Fairtrade forms key farming sustainability venture, as COP26 climate event seeks final deal

West African cocoa farming, pic Ben Rotthoff

The Fairtrade movement has confirmed a key sustainability venture with Grow Ahead, an established crowd-funding platform addressing the local challenges of climate change, to deliver environmental mitigation solutions for smallholder farmers with projects including cocoa-focused initiatives, reports Neill Barston.

As the two groups noted, their partnership comes amid the concluding chapter of the UN’s COP26 climate change conference, which draws to a conclusion tomorrow in Glasgow, Scotland, with tangible frameworks of action hanging in the balance

For their part, Fairtrade and Grow Ahead, have committed to supporting reforestation (agroforestry) projects at Fairtrade-certified producer organisations as part of their climate adaptation and mitigation efforts and in order to meet forthcoming EU legislation on the deforestation impact of imported commodities.

As our exclusive COP26 preview interview video interview highlights, the situation facing many key cocoa farming communities serving the chocolate and wider confectionery sector in Ivory Coast and Ghana remains under severe pressure, with uncertain climate conditions and fluctuating market commodity prices for crops causing a major impact on the sector, threatening its future viability.

“While global leaders meet in Glasgow, Fairtrade and Grow Ahead are committing to tangible efforts in delivering concrete solutions for those made most vulnerable by climate change,” said Dr. Nyagoy Nyong’o, Global CEO of Fairtrade International.

“As the recent Fairtrade and Climate Change report made clear, the threat to the future of our planet’s farmers and agricultural workers is very real and very severe. The time to stop talking and take action is now and that’s exactly what this partnership does.”

Industry venture

In kicking off the partnership, Grow Ahead is raising funds to support a project with Ghana-based Fairtrade-certified cocoa producer Kuapa Kokoo to plant 150,000 timber tree species and 30,000 fruit trees, reforesting 11,942 acres over an initial two-year period.

The reforestation effort, known as the Agroforestry and Cocoa in Ghana project, will work with 2075 farmers across 25 communities in the Offinso municipality of Ghana and has the stated goal of reforesting cocoa farms and farm lands to create microclimates, reducing the impact of climate change on cocoa farmers. “Rural and indigenous communities are at the forefront of the climate crisis.

They are not only disproportionately feeling the effects of the climate crisis, but are actively practicing methods, like agroforestry and agroecology, that are protecting biodiversity, building up soil health, restoring water to the area and drawing down greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ryan Zinn, Executive Director of Grow Ahead. “Proven small-scale farmer solutions still receive little support, both from governments and markets.

Grow Ahead and Fairtrade are working to combat this by supporting community-led agroforestry projects that put resources directly in the hands of cocoa farming communities, ensuring more sovereignty over their food and the resources to spread knowledge on sustaining their communities and their lands.” According to the findings of the recently published study Fairtrade and Climate Change, dramatic weather patterns spurred by climate change will likely deliver severe blows to agricultural production in key regions around the world, from Latin America to Asia-Pacific.

Meanwhile, in the Dominican Republic and Peru, as well as in parts of West Africa, cocoa farmers are likely to encounter more hot and dry weather periods, while their counterparts in eastern Ghana and northern Côte d’Ivoire may face heavier rains As farmers and rural communities are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change, despite contributing significantly less to global emissions, supporting farmer-led climate resilience initiatives becomes essential so that they can protect local ecosystems and their community and provide for their families.

In fact, planting cocoa in agroforestry or food-forest systems has a wide range of benefits from conserving biodiversity, strengthening soil health, microclimatic control, carbon sequestration, pest control, generating income for farmers through organic and fair trade product sales, and enhancing climate resilience. Ryan Zinn continued, “Small-scale farming communities are feeding the majority of the world with a quarter of all farmland, while cooling the planet. It is time that we divest from false solutions and invest in grassroots-led initiatives that are tackling the root causes of the climate crisis, hunger and poverty.

We are excited to partner with Fairtrade International to expand this impact, planting more trees in agroforestry systems and supporting more cocoa-farming communities across West Africa.” “Our planet’s farmers and agricultural producers are on the frontline of the global climate crisis,” concluded Dr. Nyong’o. “But far from being victims, they remain integral in developing those key climate solutions that can reverse environmental degradation and pave the way towards a more sustainable tomorrow. That’s what this partnership is all about.”

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