20 Sep 2021

Five ways Fairtrade supports producers and workers to tackle COVID-19


By: Kelly Hawrylyshyn, Senior Advisor Global Resource Mobilisation, Fairtrade International

As the UN General Assembly leaders gather in New York to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic’s significant disruption to the lives and livelihoods of people in Latin America, Africa and Asia, Fairtrade is taking action on several fronts to support smallholder farmers and workers on the frontline of the pandemic. Here are five ways Fairtrade is stepping up to help stop the spread and impact of the virus:

1. More than €15 million to support producers affected

More than 900 producer organisations covering around 540,000 farmers and workers in 57 countries have benefitted from financial support. The funds have been used for a variety of immediate relief measures such as personal protection equipment, securing additional health and safety measures in the workplace, buying food supplies, and covering increased storage and transport costs during lockdowns.

In addition, looking at the long term effects of the pandemic, producers are also using these funds to diversify their production, adopt new agricultural practices, and even access new markets through e-commerce or by switching to local markets and going organic.

Find out more here.

2. Fairtrade producers as first responders in their communities

When government or civil society support is limited, producer organisations in remote locations can also take the lead. Showing self-reliance and practicing the Fairtrade principle of social solidarity, several cooperatives have invested Fairtrade Premium funds in direct community responses to the pandemic.

The examples range from the sewing of facemasks by flower producers in Kenya and purchasing food kits for quarantined communities in Peru, to setting up a diagnostic centre in a remote banana producing region in Colombia and a ‘COVID 19 Inoculation Camp’ in India.

Learn more about how Fairtrade adapted its rules on Premium use to allow producers to make faster spending decisions in response to COVID-19.

3. Campaigning for global leaders and organisations to #BuildBackFairer

Fairtrade and its member organisations demanded that global leaders prioritise support to smallholder farmers and workers in the global south as part of their response to the pandemic.

We called on the 2020 G20 Chair King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and all G20 leaders, to help protect farmers and workers in developing countries from the worst effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

In addition, at the G7 meeting in the UK in 2021 we organised a Wave of Hope calling for combined action on the pandemic, climate change and injustice.

Read our full #BuildBackBetter statement calling for the transformation of the economy and trade system as part of a just and sustainable pandemic recovery.

4. Shining a spotlight on how the pandemic is changing producers’ lives, and how they rise above it

During the pandemic Fairtrade called on the fashion industry to not forget about cotton farmers, when lockdown forced clothes retailers to shut and several major apparel brands cancelled orders.

Meanwhile, our documentary series Farmers Fighting the Global Crisis, being filmed over six months in Peru, Indonesia and Kenya, reveals the hopes, fears and aspirations of Fairtrade farmers Roberto, Ponisih and Caroline as they tackle not only COVID-19, but the pressing challenges of climate change, gender inequality, and a dwindling farming population. Teams of local filmmakers with links to social activism are developing and creating moving, authentic portraits about the impact of the pandemic on the daily lives of farmers.

You can watch the series here. New episodes coming on September 28.

5. Ramping up our work calling for living income and living wages

Unfortunately, producers and workers in the global south cannot always rely on safety nets such as furloughs and social insurance programmes, which have benefitted many people in other economies during the pandemic.

Faced with this challenge, Fairtrade has increased its efforts to change the power imbalance in global supply chains which traps smallholder farmers and workers in vulnerable livelihoods. We call on governments and the private sector to commit to achieving a living income and living wages, especially in the cocoa, coffee and banana sectors.

The pandemic is far from over, and the global vaccination inequity means small scale producers and farm workers need our support now more than ever. Join us and support Fairtrade producers shouldering the COVID-19 crisis by choosing to buy Fairtrade products when you go shopping.