Celebrating Quinoa Cooperatives during the International Year of Quinoa

(by Lorenza Vianello, Altromercato)

Although it has been a traditional foodstuff in the Andes for thousands of years, quinoa has become a favourite of health-conscious consumers in Western countries. In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has designated 2013 the International Year of Quinoa.

7. AIPROCA-quinoa-llamas

It’s nutritious, tasty, and versatile: quinoa – a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds – is a steadily-growing Fairtrade product among small-scale producer organizations. Six cooperatives and associations (four in Bolivia and one each in Peru and Ecuador) are currently certified Fairtrade, a fact that was relevant during the International Day of the Cooperative on July 6.

High global demand for quinoa means the future looks bright for this traditional crop of the Andean region of South America.  From 8 to 12 July, scientists, researchers, academics, and developers have gathered in Ecuador for the fourth World Congress of Quinoa to discuss the importance of quinoa on the global stage and how to ensure that its rapid growth is sustainable.

Carla Veldhuyzen, Regional Manager of the Andes Region for Fairtrade International, reports that the global spotlight on quinoa is welcome news to the farmers. She recently visited small producer organizations in Bolivia, including the oldest Fairtrade Certified quinoa small producer organization, ANAPQUI, which gained certification in 2001.

Risks of a quinoa boom

As the Andes’ “golden grain” has found its way onto more and more supermarket shelves in consuming countries, it has gone from a niche health-food product to a mainstream dietary staple. The sharp increase in demand has driven prices up, which has also raised food security concerns.

The issue is that quinoa may become so expensive that the crop’s traditional consumers in the Andes won’t be able to afford it and will turn to less-healthy imported alternatives. Another worry is that quinoa farmers won’t keep as much quinoa for their own family consumption, opting to sell as much as possible.

Veldhuyzen says that these concerns – which are discussed much more seriously outside of quinoa-growing regions – are legitimate, but that the Fairtrade groups don’t see them as particularly serious issues.

“They say they are consuming less quinoa, but that's not just because they cannot afford it anymore or because they want to sell all of their quinoa and buy cheap food themselves,” she said. “It's also due to changes in the way of life. [Life moves fast], and just to prepare a plate of quinoa is a lot of work. They don't have that time all the time. They aren't worried about it and most say they continue to consume it sufficiently.”

7. carla-veldhuyzen-tito-medrano-flo7. quinoa-ANAPQUI-processing







 Producers’ concerns

The more troubling issue that farmers have highlighted has to do with sustainable methods of production. The high price of quinoa has brought many people to the area trying to quickly capitalize on the booming quinoa business.

“People who never were in the quinoa business [are] just suddenly coming to the region and wanting to grow quinoa [without] really using the traditional practices.” Veldhuyzen said. “The traditional growers have been living from quinoa all their lives and they know that the land needs it.”

A quinoa plant itself is quite hearty, but it can only thrive if the soil has been properly prepared. Crops should be rotated so the soil has at least a year to rest between harvests, and the use of organic fertilizer such as manure is considered essential.

The cooperatives are required to dedicate at least a third of the Fairtrade Premium for environmental measures, which includes encouraging farmers to keep llamas or alpacas for manure production, the planting of living fences (native trees and shrubs) to protect against wind erosion, and training for sustainable methods of mechanized cultivation.

Keeping quinoa local

There are also programs in place to help ensure that quinoa – a source of protein and several minerals – remains part of the local diet. In Bolivia, ANAPQUI sells several hundred tons of quinoa to the government, which is included in food packets given to thousands of pregnant and nursing women each month.

Quinoa has become part of school breakfasts in Peruvian schools, and farmers across the region are taking part in projects that encourage them to grow additional vegetable crops for home consumption rather than devoting every available plot to lucrative quinoa cultivation. Keeping part of the quinoa harvest for family consumption is also encouraged.

Striking a balance between a healthy business and a healthy diet is an important consideration for quinoa farmers and consumers.

“I think it has helped actually, all this commotion [about food security], to have people reflect on what they’re doing. It puts an emphasis on developing strategies to produce in a more sustainable way,” Veldhuyzen said.

What follow-up by the EU to the Rana Plaza tragedy?

