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Fairtrade, using information to fight climate change

Economy / -

Nella cooperativa Sonomoro, in Perù, si coltiva caffè certificato Fairtrade
© Faitrade, Santiago Engelhardt

This is the story of Magda Reza, from the coffee cooperative Sonomoro in Peru, who thanks to a Fairtrade training program is able to curb the Roya epidemic, a fungus that decimates coffee plants

"The work with Fairtrade is very important because we learn to monitor the environment and improve our cultivation techniques.” For Magda Reza of the coffee farmers cooperative Sonomoro, located in the Equatorial Peruvian jungle, there is only one threat to the future of her cooperative, and that is climate change and its devastating effects. The seasons are no longer the same, and the rain is starting to become unpredictable. Last year a fungus called "Roya" destroyed most of the coffee plants and with them the main source of income for many farmers.
To fight her battle and that of the other farmers in the region, Magda, along with nine producers from her cooperative, has participated in a training program organized by Fairtrade together with the NGO Twin Trading and the German supermarket chain Lidl. During the training the promodores (literally 'promoters' because, after the training, they pass the knowledge on to other groups of producers in their region) are briefed on fertilization techniques, on water drainage, and preparation of compost, which can in help to contain the Roya epidemic. But during the training they also learn that the rise in temperature and high humidity allow for different crops to be grown. So today Magda on her land can cultivate, in addition to coffee, also cocoa and yucca: it has transformed the limitations into opportunities. "We do not ask for charity, but only the opportunity to work and to be able to overcome the challenges we are fighting through our strengths", said Magda during a trip to Germany where she was an endorser of the project.
Climate change and the role of Fairtrade
The number of events linked to climate change are growing, especially in the developing countries. Rising temperatures and increased rainfall, flooding and drought are phenomena of which thousands of producers have fallen victim. Research from the Institute of Natural Resources at the University of Greenwich indicates that climate change "will have a significant impact on agricultural production, food security and economic development, mainly in the developing countries".
And it’s not only in Peru. Fairtrade coffee producers from all over Latin America have been heavily affected by the spread of leaf rust, affecting more than 50% of the coffee growing areas in Central America, and around 30-40% in South America. Climate change has been identified as the main factor in the spread of this epidemic. Things are no better in Africa: for example in 2012 the tea pickers in the eastern part of the continent, fell victim to a heavy frost that destroyed thousands of acres of shrubs. And in the news just a few days ago, the terrible floods in Malawi. Experts say that it is due to climate change that such events occur with increasing frequency and intensity. Unfortunately, the future does not look promising. In fact, many studies indicate that in 2050 productivity of coffee, cocoa, tea and cotton will suffer and production in some areas could even disappear. Many farmers will need to adapt their farming practices to the new climatic conditions or risk losing their source of livelihood.
To respond to the situation, Fairtrade has developed a series of programs aimed at producers on the adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. One of these is the one in Sonomoro, which has supported Magda and the other 497 producers of Junin, an area well known for its coffee as 28 percent of the total Peruvian production comes from there.
Watch the video produced by Fairtrade Deutschland, with the voice of Matt Zuvela

Gianfranco Bologna. The priority is not to eat up the Planet

Sustainability / -

Gianfranco Bologna, direttore scientifico di WWF Italia

We are consuming more resources than the Earth is able to regenerate. We are reminded of this by the WWF with its 2014 edition of the Living Planet Report. For this reason, says the scientific director of WWF Italy, economic development must revise traditional parameters and include natural capital.

To meet global demand, requires one Earth and a half: the demand for raw materials of mankind is 50% higher than the regenerating capacity of natural systems. To remind us of this is the Living Planet Report, the document published every two years by the WWF (which is now in its tenth edition) that reports the state of health of the Planet and the consumption of resources. 
The report points out that since 1970 the populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles on the planet fell by 52%, while the carbon footprint – the amount of resources consumed by man – continues to grow. The survey shows that the greatest threat to biodiversity is caused by human activities such as fishing, hunting and climate change. We spoke with Gianfranco Bologna, the Scientific Director of WWF Italy.
Can you summarize briefly the purpose of the Living Planet Report?
We want to spread and promote One Planet Perspective: There is only one Planet, and we must protect it. Yet in less than two generations, on the contrary, the size of populations of vertebrate species have been halved. These life forms constitute the fabric of ecosystems, and therefore represent a barometer of what we are doing to our planet. Ours is an urgent call to action, and we can no longer wait, because in 2050, according to the latest forecasts of the United Nations, there will be 9.2 billion people on Earth. Sustainable social and economic development must be within the limits of the biosphere: life, for all we know so far, only exists in this thin end of the universe. Our production model cannot be separated from natural capital.
What sort of influence will the disappearance of biodiversity have on the food we eat?
Clearly the two are closely connected, although it is not easy to indicate precise commodities at risk of disappearing, because the variables are many. For some ingredients, such as palm oil, whose production methods are highly destructive for tropical forests, it has been necessary to produce a work table with businesses that identify rigorous criteria for the production chain.
What opportunity do you think Expo Milano 2015 represents on these matters?
We will participate at Expo Milano 2015 as representatives of civil society with a program articulated on the theme of the Exhibition, called One Planet Food. 
We will present several reports on the environmental impacts of food chains. But beyond the various manifestos that we or others present, the importance of this great moment of reflection is that there will also be precise guidelines and operational policies. During the next World Food Day, on October 16, 2015, the closing year of the Millennium Goals of the United Nations, the President Ban Ki-Moon will confirm the importance of adding value to natural capital that is based on agricultural systems, rich soil and resources of the sea. It will be an opportunity to reiterate that the traditional economic systems must be overcome, including the well-being of man, which depends on Nature. Everything is interconnected, the Amazon has a fundamental role in the climate of the entire planet and the global economy cannot ignore deforestation. Even in Italy, state accounting needs to include environmental aspects. If we think of cases that have led to economic damage as Ilva of Taranto, Porto Marghera, La Terra dei Fuochi or hydrogeological malfunctions. The usual referent of an association like ours should be the Minister of Economic Development.
From whom should the change of perspective start: institutions, companies or civil society?
Everyone must do their part. The action of a single social player is not enough. Clearly, those who have more decision-making power have more responsibility. In this sense, the Italian semester of the European Union could be an excellent opportunity to talk about 'well being compact' and not just a fiscal pact. 
But even the decision of a multinational energy company like Enel to disinvest in fossil fuels can be of decisive importance. And even the consumer at the time of purchase and consumption, has the power to change things. As the two great Carlin Petrini and Alex Zanotelli remind us, purchases are a vote with your wallet and eating is an agricultural act. For example, Coldiretti has made the calculation that by buying products from a short production chain, we can save 1 tonne of CO2 per household and 100 euro per month. We too on our site propose through One Planet Food ‘an environmental receipt', which calculates the CO2 of products in our shopping cart.
In the Report you listed the countries with the highest ecological footprint (Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Belgium, Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore, USA, Bahrain and Sweden): how does Italy rank?
Italy is in 26th place, still above the world average. This means that if the global population had the same standard of living of the Italians, we would need 2.6 planets to meet their needs. If it had the standard of living of the inhabitants of the United States, we would need no less than 3.9 Planets. 

