Fair Trade, Fair Wage

Jane Wambura’s daily schedule runs on a tight rhythm. Wake up. Take the goats for grazing. Drink tea. Work in her garden. Lunch. A few afternoon activities. Dinner. Sleep.

While she does visit neighbors and friends, while she does attend community meetings, while she does go to church; she also has a large farm complete with 47 cashew nut trees that she has to take care of by herself.

“Yes, sometimes I feel lonely,” she said, standing outside of her goat cage. “If I had money I would hire someone to help me full-time, but since we don’t have it, I work alone.”

Jane was 23 when she got married and started farming for a living alongside her husband. They had five children together before his death in 1997. That year cashew nuts were selling at 10 Kenyan shillings (KSH) per kilogram.

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World Concern started working in the area in 2013 by supporting the Lake Kenyatta Farmers Cooperative. Although the group was formed in the 1970’s, the management was having trouble keeping track of their almost 3,000 members.

The price of cashews was going down as well with the increase of middlemen into the supply chain. People had started cutting down their trees to sell for the quick payout of charcoal.

“Our farmers were becoming poorer and poorer, year after year.” Christopher Ngui, Former President of the Cooperative said. “If we don’t have some way to sell the cashew nuts, the same problem will occur. Prices will start crashing and people will go back to cutting their trees for charcoal.”

The first step World Concern took was to help organize the farmers into groups of 50 with representatives from each group reporting to the management. From there, trainings were conducted on buyers markets and the introduction of Fair Trade practices.

In 2015, the Lake Kenyatta Farmers Cooperative was the first group of cashew nut farmers in Kenya to receive Fair Trade certification. And during this three year period the price per kilo when from 30 to 65 Kenyan shillings.

“We call World Concern a blessing because they are making an impact on our farmer’s lives,” Ngui said. “We can see light at the end of the tunnel.”

Through partnering with the for-profit organization Ten Senses, as well as other buyers, World Concern hopes to continue to support the work of these farmers.

Wambua, a member of the cooperative said that things really started to improve once they got more organized. If the price drops drastically, she can go even three months without making any money, something that World Concern hopes to help keep from happening by continuing to empower the farmers in buyer relationships.

“Thanks to the effort you have invested, now it’s like we are moving forward, from Egypt to Canaan. Before we were in slavery.” Wambua said. “There is change and we have seen the difference.”

PORTRAIT SERIES OF LAKE KENYATTA FARMERS COOPERATIVE

Amos-NjiruBW

Ann-WakabaBW

Boniface-ChegeBW

Grace-Wachuka2BW

Issac-MuigaiBW

John-MuhiaBW

Joseph-NjugunaBW

Joshua-NdegeBW

Lawrence-NjugunaBW

Leonard-FireriBW

Ndungu-MwangiBW

Samuel-MwangiBW

Photos and story by Christena Dowsett/World Concern.
You can reach her through christenad@worldconcern.org