19 Oct 2021

Q&A with Rutuja Patil, Fairtrade Youth Ambassador

"Youths are the pillars of our nations. When they stand for something, nothing is impossible. They must commit to making others environmentally aware; educate on how to conserve energy and reduce fossil fuel usage." says Rutuja, our Fairtrade Youth Ambassador

When Rutuja Patil’s cousin began working with an Indian Fairtrade-certified sugarcane smallholder producer organization, his day-to-day work experience became her eye-opening revelation.

“For the first time, I could really see the impact that climate change was having on farmers in my community,” explained Patil, 20, in an email interview with Fairtrade. “And I could see that immediate action was needed.”

Since then, Rutuja has honed her innate passion for working with other young activists in her community to drive local and global attention to the climate threats faced each day by farmers like her cousin. Above all, her knowledge and enthusiasm for sustainable and organic agriculture have inspired her to educate companies and individuals to adapt their daily behavior for the creation of a fairer and greener future for all.

Patil is not the only agricultural producer witnessing climate change’s ravages on her farming community. Around the world, millions of farmers come into daily contact with a fast-changing environment, putting their livelihoods and lives at risk.

Now, as world leaders head into the upcoming 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, the global Fair Trade movement is uniting to express a sense of urgency in achieving an inclusive climate action that leaves no one behind. And Fairtrade Youth Ambassadors like Rutuja Patil are helping the movement spread the movement’s key message: farmers and agricultural workers must be included in the COP26 outcomes and guaranteed fair incomes and financing to build back better and greener for a sustainable tomorrow.

Fairtrade International caught up with Patil in the lead up to COP26 to ask her about how climate change has impacted her community and what she would like to see come out of the UN climate conference.

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about how you became involved with Fairtrade and climate activism?

My name is Rutuja Ratnahar Patil and I am from India. My cousin works for Elite Krishi Vikas Sanstha Nagardale, which is connected with Fairtrade. He motivated me to take part in Fairtrade’s activities focused on fairness and sustainability.

Climate change is having a disproportionate effect on producer nations, impacting farmers and agricultural workers around the world. How has climate change impacted your community?

The most important consequence of climate change is unseasonal rainfall. And as a result of this, it rained so heavily in our area, which was detrimental to the growing crops. Due to torrential rains, the crop retained water for 7 to 8 days. And this was the reason for the complete destruction of our crops. This obviously affected the economy of many working people like us, who work on farms. It was a waste of labour, of money and of time.

How have producers in your community adapted to the pressures and threats of climate change?

In terms of climate change adaptation, producers have taken several actions. Due to the flooding, they are trying to establish more secure locations and infrastructure as well as focusing on landscape restoration and reforestation to help absorb the excess rain water in the earth. Flexible and diverse cultivations are being prepared. The crops which survive heavy rainfall, like sugar cane, will increasingly be planted by farmers.

In November, global leaders will descend on Glasgow, Scotland to convene the UN climate conference known as COP26. If you could address these global leaders face-to-face, what climate action would you demand of them?

Everything is possible, when we speak up about it. That's why we should make our voice heard by those in power. When such a global leaders appeal to powerful and political persons to take initiative steps towards climate change, it will easy to make awareness among common people.

Help should be given to protect and conserve green spaces like local parks and community gardens. Investments in eco-friendly businesses will help all of us achieve a greener world.

Fridays For Future. Zero Hour. Young people around the world have been mobilizing for climate action. As Fairtrade Youth Ambassadors representing producers from regions on the frontline of climate change, what advice would you give to young people seeking to make a difference?

Youths are the pillars of our nations. When they stand for something, nothing is impossible. They must commit to making others environmentally aware; educate on how to conserve energy and reduce fossil fuel usage. They can encourage the use of renewable energies.

We know that nature will care for us, if we care for it. Every young person’s climate engagement is a commitment to a safer, greener future for all.

Curious about other Fairtrade Youth Ambassadors? read our interview with Deborah Osei–Mensah