Fiji’s Fairtrade sugar farmers urge action on climate change

Fairtrade sugar farmers from Fiji, already grappling with the forces of climate change, are urging world leaders at the latest round of UN climate talks to fulfil their commitments on reducing damaging greenhouse gas emissions.

Sugar cane. Photo © Fairtrade Sweden

05 November 2017

Fiji holds the presidency for this year’s climate conference, COP23, and its sugar farmers are in the front line of climate change, with floods, droughts and tropical cyclones regularly devastating crops. Changing weather patterns mean traditional growing seasons have been disrupted. Saltwater contamination from coastal flooding is destroying farmland, and some coastal communities have had to relocate.

Parbindra Singh, chairman of the Fairtrade certified Lautoka Cane Producers Association and a member of the Fairtrade Network of Asia Pacific Producers (NAPP), has travelled more than 16,000 kilometers to bring the voice of Fijian farmers to the talks in Bonn, Germany.

"We want to urge decision-makers to get on with tackling climate change, and also to show the world that with the right support, farmers can become more resilient," he said. "Fairtrade farmers are better placed to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change. But it’s up to everyone in the supply chain – producers, traders, retailers and consumers – to reduce their carbon footprint and play their part."

Fiji is home to the three largest Fairtrade producer organizations in the Pacific, and Fairtrade sugar farmers are not waiting for action at a global level to kick in. They are already using the Fairtrade Premium – the extra money they get from selling on Fairtrade terms – to become more resilient to climate change. In Fiji, more than US$12 million of Premium money has already been invested, including on adaptation and mitigation schemes such as improved field drainage to cope with floods, stronger communal buildings to protect against cyclones, intercropping to boost food security, solar power and drilling bore holes.

Fairtrade is taking part in a number of events at COP23 including a panel discussion hosted jointly by the governments of Germany and Fiji. Two years ago at the landmark COP21 in Paris, Fairtrade launched Fairtrade Carbon Credits, which enable vulnerable communities in developing countries to reduce emissions while also strengthening themselves against the effects of climate change.

"Farmers, producers and farm workers are on the front line of climate change," said Darío Soto Abril, Global Chief Executive Officer for the Fairtrade system. "We rely on them for our food security. They are among the most vulnerable to climate impacts. If they suffer, we all suffer."

"We’re seeing changing weather such as drought during the rainy season, and this affects the growth of the sugar cane," said Mohammed Rafiq, Chair of the Fairtrade certified Labasa Cane Producers Association. "Sugar cane yields are down, production is affected, and severe cyclones destroy the cane."

Ronal Kuma, manager of the Rarawai and Penang Cane Producers Association, which is also Fairtrade certified, said farmers have been suffering more than six months of drought. "It started after the last cyclone, which destroyed everything," he said. "It will take four or five years to get back to previous levels of production."

 

For further information please contact Gill Tudor, Fairtrade International: g.tudor@fairtrade.net; mobile +43 680 320 6364.

 
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