18 Jan 2021

What do new shoes, new houses and new wheelbarrows have in common?

Sugar 2021 house use of premium -Eswatini Sugar Association
An elderly resident is shown to the door of her new home, built by the MM&N sugar co-op using Fairtrade Premium funds.
Eswatini Sugar Association

An elderly lady on crutches is gently led to the door of her new home. An excited group of youngsters show off their new shoes. A dozen workers proudly line up behind their new wheelbarrows. What connects these seemingly unrelated events? They’ve all been paid for using Fairtrade Premium funds to improve the lives and livelihoods of sugar growing communities in Eswatini. Farmers and workers themselves decide how to spend the Premium, an extra sum of money paid on top of the selling price.

“Fairtrade certified growers benefit their communities by using the Fairtrade Premium to meet community needs and finance humanitarian interventions, in addition to improving their farm operations” says Nkosinathi Sihlongonyane, Sustainability Programme Coordinator at the Eswatini Sugar Association (ESA). “The Premium has been used to pay for a wide range of projects including building houses for destitute members of the community, paying for electricity and water supplies and building dams for animals to drink.”

Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) is home to five Fairtrade certified sugar producing organisations, who all sell their cane through the ESA. “Fairtrade is hugely important for the growers, their communities and the country’s sugar industry as a whole,” says Nkosinathi. “The Fairtrade Premium is not only used to support these farmers to produce sugarcane sustainably, it has also been invested in community projects in support of rural development. That’s why we encourage companies to continue sourcing Fairtrade sugar from Eswatini. Fairtrade is an effective mechanism to make trade work for the producing communities”

Sugar 2021 wheelbarrows use of premium  - Eswatini Sugar Association
Workers from the MM&N sugar co-op show off their new wheelbarrows, bought using Fairtrade Premium funds
Eswatini Sugar Association

The country’s sugar industry has benefitted from Fairtrade more broadly, says Nkosinathi. “The Fairtrade Standard has become an important benchmark in getting growers to adopt sustainable practices in their operations,” he adds. “The Eswatini sugar industry has also now aligned some of its operational standards to the Fairtrade Standard - for example, some of the chemicals previously used within the industry have been removed because Fairtrade lists them as unacceptable. This ensures growers use the least harmful chemicals and ensures better compliance with market requirements. Audits by major customers are now more likely to return positive results due to the higher level of compliance.”