Fairtrade Africa, West Africa Network is organising a two-day Regional Convention from the 13th to the 14th June 2021 under the theme: “Building Producer Resilience through trade”. The Opening Ceremony of the event was attended by Mr. Patrick Nimo, Chief Director of the Ministry of Trade, Hon. Gizella Tetteh, the MP of Awutu Senya as well as representatives from the Ghana Cocobod, the Ministry of Agriculture, Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana, GIZ, agricultural workers unions, and other partner organisations.
The West Africa Regional Fairtrade Convention (RFC) is a biennial event organised by Fairtrade Africa West Africa Network which brings together all Fairtrade and non-Fairtrade producers and other stakeholders within and outside the region to deliberate on contemporary issues affecting producers and to propose ways of advancing the businesses of producers and their partners. Through the event, producers deliberate on new market opportunities, linkages with entrepreneurs in agro-processing as well as issues that relate to advocacy, youth, and gender-related issues within agricultural supply chains.
The event theme focused on resilience for producers in a post covid context. With the onset of the COVID 19, producers have been supported by Fairtrade to build resilience on different fronts. Fairtrade provided relief and resilience funds through internally generated funds from the Fairtrade system and also through donor partners that helped producers to identify alternative livelihoods as well as build their capacity in areas such as climate adaptation and regenerative agriculture. Through the Fairtrade Relief fund, SECO fund and Recover Africa Fund, both Hired labour organizations and Small Producer Organization were able to access financial support to respond to the needs of their Members and Workers. The SECO Fund, Fairtrade Covid-19 Relief Fund, and Recover Africa Fund were structured to support producer organizations to offer relief services such as the provision of hygiene and safety kits as well as food items to Members and Workers. Fairtrade Recover Africa fund, in particular, was also made available for producers to access to build their resilience in livelihoods and other income generation activities. Great initiatives such as the establishment of hydroponics on the farm, bakery, soap making, bead making, and vegetable productions were just a few of the innovations embarked upon by the producer organizations with the use of the fund.
In his opening remarks, Edward Akapire, Head of Region for Fairtrade Africa West Africa Region reiterated the commitment of Fairtrade to strengthen its member producer organisations: “The West Africa Fairtrade Network has over the period mobilised its members to access the capacity building on various topics relevant to our operations as Farmers and Workers, supported in the area of fundraising and engaged policymakers in an attempt to achieve favourable terms for producers”.
In his keynote address, Mr. Patrick Nimo, the Chief Director of the Ministry of Trade lauded Fairtrade for its contribution to supporting farmers’ access to trade and markets both within the subregion and beyond. He urged producers to take advantage of the National Export strategy for export promotion and trade facilitation, as agriculture forms a major part of non-traditional exports.
Speaking on behalf of Fairtrade producers at the opening ceremony of the event, Mrs. Florence Blankson, Vice President of the Fairtrade Ghana Network said: “The support received from Fairtrade came in handy during the lockdown period as markets were virtually closed down due to restrictions on movement. Over 50,000 households received support in the form of food, hand sanitizers, soap, and facemask. It is worthy to note that, Fairtrade also gave some concession concerning the use of Fairtrade premium by Members and Workers to make funds available to producer organizations for specific support initiatives towards their Members and Workers. A total of 17 Small Producer Organizations and 4 Hired Labour Organizations of various products: cocoa, banana, mango, coconuts, cashew, shea butter, pineapple, citrus, etc. received the Fairtrade Relief Funding support.
Speaking at the event Dr. Nyagoy Nyong’o, Fairtrade CEO reiterated the commitment of Fairtrade to empower and support producers to remain resilient. She also assured producers of Fairtrade’s commitment to ensuring fairness in trade, advocating for living incomes, and advocating for human rights and sustainable development in line with the new 2021-2025 global strategy that puts the producer at the heart of all transformation and that focuses on digitalisation, impact data, transparency and traceability that is needed to drive agricultural growth.
The event also provided the opportunity for producers to be informed on the progress of the Fairtrade Africa 2021- 2025 strategy which focuses on new product and market development, advocacy and policy, sustainable farming systems, and strengthened and transformed producer organisations.
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