(Joint article by AchACT and the Fair Trade Advocacy Office)

The collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 24 April 2013, which ended up in a tragedy with more than 1100 dead and 2500 injured workers, highlighted again that garment workers face extremely bad working conditions, including unsafe working places and poverty wages. Their human and workers’ rights are systematically violated with contempt by their employers and client companies, most of them from Europe or North America.

All over Asia, garment workers are mobilising themselves. They demand the respect of their rights. They want to be paid a living wage. 

Following Rana Plaza disaster, the European Parliament[1] and the European Commission[2] have recognised the need to improve working conditions and workers’ rights respect in the garment sector. This is a first step that needs to be followed by concrete actions and legislation.

Living wage is a Human Right

The garment industry provides millions of job in Asia. If the industry contributes to increase global wealth, the wages paid don’t allow millions of workers to live above the poverty line. All garment workers in Asia need a substantial wage increase to be able to provide for themselves and their families basic needs - including housing, food, education and healthcare. A living wage is the cornerstone of decent work and decent life. It is a right recognised by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (art 23)[3]. However often when workers struggle to improve their wage and conditions in one country, companies and clients relocate to another country where wages and conditions are lower. 

That’s why Asian trade unions and labour rights organisations from across Asia created the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA). The AFWA represents the demands of the workers themselves and call for a living wage to be paid to all garment workers across Asia.

EU and Member States have duty to ensure a living wage to garment workers

As established by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), the European Union (EU) and its Member States have the duty to ensure that businesses operating within their territory/jurisdiction respect human rights. It includes to effectively ensuring that companies’ practices don’t have negative impact on Human Rights, including the right for workers in their supply chain to be paid a living wage.

To hold European and international companies accountable

This duty cannot be avoided by transferring authority to enterprises by simply “encouraging companies to promote workers’ rights in line with Corporate Social Responsibility guidelines”, as announced by EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht[4].

The EU and Member States should implement their duty to protect the right of garment workers making clothes for European companies and public bodies and ensure they are paid a living wage, through effective policies, legislation, regulations and socially responsible procurement. This should be done by clarifying the concept of human rights due diligence and identifying appropriate ways of embedding supply chain responsibility in its legislation and policies.

The Clean Clothes Campaign has identified some appropriate ways for the EU to assume its duty. The EU and Member States should firstly make compulsory the disclosure of information on place of production as well as employment and wage conditions in which clothes sold by European companies are made. They should include the respect of a living wage and workers’ rights in the EU trade policy and trade agreement with all garment production countries. They should also include the respect of workers and Human rights in the call for tenders of promotional and work wear and include credible and efficient means of verification. For more information: www.cleanclothes.org/livingwage or www.achact.be/salairevital

Need for a comprehensive supply chain approach

In the wake of the Rana Plaza tragedy, the Fair Trade movement has also drawn the attention of the European Union Institutions to the need to adopt a comprehensive approach across the garments supply chain, with the goal to ensure fair trading conditions across the supply chain. This should include measures to empower, for example, cotton farmers that supply garment factories. It should also include putting in place a robust system to phase out Unfair Trading Practices across the supply chain and ensuring each step in the chain (in particular the weakest actors) get a fair share of the price paid by the final consumer.


[3]“Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself (sic) and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.”

Appeal filed over business lobbies' privileged access in EU-India free trade talks

(by Pia Eberhardt, Corporate Europe Observatory)

On 10 July, lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory appealed a ruling from the EU’s General Court over information related to the EU-India free trade talks, which the European Commission shared with corporate lobby groups but later withheld from the public.

In a ruling delivered in June 2013, the court in Luxembourg had concluded that the Commission did not violate EU transparency rules when it refused to fully release allegedly sensitive documents related to the EU-India trade deal. All of the documents – meeting reports, emails and a letter – had been sent to business groups like the European employers’ federation BusinessEurope, one of the most powerful corporate lobby groups in Brussels. While they received full versions of the documents, the Commission only released censored versions to Corporate Europe Observatory, arguing that full disclosure would undermine the EU’s international relations.

Why are corporate lobby groups allowed access to information that the general public are denied? How can documents that the Commission has already shared with the business community at large suddenly become confidential and a threat to the EU’s international relations when a public interest group asks for their disclosure? This is the core question raised by the lawsuit.

