'Fairtrade: Linking smallholder farmers to markets'

'Fairtrade: Linking smallholder farmers to markets'


Vredeseilanden gave a master class in Hasselt University about the future role of small holder farmers in the international food market

The strategic adviser of Vredeseilanden Chris Claes and the Programme coordinator of Veco East Africa Paul Mbuthia were invited lecturers in the North South course of Hasselt University. The North South course was created 10 years ago and aims at providing a broader and deeper understanding of contemporary global issues with an interdisciplinary approach to a variety of social topics. This year it was focused on the challenges to sustainable development.

On Thursday 26th of February Chris and Paul gave the lesson “Fairtrade: Linking smallholder farmers to markets”. The course talked about the challenges and opportunities for small holders in the future international food market.

First, Chris Claes described the actual and future situation of the food trade. He said the next years were the “turning point” because the actual economic model is unable to respond adequately to the challenges of population growth and climate change. The population is expected to reach the 9 billions by 2050, 70% of which will live in cities, to support them it is necessary to have a 50 to 60% increase in the actual food production. At the same time climate change, soil degradation and water pollution are likely to reduce production output. Smallholder farmers are part of the solution to solve the future food shortage, right now they produce half of the world alimentation and their lands have room for the improvement in the productivity necessary to feed the world, while better technics will reduce their impact on the environment. However farmers don’t receive the support or recognition they deserve, given the fact that 70% of world poorest live in rural areas and food scarcity periods are the norm in most countries. It is extremely important that food companies, public actors and consumers invest in smallholder farmers so that these can take up their role in the future food market.

After that Chris explained the role of Vredeseilanden in improving the livelihood of the farmers while securing the future food supply by creating sustainable supply chains between farmers organizations and private companies in more than 15 countries.

Paul Mbuthia expanded Chris explanations by showing different examples of real inclusive business models for the farmers organizations. There were 5 models: from a direct commercial contract with an export company to a farmers owned business or a tenant farming of a government land. Each was illustrated with a real case. The conclusion was that there was not a perfect business model for farmers but that each case needs to be analyzed on its own, taking in consideration the culture, history and legislation of each region and the particularities of the crop grown.

At the end of the class the two lecturers answered to the questions of the students.