Fairtrade Africa West Africa Region has held its annual congress virtually on 24th November 2020. The congress was attended by 120 delegates representing Fairtrade certified producer organisations in West Africa and Cameroun.
Fairtrade Africa owns 50 percent of the global Fairtrade system. Fairtrade Africa as an organisation is wholly owned by producers. Its regional congresses are organised to give producers the independence and autonomy to democratically elect delegates, in a transparent manner, to the Fairtrade Africa General Assembly and nominate candidates for the African Board which are the two highest decision making bodies within Fairtrade Africa. This arrangement is part of the governance structure within Fairtrade Africa to put the producer voice at the heart of all decision making.
During the meeting, elections were held for substitute delegates. At the end of the meeting, two representatives from Côte d’Ivoire and one representative from Ghana were elected, namely Hubert Y. Adou, Julien Adon and Anthony Buah representing COODIG Cooperative, SCAGA Cooperative and Ayinase Coconut Society respectively.
The regional congress was also organised to take stock of activities during the year and to discuss issues of concern toward the growth and strengthening of producer organisations. In his presentation, the Head of Region, for Fairtrade West Africa Region, Edward Akapire outlined initiatives that had been taken with producers this year since the onset of the global pandemic to ensure the safety and health of farmers, workers and their communities. Producer organisations were beneficiaries of a 600,000 Euro Producer and Resilience Fund. Most producer organisations were able to procure personal safety and health items, and support their vulnerable farmers through these funds.
Other cooperatives were able to carry out community sensitisation programmes through local radio initiatives among others. With the support of the Swiss government, Fairtrade Africa has also been able to provide support to its members, in addition to the funding and support from trading partners and marketing companies who are within its supply chain. Fairtrade Africa recently signed a partnership with GIZ for a RECOVER Africa project aimed at providing support to producer organisations in selected countries in Africa including Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. Fairtrade staff also continue to provide both in-person and remote technical support to farmers on good agricultural practices and social compliance.
Participants at the meeting were introduced to the strategic plan for Fairtrade Africa for 2021 to 2025, which outlines the road map for addressing key challenges such as access to market, climate change, disruptive technology and organisational strengthening for farmer cooperatives and hired labour organisations.
Speaking to the delegates, outgoing Executive Director for Fairtrade Africa, Dr. Nyagoy Nyongo commended producers for their continued efforts in making their voices heard by advocating for fairer terms of trade on the global commodity market. She emphasized the Fairtrade’s commitment to ensuring living income for farmer families and households towards sustainable development in their communities. She also added: “Today, agriculture is not seen as a way of life, but more importantly, as an agribusiness within the value chain. At Fairtrade Africa, we have always upheld this Farmer business mindset as we provide technical expertise to members to ensure good governance, sustainable crop production, and advocacy and networking opportunities.”
On his part, the incoming Executive Director for Fairtrade Africa, Dr. Argent Chuula, reiterated Fairtrade’s commitment to continue in its mission to ensure the empowerment of farmers and workers. Within the current context of global trade, and the opportunities that both North-South and South-South markets bring, he was confident that together, Fairtrade Africa will be able to bring change in the lives of farmers and workers by adopting new technologies and further strengthening sustainable partnerships.
The meeting was presided over by a representative of ECAM cooperative in Cote d’Ivoire, Ms. Assata Doumbia Fanny who joined with the voices of her colleague producers to commend Fairtrade Africa for its continued support to members to ensure access to market and to addressing some of the pertinent challenges facing farmers and workers.