Laura Safer Espinoza. A penny more for tomatoes, in order to save the women in the fields

Economy / -

Laura Safer Espinoza intervista

With a penny more per pound of tomatoes we can eliminate abuse, rape and crimes against workers. This is the key message of the Fair Food Program, an agreement that links farmers from Florida, tomato producers and buyers’ associations, thanks to which much of the abuse suffered by workers in fields has been eradicated. This is why Bill Clinton first, and later Barack Obama decided to recognize the programme monitored by judge Laura Safer Espinoza.

Many big American chains have already joined the Fair Food Program, a binding agreement between the Florida Tomato Growers association and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). Its purpose is to guarantee better payments and acceptable work conditions to the workers in the fields, eliminating critical situations that can even include sexual violence. The partnership between workers, property owners and buyers is supervised by the Fair Food Standards Council (FFSC).
Taco Bell and Walmart are some of the big companies that have already subscribed, accepting to pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes that come from the agricultural enterprises which respect the CIW program. Laura Safer Espinoza, former judge of the Supreme Court of New York, is the director of the Fair Food Standards Council. And she states: "I feel it is an honor, a privilege, to be part of a moment in history in which buyers, property owners and workers come together to correct a historical injustice. How many people can say the same thing, in their lifetime?"
One of the vehicles of the Fair Food Program is education. What are the conditions that prompt the initiative? 
We start from the fact that today many workers in the fields are still not educated, or even literate. Through our program, with information and videos that describe what should happen in agricultural companies, we help to raise the workers’ awareness about their rights. Cooperating with various associations that help us to monitor the situation of the farmers is also important for us. Everybody needs to know that there is a program that can help put an end to abuse, and when we receive reports about what is happening, this means that people have become aware.
The fact that critical situations have also been indentifed in a State like Florida, in communities of immigrants from Latin America might seem surprising... 
And not only in the wealthy state of Florida, with its beautiful beaches. Our program is expanding to other States of the US. Our commitment is now above all to beat human trafficking, again by adopting an approach that aims to eliminate abuse. This approach has in some cases resulted in the confiscation of the lands from the owners responsible for this abuse.
How is the Fair Food Program structured, how does it work?
I have had direct experience of women and men who cultivate the food we eat but who, for various circumstantial reasons, are unable to sustain themselves or their family, even if they are surrounded by food all day. This is why the Fair Food Program was created, and it is structured to enable the buyers of agricultural products, including no less than thirteen of the major corporations, to buy only from agricultural companies that respect a behavioral code in relation to basic civil rights and minimum wages. Even by paying one penny per pound more, no less than 20 million dollars have been given to those who cultivate the land, in order to let them provide food for their families.
What thoughts are raised by a convention like this one by Valore D, the Women's Forum Italy 2015, where the themes are food, energy, equality, with many other concrete projects? 
Being familiar with the conditions in which food is produced is as important as having it; and as important as ensuring that there is enough for everyone. Considering the role that women already have as mothers, teachers, wives, it is no surprise that here in Milan so many of them have come together, with decision-making roles, capable of making new decisions.
Emma Bonino has talked about the diversity of women as a source of energy. What have you learned about the strength of women, in your job as a judge for more than twenty years, that could be useful for the new generations? 
What I could say to young women is not to stop at titles and labels, but to follow your own mind and passion. It has never been a problem for me to go personally into the fields to verify in person the conditions of the workers, among strain and discomfort, because thanks to my association I could help them recover their dignity. One of the best things I remember is when I would meet the children of the people we were helping… I can say this, invest in what you believe in.
This meeting takes place as part of the Women’s Weeks organized by WE-Women for Expo. Is this program the right way to create a valuable heritage also for future Universal Expositions?
Yes, I believe that it is. I think that when women unite, they transmit respect, energy, they introduce a new way of seeing things. I think that it would be marvelous to see this also in the future Expositions. I have seen women working in the fields, women who have experienced a past of rape, suffering and negation of civil rights, and who are now able to claim their right to life and to dignity. I think that my version of what I have seen, and the versions of the other speakers who joined me in taking to the stage, are the voices the world needs to hear.
It seems as if your appeal also goes beyond the theme of food. 
Absolutely. On every front of social justice women are in the front line.

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