IN THE March issue of Footprint, Nestlé’s head of agriculture, Hans Jöhr, proclaimed that “we cannot certify or label people out of poverty”.
In reality, “shared value” wouldn’t even be on Nestlé’s agenda if it wasn’t for the rapid redrawing of the consumer landscape, largely brought about by ethical labels. Certification alone may not hold all the answers, but to suggest it is part of the problem is misleading.
At Twin, we forge value chain partnerships and emphasise quality as a sustainable route to economic empowerment for smallholders. In our main commodity, coffee, selling to high-value speciality markets is easier said than done for new origins with no experience of global markets. This is where labels such as Fairtrade come in.
A good example of this is our work in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Twin was the first NGO to enter the country and meet coffee farmers back in 2008. We found a coffee industry decimated by a de- cade of civil war. According to government statistics, 1,000 farmers were drowning each year in the attempt to smuggle coffee across Lake Kivu into neighbouring Rwanda to sell it there. It was in this context that we met the fledgling co-operative Sopacdi. Although conditions in the region were ideal for grow- ing premium-grade arabica, fulfilling their potential would require serious investment.
To open the door to lucrative international markets, we pressed for special Fairtrade accreditation in the conflict zone. With Twin as a guarantor, Sopacdi was able to sell under Fairtrade terms and put the Fairtrade premium towards building the country’s first washing station in 40 years (left). Sopacdi was then able to consistently deliver the quality required by mainstream players such as Sainsbury’s. As it grew, it invested further in quality and now produces award-winning coffee and sells to value-added speciality markets.
The results speak for themselves. Over this period, Sopacdi’s membership has grown from 208 to 5,200, the farm gate price has doubled and for the first time demand outstrips supply. Fairtrade cannot take all the credit, but it remains a key tool among many in delivering better livelihoods for farmers.
Nicolas Mounard is MD at Twin & Twin Trading.