By MURIMI GITARI
January 10, 2019, Nairobi. Fairtrade Africa, an independent non-profit umbrella organization for all fairtrade certified producers in Africa and in the Middle East representing over 1 million smallholder farmers and workers launched a premium alumni association in a very colorful event at Westlands in Kenya’s capital Nairobi with representatives from various flower producers and stakeholders from Coopa in the United Kingdom.
The organization which is based on partnership between producers and traders, businesses and consumers is an alternative approach to conventional trade advocating for better working conditions and improved terms of trade for farmers and workers across Africa and the Middle East.
Shoppers recognizes products that meet Fairtrade standards through a system of Fairtrade mark on products that which attracts a minimum fair price above the premium price Fairtrade workers and farmers receive that are additional funds above the purchase price in which they invest in social, economic and environmental projects of their choice translating to investing more to the premiums they get from what the producer organization sells.
The impacts these premiums have had on communities have been immense through creating scholarship funds, issuing bursaries to purchasing school supplies and construction of libraries and class rooms. This is due to the fact that education is a vital component to Africa’s development and growth regardless of Africa lagging 20 percent behind the world average in terms of enrolment rates in universities according to UNESCO and World Bank statistics.
Due to the increase in number of bursary beneficiaries from Fairtrade Africa (FTA) an alumni association was launched with the aim of getting these beneficiaries share their success stories and working in partnership with the FTA communication team in promoting the FTA brand in communities that they operate in together with mentoring students in Fairtrade certified produce organization schools.
This has been able to be achieved after Kenya flower workers received an annual $ 4,459,181.53 of fairtrade premium between the year 2006 to 2014which has been invested in education and other social programs that has seen over 6,000 children of families working in flower farms benefit across the country. Sharing their success stories during the launch, the alumni expressed their gratitude to the FTA for the impact they have put to them through the premiums to the communities and mostly to their families who work in flower farms. Wreford Momanyi, who is the chairperson of the alumni association shares of how he benefited through a full scholarship he received from FTA whereby his parents were both working at Oserian Flowers as flower graders.
After enrolling at Oserian’s early childhood program and later joining Hilltop academy where he attained 393 marks out of the overall 500, his parents could not afford enough funds for his secondary education at Koilel High school where he was to be admitted.
FTA offered a scholarship that saw him complete his secondary education and join the University of Nairobi where he studied Electrical and Electronic Engineering and after completing got himself a job with PricewaterhouseCoopers as a Technology Consultant.
Momanyi believes that he could not be where he is if it were not for the sponsorship that was pegged on him in performing well and proving a peace of mind. Being every girl’s dream to get education, it was not different for Jane Onyango Mambone who studied Supply Chain Management through the scholarship and currently working as a Store’s Manager at Flamingo Horticulture.
Beating all odds from a community that bars girl-child towards education, Jane boasts of being able to complete her college studies after benefiting from the FTA program through her father who was working at Flamingo Horticulture. During the launch, Victor Obiero, another beneficiary of these programs who completed his studies and now working as the Maintenance Technician at Oserian Geothermal Plant at Naivasha was promised a full scholarship to his siblings by the COOP/FTA chairperson Mary Kinyua after expressing of how he took the responsibility of ensuring his siblings get the same schooling he acquired.
The FT premium partially paid for his last year at secondary education and after passing he joined JKUAT to pursue a bachelor of Social Degree in Control and Instrumental Engineering through the FT premium support .victor’s mother was working at Oserian farm as a casual worker but through her diligence and determination she secured herself a permanent position.
More of the ongoing initiatives by FTA are engaging audience through online platforms and resolving to work closely with the media and also empowering producers with youth and women involvement according to the FTA chair Mrs. Mary Kinyua.
Mary says it is the high time to communicate to stakeholders that Fairtrade works and teams need to get together and be involved in the global work of FT through positioning the beneficiaries or the alumni as future leaders and them to advocate that they have potential and energy of helping grow the industry at large. She further notes that Fairtrade has been met with a number of challenges especially negative media publicity that has seen the industry being painted in bad light with the market share shrinking in the United Kingdom.
Kenya alone has got 42 flower farms with over 35,000 employees and 50,000 dependents with amounts of premiums totaling to 7 million Euros of which 28 percent of the Euro goes to education funding with the highest single allocation going to premium projects with an example of a hospital built by Bigot Flower Farm along Nakuru- Naivasha highway.
The 11 alumni members who were present during the launch articulated of how they will show their support to FTA by promoting the brand, raising the profile of the organization and participating to FTA activities by a way of showing their and appreciation for the beneficial gains they acquired through the premiums. FTA has recognized the current relationship it has with the alumni who have benefited from the premiums and wish to encourage and expound their contacts between the alumni through this launched Fairtrade Africa Premium Alumni Association platform (FTAPAA).