The appeal comes as the EU and India are reportedly trying to ink their proposed trade agreement before elections in both regions in 2014. Trade unions, farmers, patients' organisations and other public interest groups have repeatedly sounded the alarm at the potentially devastating impacts of the deal, particularly on access to medicines and the livelihoods of Indian farmers and street traders.

While the negotiations between the two largest self-proclaimed democracies in the world have been kept out of the public arena, big business interests have been involved right from the start, as a 2010 report by Corporate Europe Observatory and India FDI Watch showed.

But the implications of the lawsuit go far beyond the EU-India trade agreement. The real issue at stake is whether the European Commission can continue negotiating backroom trade deals, together with, and for, a tiny elite of corporate lobby groups. At a time when more and more people fear that trade agreements threaten their basic rights to safe food, affordable medicines, a healthy environment and decent work, we cannot sit by and fail to challenge a ruling that risks legitimising the privileged access that the Commission grants big business over its policies. Corporate Europe Observatory is challenging this complicity, trying to redress the balance in favour of transparency and a trade policy in the interest of the many rather than the few.

4. In bed with business - Court ruling

Corporate Europe Observatory has also launched a donation call to cover the legal costs of the appeal.

Power, rights, and inclusive markets: Public policies that support small-scale agriculture

(by Marieke Poissonnier and Hielke Van Doorslaer, Oxfam)

Agriculture is back on the agenda for both governments and donors. A new era of high and volatile food prices, a growing and more affluent global population, and climate change have refocused minds on the need to invest in agriculture. As a consequence agricultural foreign direct investment (FDI) in developing countries rose from $600m annually in the 1990s to $3bn in 2005–07. Unfortunately, most of the investments are often biased towards large-scale agricultural projects. However, good policy can drive more and better investment to small-scale producers.

Oxfam's message to policymakers is simple: government has a central role if agricultural investment is to combat poverty and hunger. Policy makers, in governments and donor agencies around the world, must embrace their role in shaping agricultural markets and investments. The following principles should guide them:

1. Stand by your small-scale producers

There are 500 million small-scale farms across the world supporting two billion people. And 80 per cent of hungry people live in rural areas, mostly working as small-scale food producers. As a result, growth in this sector has twice the effect on the poorest people as other sectors.

If policies are to reach the poorest people, they must be targeted at supporting small-scale producers and creating non-farm jobs. Women small producers require particular investments and support to overcome entrenched exclusion and discrimination.

2. Put power at the heart of your policies

People are poor because they lack power, both in markets and in politics. Small-scale producers are vulnerable to market abuses such as cartels and monopolies, and too often are dominated by larger market players who capture the profits, whilst transferring the risks downwards.

Policy makers should both protect small-scale producers from market abuses (e.g. by using competition laws) and support mechanisms that give them power in markets (such as producer organisations) and politics (such as platforms for producers to engage in policy decisions).

3. Protect basic rights

Left unprotected by governments, communities and small-scale producers can find themselves robbed of their basic rights. Land grabs, abuses of workers, stolen water: these can all happen where government is missing. States have a duty to protect human rights and to regulate the private sector. Policy-makers should strengthen labour laws and introduce protections - such as a requirement for free, prior and informed consent - and transparent contracts in land deals.

4. Make markets inclusive

Small-scale producers, and their communities, can use markets to lift themselves out of poverty. For this to happen, markets must allow small-scale producers to participate and thrive.

Often, it requires support from government to help traditional markets evolve, e.g. through regularised grades and standards to raise quality, protection from cheap imports and facilitating investment in market infrastructure, such as urban wholesale markets.

Or it can require governments to shape formal markets so they give access to small-scale producers, by training small-scale producers to meet sustainability or safety standards.

There is no silver bullet in tackling poverty and hunger but we know that supporting small-scale agriculture and creating decent rural jobs is a big piece of the puzzle. We hope to see policy makers embrace this and shape markets and investments so they deliver a fairer and more inclusive food system.

Read more here

Fair Trade as “source of hope” for securing human rights in agriculture

On the occasion of World Fair Trade Day 2013 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, released a Question & Answer (Q & A) paper titled “The contribution of Fair Trade to securing human rights in agriculture”, in which he praises the Fair Trade model as a “source of hope” for small-scale famers and states that this trading partnership “should become the norm rather than the exception, and it should be better supported by fiscal incentives and in public purchasing policies”.

