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Evolving fair trade

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Much has been done to make trade fairer in developing countries. Decades of development programmes for smallholder farmers across Africa. The Fairtrade label worth almost £2bn in the UK. Big food companies promising more ethics and sustainability. However, so far, this has meant little for 33 million smallholder farmers in Africa, who remain some of the poorest and most vulnerable households. Why is this?

Leading experts have outlined five priority areas to benefit smallholders: access to quality inputs, institutional capacity for self-organisation, improved market information, public sector investment and a stable policy environment. However, whilst this may help them enter and become more competitive in the food value chain, it does not address the fact that they remain at the bottom of the it. What does this mean?

Economies can be divided into primary, secondary and tertiary activities - production, manufacturing and services. In the food value chain, these activities can be classified as growing, processing and marketing. Africa, as is true for many developing regions, has remained stubbornly in primary activities, growing the ingredients which are sent to be manufactured outside of the continent. Why does this matter?

Because, in general, those higher up the value chain capture a higher proportion of the final price customers eventually pay, meaning those lower down get less. For smallholder farmers, lacking self-organisation and market information, this often means accepting whatever spot price is offered by buyers who are better connected to food manufacturers. It's no wonder they remain some of the poorest, most vulnerable, households. What about Fairtrade?

Fairtrade certification helps by setting social, economic and environmental standards throughout the value chain, which includes a minimum price to be paid to farmers - smallholders or otherwise - and a Fairtrade premium. This premium amounts to over €100m per year, of which 26% is spent on education and 31% is spent on productivity and quality improvements at the farm. However, Fairtrade does not address the value chain structure - which continues to leave smallholders at the bottom. So, is there more that can be done?

Rising to the challenge are entrepreneurs, such as Tei Mukunya who founded Azuri Health in Kenya who produces natural, dried fruit products. Tei has a long-term and fair relationship with smallholder farmer groups, such as the Kambiti East Mango Growers (KEMG), to grow the fruit she needs. Furthermore, by teaching KEMG members environmentally-friendly solar drying techniques, Tei is able to buy not just fresh, but dried mangoes - paying up to ten-times more to the farmers. She then washes, dries and packages the fruit at a facility nearby.

However, doing things right has its costs, and as a small producer, Tei finds it difficult to reach consumers who value her environmentally-friendly production techniques and efforts to provide a better life to her farmers. This is true of many entrepreneurial food producers who are building ethical businesses close to their smallholder farmers. In such cases, Storimarket provides a bridge for these producers to sell directly to socially-conscious consumers, with logistical and marketing support. In May 2018, Tei’s Azuri Health dried fruit brand will be available outside of Kenya for the first time, thanks to the Storimarket online platform.

Fair trade is more than just a label, it is a movement. A movement to change the way we trade globally, allowing small producers to participate and thrive. Producers like Tei are pioneering a way to go beyond just the label and evolve the fair trade movement. Whilst low-cost, environmentally-friendly production techniques enable Tei to create a quality product, Storimarket allows her to connect directly with consumers who value what she does, and how she does it.

Storimarket is a website that allows you to buy direct from smallholder farmers and ethical food producers in Africa. This not only betters their lives, but allows them to continue to farm in a way that is good for the environment and their community. That’s why we say that Storimarket products don’t just taste good, they do good too! Right now, we have healthy, ethical snack boxes immediately available, including tasty chocolate-covered cocoa beans from Uganda and, both from Kenya, nutritious macadamia nuts and delicious dried mango.

A Healthy, Ethical Snack Box. Shop now.

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