Just News - Winter 2016

Table of Contents

Development as the Key to Avoiding the latest Human Tragedy

Sources express.co.uk


By Melanie Wolff

The tragic shipwreck in which 800 migrants lost their lives in April 2015 and referred to by the UN as ‘the deadliest incident in the Mediterranean ever recorded’ is just one of the many incidents wherein immigrants crossing into the EU are losing their lives. This human tragedy calls for an immediate action by the states involved that are responsible in doing what is possible to ensure human life is not lost.

Malta was proud to host the European-Africa summit between the 12th and 13th November 2015 wherein leaders of the most concerned countries of origin, transit and destination of migrants met in Valletta to find solution to the problems.

Disappointing was the fact that the debate focused more on repatriations and securing borders rather than addressing the root causes of the problem. Immigration is a multi-faceted topic and there are different reasons why an individual or a family migrates and take the perilous journey by sea to reach Europe. There are those who flee persecution and those who are forced to leave due to armed conflicts. These are subject to being awarded some form of humanitarian protection such as refugee status. Others however leave their poor communities behind simple because they wish to enjoy a better lifestyle in a new country.

Searching for better standards of living is part of human nature as everyone wants to earn more for the work they do, hence people tend to migrate to countries who can offer a better standard of living than their own countries. Conditions of employment and wage earned is part and parcel of the standard of living in a given area and the African continent, like Latin America and South Asia, is known for jobs with unfair low wages, inhumane working conditions, long working hours, suppression of trade unions, unsafe working environment and limited opportunity to develop potential.

It is always primarily desirable that people are not pushed to migrate in order to have access to an adequate standard of living. Consequently addressing the problem of disparities between the North and the South is crucial if country leaders really want an end to this human tragedy. One way that addresses the disparities is to increase community based Fair Trade projects and other forms of ethical trading that aim to provide decent employment and working conditions to producers will reduce the need for one to travel to search for a better lifestyle in a foreign country.

Fair Trade alone will not solve the problems of developing countries that are plagued by a myriad of problems such as corrupt politician, armed conflicts, unfair trade rules and simply lack the required infra-structure. If however business operating in the global south adopt a policy on Fair Trade and such policy is a genuine one, the gap between the rich and the north will be significantly reduced.

Banana Producers in Malta

Between the 12th and 14th of October, Koperattiva Kummerċ Ġust hosted Mr. Joaquín Vásquez, the President of UROCAL a regional organization of small and medium farmers from Ecuador. Mr. Vásquez spoke about his experience as a workers’ rights advocate in the banana and cacao industries in Ecuador.

UROCAL stands for ‘Regional Union of Campesino del Litoral’ and its main aim is to promote and achieve sustainable human development for its members and communities, all of which operate in the region of Litoral in Ecuador.

Part of UROCAL’s work is to raise awareness about the unfair and dangerous conditions many banana fruit grower work in, particularly in countries such as Ecuador and other tropical countries from where European countries imports a good portion of its fruits. These adverse conditions include exposure to toxic pesticides, low working wages, a lack of appropriate working equipment and hard work in sometimes in dangerous conditions are only few examples
of the difficulties that banana workers face every day.

Workers have limited means of enforcing their rights, particularly because their either don’t know that they have such rights and because an effective judicial system is out of reach. This make the situation even worse for vulnerable groups such as women who have to deal with sexual harassment and blatant discrimination.

In view that salaries are often not enough to cover income required for families, parents have no choice but to send their children to work in these plantations. This explains partly why about 55% of Ecuadorian children aged between eight and thirteen don’t even have the opportunity to attend school. Furthermore, after all this hard work Ecuadorian children only earn an average of €3 per day, which is about 60% of the legal minimum wage for banana workers and despite of government legislation.

Alvaro Noboa, one of the richest man of Ecuador and a prominent politician is the owner of many of these plantations. In his companies ‘oppression’ is a habitual word not only because banana workers face threats and intimidation, but also because they’re forbidden to defend their rights, particularly because those who join trade unions are suppressed and intimidated both by the employer and occasionallyby institutions that are supposedly there to defend persons from such injustices, such as the local police.