Olivier De Schutter recalls that in the agricultural sector fundamental rights at work are frequently violated. It is estimated that less than 20 per cent of the 450 million people who work, often on a seasonal basis, as farmworkers have access to basic social protection. Although the International conventions have been widely ratified, collective bargaining and social dialogue are often entirely absent: farmworkers face considerable difficulties in organizing themselves, and in addition, subcontracting and outsourcing practices are widespread. In recent years, the multiple forms of discrimination women face as farmworkers, e.g. in laws and practices regarding inheritance of land, in the mode of calculation of wages generally or in access to financial services, have become a particular concern. Practices that encourage workers, especially women, to have their children work with them, contributed to the approximately 132 million girls and boys aged 5 14 that work in agriculture, representing 70 per cent of all child labour. 

To alleviate this situation the Special Rapporteur refers his interim-report, “The right to food”, which was presented to the United Nations General Assembly in October 2011. In which the lessons that Fair Trade could deliver to contract farming schemes in general are highlighted, with a view to making global supply chains more equitable for small-scale producers. Based on a range of studies and consultations, the report identified seven principles that echo the concerns of Fair Trade schemes, and should become the norm in global supply chains:

  • For all concerned parties the arrangement must be viable from an economic point of view
  • Small-scale farmer should contribute to the wording of contract provisions
  • Contracts should be put in woman’s name if the woman is e.g. the main person working
  • Pricing mechanism should be clear and transparent
  • Quality standards must be clear and specific
  • Promotion of agroecological forms of production
  • The contracts should identify ways of resolving disputes

Finally Special Rapporteur De Schutter calls on both retailers and Governments to do more to promote Fair Trade. Governments especially should dispel the confusion among consumers surrounding the various certification schemes by information campaigns which highlight the respective merits of the different schemes, also ensuring that the definition of Fair Trade as laid down in the Charter of Fair Trade Principles is not watered down. 


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      The first EU Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade Award is officially launched!


      08 December 2017 (Brussels)Yesterday, the European Commission officially launched the first EU Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade Award. The Fair Trade movement warmly encourage local authorities to give the necessary visibility to their key contributors to make trade Fair by joining the competition.

      The long-awaited EU Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade Award has been officially launched yesterday. This was a commitment that the Commission took in October 2014, when the current EU Trade strategy was launched.

      The purpose of the award is to:

      • Recognize and celebrate cities’ achievements and positive impact in the areas of social, economic and environmental sustainability in international trade. 
      • Emphasize Fair and ethical trade schemes, as well as other non-governmental sustainability schemes, which may bring more sustainable opportunities to small producers in third countries and thus support sustainable and inclusive development.

      The call for applications is now open and EU local authorities can apply until April 2018. The winner is expected to be announced in Brussels in June 2018.

      “The launch of this award has been strongly requested by the Fair Trade movement and the more than 2000 Fair Trade Towns. Therefore, we welcome this initiative which gives the necessary visibility to the contribution of local authorities in promoting sustainable consumption and production models.”

      Sergi Corbalán, FTAO Executive Director

      The Fair Trade movement looks forward to supporting the European Commission and the International Trade Centre, appointed to set-up the award, to make this initiative a real success! The Fair Trade movement will mobilise its network to ensure a high participation of EU local authorities in the award. It will also seize the opportunity to raise awareness on the role of local policy makers in promoting sustainable development through trade.

      You can learn more about the award and how to apply here

      You can read FTAO’s toolkit on localising the SDGs through Fair Trade here

      A pdf version of this press release can be found here.


      The Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) speaks out for Fair Trade and Trade Justice with the aim to improve the livelihoods of marginalised producers and workers in the South. The FTAO is a joint initiative of Fairtrade International, the World Fair Trade Organization-Global and the World Fair Trade Organization-Europe.


      Peter Möhringer | moehringer@fairtrade-advocacy.org | Tel: +32 (0)2 54 31 92 3

      Fair Trade Advocacy Office

      Village Partenaire - bureau 1 | 15 rue Fernand Bernierstraat | 1060 Brussels – Belgium



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