were paid less and treated worse.

“We pay extra for the premium which is supposed to support community projects,” said Christoper Cramer, study co-author and professor at University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). “Often the literature says that premiums are fairly distributed in the community, but our evidence found that not to be true.”

Cramer told VICE News that there’s a misconception about “small holder” farms not using hired labor. Maybe that’s why the certification process for fair trade only has developed standards for permanent workers hired by either fair trade collectives or large-scale factory farms.

“Wage employment is far more important in small holder areas than has been acknowledged. It’s very pervasive,” Cramer said.

“People who depend on wage employment are the very poorest people,” said Cramer, “If your concern is with poverty reduction, this matters.”

Read more at Vice News