African Farmers Set to Converge Online As They Seek to Revive Agriculture Sector

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Farmers across the continent are expected to meet virtually later this month at a time when they have reported massive losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Fairtrade Africa Programmes Director Chris Oluoch, farmers in Africa lost an estimated 80 percent of their revenue in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oluoch says the pandemic has also seen many workers lose their jobs, as companies closed shop due to lack of access to markets as most countries closed their borders.

Most affected was the flower sector where a number of flower farms shut down their businesses.

“In Kenya, about three flower farms completely shut down their business, while in Tanzania, two farms closed shop. The effects of the pandemic continue to cause havoc on the agriculture sector in the region that is already suffering from post-harvest losses,” said Oluoch.

Oluoch was speaking on Tuesday, 15th June 2021 during a virtual press conference ahead of the 7th Edition of the Africa Fairtrade Convention.

Themed ‘Producers, Leading the Future of Trade’ the convention will be held virtually from 22nd to 25th June 2021, with the objective to discuss improvement of value chains trade relations and conditions which translate to sustainable livelihoods for farmers and workers in Africa.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a wake-up call for governments to increase their investment in protecting African farmers against these losses. There is a need to radically transform our food systems to make them more efficient and sustainable,” Oluoch added.

The convention will culminate in the 2nd Edition of the Fair Ngoma Awards that recognises outstanding farmers and workers.

Farmers and workers will share best practices in a bid to build an understanding of production in the region with key topics including access to markets, the role of standards and benefits of value addition, as well as issues relating to unlocking trade and investment opportunities, market trends and sustainable and viable supply chains.

“The convention which is being held virtually, will include deal rooms, networking lounges, virtual farm tours, virtual exhibitions, breakaway sessions, as well discussions on upcoming market regulation; the impact of new rules for the certification of organic grower groups in developing countries supplying the growing EU organic market,” said Dr. Argent Chuula, Executive Director at Fairtrade Africa.

It is expected to attract over 1500 participants from 99 countries within 5 continents.

Among the participants expected to attend include trade organizations, finance and microfinance institutions, government representatives, traders and buyers, Fairtrade system members as well as Fairtrade Africa member farmers and workers. Key partners for the conference include the European Union and Fairtrade Deutschland.

Africa Fairtrade Convention is a Flagship event organized by Fairtrade Africa (FTA). It is a gathering of producers, traders, partner organizations, the Fairtrade movement, government, policymakers among other stakeholders.

The 2nd Edition of the Fair Ngoma Awards will see producers win different awards in the 14 categories under consideration, 5 for hired labor, 5 for small producer organizations and 4 specials awards.

The awards are named the FAIR (Fairtrade Africa Impact Recognition) Ngoma Awards. Ngoma is a Swahili word meaning drums. Drums are a revered instrument in Africa with a rich history and play a significant role in the definition of African culture.

The 7th Edition of the Africa Fairtrade Convention and 2nd Edition of the Fair Ngoma Awards are co-funded by the European Union through the project “Unlocking the Power of Producers and Workers to Drive Inclusive Trade and Development through Fairtrade”.

This project is being implemented across the Fairtrade system to strengthen its governance systems, promote inclusion and efficiency within the system and increase the system’s capacity to implement advocacy actions to better support producers and workers.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that food losses in Sub-Saharan Africa add up to $4 billion annually.

Across Africa, the vast majority of food loss happens between harvest and the point of sale – very little is wasted by consumers after purchase. Some of the leading causes of food loss in Africa are a lack of cold chain facilities especially for perishables, unreliable and inadequate storage facilities, and insufficient agro-processing skills among smallholder farming communities.

Wanjiku Njuguna is a Kenyan-based business reporter with experience of more than eight years.

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