Coffee Sustainability, News

Study finds millions of Fairtrade Farmers at climate change risk

Fairtrade climate

A Fairtrade study, conducted by The Vrije University Amsterdam and Bern University of Applied Sciences, has found that climate change is increasingly posing a risk to global agricultural production and directly threatening the livelihoods of millions of Fairtrade farmers globally.

Titled Fairtrade and Climate Change, the report finds that rising climate will impact global commodities including bananas, coffee, and cocoa, suggesting that farmers growing these commodities could be at risk of financial collapse with the increasing climate pressure.

Released ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), the study was supported by funding from the European Union.

“The report’s results are extremely alarming and a [clear] call for immediate and comprehensive climate action,” says Dr. Nyagoy Nyong’o, Global CEO at Fairtrade.

“The threat to the future of many supply chains is very real and our planet’s farmers and agricultural workers are on the frontline of this global climate crisis. We must do everything to ensure they are not left behind and that they are indeed a part of the solution.”

According to the study’s findings, weather patterns spurred by climate change is likely to deliver severe blows to key agricultural producing regions around the world, from Latin America to the Asia-Pacific.

Coffee producers in Brazil, Central America, and South India are predicted to encounter temperature spikes combined with drought, directly impacting Fairtrade coffee production.

In the Dominican Republic, Peru, and parts of West Africa, cocoa farmers are also likely to encounter more hot and dry weather periods, while regions in eastern Ghana and northern Côte d’Ivoire may face heavier rains.

Other Fairtrade products such as bananas and sugarcane are also forecast to be affected, with producers expecting less rainfall and increased heat stress with similar conditions set to impact tea production in Asia and Africa.

“While impacts vary by crop and location, the report finds that most regions will experience considerably more extremely hot days,” says Žiga Malek, Assistant Professor in Land Use and Ecosystem Dynamics at The Vrije University Amsterdam and Lead Researcher on the report.

“In some areas, this will make crop production very difficult or impossible in the near future placing additional stresses on farmers and agricultural workers.”

Coffee has long been in the climate spotlight, with wider studies suggesting that by 2050, half of the world’s land currently used to farm coffee will no longer be viable.

Through interviews and a producer’s survey, the study also conducted in-depth analyses of the perceptions and actions of coffee, tea, and spice farmers in India and with cocoa farmers in Ghana.

Fairtrade says this is an important contribution to climate discussions, as it includes the views and priorities of farmers and how they experience climate change in their communities.

“The way climate change affects the planet is extraordinarily complex,” says Juan Pablo Solís, Fairtrade’s Senior Advisor for Climate and Environment.

“This report offers an amazing amount of climate data and projections that illustrate the reality of those landscapes where farmers and workers are producing under Fairtrade terms and the mounting challenges that they face if the international community continues to fail them,”

While in recent years Fairtrade has strengthened its standard requirements with an increased program focus on environmental issues through its Fairtrade Climate Academies and targeted projects, Juan says wider partnerships are needed to support farmers in the massive challenges ahead.

“The international community must rally around farmers and engage head-on in climate action,” Juan says.

“And this must be done through supporting climate adaptation and resilience measures to ensure that both farmers’ livelihoods are protected and the environment is preserved.”

Fairtrade also calls for increased investment in climate adaptation and resilience measures for Fairtrade Farmers to halt plummeting incomes. This includes context-specific approaches such as agroforestry, mulching, and crop diversification.

Juan says these adaption and resilience measures require large investments and say that burdening these farmers and agriculture workers with these measures is “yet another injustice they should not have to bear, particularly as agricultural communities of Fairtrade producers have contributed the least to climate change in the first place.”

The COP26 will be held from 31 October to 12 November with Fairtrade and Fair Trade movement on the ground, championing the rights of these producers and agricultural workers.

“The clock is ticking on climate action and the window to achieve a fairer, greener, and more sustainable tomorrow is rapidly closing,” says Dr. Nyagoy Nyong’o. “And the voices of those demanding equity are growing louder and more urgent. The time to act is now.”

For more information or to read the study, click here.

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