In recent weeks, the UK braced itself for a series of storms, which have caused chaos across the country. The debate continues on whether we can hold climate change partly responsible for this change in weather conditions. However, what we do know is that communities around the world have been experiencing the impact of climate change for years now, and the threat is growing stronger.
As Fairtrade Fortnight 2022 draws to a close (21 February – 6 March 2022), as well as celebrating the farmers and workers who grow the food we eat and promoting the need for a living wage, this year’s campaign drew public attention to the climate crisis.
As a Newcastle-based social lender that provides finance to fair trade businesses in 49 countries worldwide, Shared Interest supports farmers in remote communities who are often most affected by these environmental changes.
Our Head of Lending Paul Sablich is based in Peru and has seen first-hand the challenges farmers face. He said: “Weather cycles are changing and it can lead to severe disruption. An example is the El Niño phenomenon, a cyclical event that increases the temperature of the Pacific Ocean. Global warming is increasing the frequency of its extreme effects, leading to intensifying droughts, worsening floods, and shifting hurricane patterns. A few years ago, the northern coast of Peru was severely affected by landslides and flooding. Some producer organisations lost everything and we worked alongside them, recognising the uncertainty that they faced. It was a hugely difficult time for farmers and it has taken years to recover.”
One of the businesses supported by Shared Interest is the CECAFE co-operative based in the Amazonas region of Peru. Segundo and Belver Garcia are a father and son team of coffee growers and amongst the 800 members of the co-operative, who believe that their coffee is a symbol of wellbeing.
CECAFE produces high quality Fairtrade and organic coffee, grown amidst rainforest and mountain ranges. Farmers work in harmony with their surroundings using soil conservation methods and apply their coffee pulp as compost. In their dedication to protect and preserve the landscape, they have also launched a 40- year reforestation project.
Shared Interest has provided finance to CECAFE for almost a decade so that the co-operative is able to pay farmers on time whilst also increasing production. However, the impact goes far beyond this. As production increases, so does the amount of Fairtrade Premium paid to the co-operative. CECAFE has dedicated this additional sum of money to community projects promoting health and wellbeing for farmers and their families.
Paul added: “This sense of community is something that we share with CECAFE and with our supporters in the UK. Over 10,000 individuals currently invest in Shared Interest with the common goal of making trade fair. Together, we work towards a better quality of life for people living and working in remote regions.
“For me, this sums up the way that Shared Interest works – hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder. And it is this way of working together, which will help farmers face new challenges, especially those related to climate change. It represents an increasing threat to communities in the 49 countries we work across and the rich diversity of products we support. We continue to work closely with farmers and artisans, to understand the challenges they face. It is thanks to our in-country presence that we have the relevant geographical knowledge and cultural understanding to ensure we can reach even the most remote communities in the developing world.
Our Lending Team has evolved over the past 31 years, and is representative of our international focus. We have grown our overseas presence, and now we have regional teams in Costa Rica, Ghana, Kenya, and Peru.
“Fairtrade Fortnight is an important reminder of how important our work is – bringing together UK social investors to collectively provide finance so that farming co-operatives like CECAFE can provide a better income for their farmers and – through the Fairtrade Premium – better services to communities. It is like a ripple effect.”
Kerrey Baker – Head of Member Engagement, Shared Interest