12 Aug 2021

Young people leading the way: Fairtrade celebrates tomorrow’s farmers and innovators

Felix Ouma
Felix Ouma received funding for his education from his mothers' flower farm Premium.
© Fairtrade Africa

International Youth Day is celebrated every year on 12 August, to recognize the milestones young people are achieving in sustainable development. In a time where the “Fridays for Future” movement, driven by children and teenagers, is influencing the decisions of political leaders towards a more sustainable world, it’s impossible not to acknowledge the role of youth in shaping our world. This year’s International Youth Day theme is “Transforming food systems: Youth innovation for human and planetary health”, focused on recognizing and celebrating youth innovations that are transforming food systems.

Fairtrade has long been aware of the importance of engaging and educating youth in order to strive towards a more sustainable future. Fairtrade certified producer organizations often invest their Fairtrade Premium funds to support the education of farmers’ and workers’ children. The Fairtrade Premium is an extra sum of money on top of the selling price that organizations receive on every Fairtrade sale, which they choose how to spend on their businesses and communities.

Felix Ouma is a prime example of how Fairtrade positively impacts youth through education and opportunity. Felix graduates from university in mechatronics engineering next year. He will have completed a long journey with Fairtrade that began in 2014. The Fairtrade certified flower farm where his mother Rosemary Achieng works allocates part of its Fairtrade Premium funds to bursaries for the education of workers’ children. "The bursary has met 75 percent of my school fees,” says Felix. “This eased the burden on my mother. She was able to focus on my siblings.” His mother adds, “I couldn’t have afforded to put him through secondary school. The bursary helped make it possible.”

Felix has since become a founding member of the Fairtrade Africa Premium Alumni Association in 2018. This association brings together past and current Fairtrade Premium bursary beneficiaries from Fairtrade certified flower farms around Kenya. “If not for Fairtrade, I wouldn’t have met and interacted with 90 percent of the members of our association. These young people are drawn from diverse cultural and academic backgrounds, which has exposed me to different perspectives in life,” Felix states.

The alumni association is not only a way for youth to connect and develop synergies – it also brings the opportunity to attend various forums locally and abroad. Felix attended the Fairtrade Africa Youth Convention in 2019 in Kenia, which has enriched his network, while providing him with a fresh outlook. “Fairtrade works to promote a sustainable production by encouraging the use of renewable and efficient energy sources, for instance. As a trainee engineer, attending such forums exposes me to information that I can use to build technology that will improve people’s lives in a sustainable manner.”

This November, Fairtrade is organizing a Fairtrade Global Youth Convention, a virtual global forum that will bring together young representatives of the three regional Fairtrade producer networks in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The goal of the three-day online event is to create lasting networks and to provide a space for young people to connect, learn and collaborate. The convention will provide learning opportunities and workshops for building skills in areas such as leadership, agri-preneurship and climate change. The online platform will also be a space for youth to network with each other and with global stakeholders.

Making farming an attractive business for young people is pivotal for food security. By giving young people the opportunity to receive education, they can return to the farms of their parents with fresh outlook. “My brother is passionate about farming. He and I hope to partner by incorporating his ideas and my technical skills to develop a farming business,” says Felix, for whom agriculture will always have a special place in his heart, “because it’s through sponsorship from farming that I’ve gone through school.”