In fact, despite the government’s efforts for workers to join trade unions, in reality it is difficult. If someone does join in order to protest against low wages or bad working conditions, the worker is fired. On one famous occasion, when some 1400 workers occupied the hacienda, (spanish term referring to south american estates), Noboa decided to react by later shooting at them, beating them and breaking in their houses some of which were company owned and stealing from them. However, after this event, more strikes followed but with unfortunately no positive results for the workers.

Workers are usually illegally fired or have their contract not renewed. If an employer is found to have illegally fired the employees for participating in a union activity, the workers still have no right to be reinstated and the employer will only have to pay a fine of less than €400.

However, trade unions are the only opportunity that workers have to defend their rights and negotiate with employers to obtain better working conditions.

“If they [the employers] find out, they fire you – said to Human Right Watch a banana worker who joined trade unions - this is why most people are scared”.

The dire and depressed situation many South American workers find themselves in led to the development of a certification system being Fair Trade which ensures that such malpractices do not take place on plantations such as those run by major banana companies. By auditing plantations for labour rights issues Fair Trade manages to safeguard the rights of workers in marginalized and exploited countries. Among the main values that Fair Trade certification system have there are criteria on suitable working conditions, prohibition of children’s work, appropriate wages and environmental protection.

Joaquin Vasquez speakes about the Ecuadorian Economy

Joaquin Vasques is an Ecuadorian trade union leader for EUROCAL that represents over 5000 producers of Fair Trade and Organic Banana and Cacao producers. In October 2015 Joaquin Vasques came to Malta and held workshops within schools and with the local community. The interview was made during this stay in Malta and he speaks about labour rights in Ecuador which supplies the most bananas to the EU. An interview with Joaquin is available on http://theinsiter.org/features/68691/responsibility-and-consumption-interview/ or in Maltese on Zminijietna #Ecuador #banana #makefruitfair #Malta. Thanks to Luke Zammit for the video editing

Posted by Koperattiva Kummerċ Ġust on Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Click here for further information on workers in banana plantations.

Agricultural cooperatives: A solution for African development

Agricultural cooperatives feed the world” has been chosen as theme to celebrate the 30th world food day, which took place in October. Indeed, the hunger struggle is an actuality topic. It’s in this context that Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) president José Graziano da Silva, explain that "cooperatives and others agricultural producers’ organizations could help to ensure food safety, job creation and poverty decrease". It is in this context that the African Union has set a target to reach 6% of agriculture growth rate itself thanks to association such as ROPPA (Peasant Organizations and Producers Network in West Africa).

This organization, born in 2000 in Cotonou, is a peasants’ network gathering hundred peasant leaders mandated by their organizations from 10 west Africa countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea -Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo). ROPPA represents 45 million small farmers, livestock breeders and fishermen, to who National organizations provide advice, support and other services in order to promote their activities and to give them more influences in the policy deliberations.

The main goal is to strengthen African cooperatives to defend their members’ interests through rural development and food security, by promoting competitive values and sustainable agriculture based on family farms and production, supporting producer organizations and training and informing socio-professional organizations working in agricultural. This is done through sharing experiences of their members and other stakeholders, promoting solidarity between African people, representing the farmers' organizations and agricultural producers in sub- regional, regional, national and international levels.

Thus, ROPPA has a fundamental role in supporting national cooperatives and help to capacity building. It also coordinates the various Pan-African activities organized jointly by the peasant network.

Fair Trade Recipie - Rice in Coconut Milk

Many of the ingredients can be obtained from any Fair Trade shop.

Ingredients (serves 4 - 6) persons:

  • 200g brown rice *
  • 100g raisins *
  • 100g of different nuts *
  • 1 cinnamon stick *
  • 3 to 5 cloves garlic*
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 100ml of orange juice
  • *fairtrade


  1. Chop nuts in a bowl and cover with orange juice. Let this mixture stand while the rice is boiling in water.
  2. Wash the rice in cold water before boiling. Place a pot of water over medium heat until boiling and add the rice. Cook for about 25 minutes or until the rice is well boiled.
  3. While rice is cooking, mix the spices. Fry the spice mix with a little oil in a frying pan. Add the mixture of nuts with orange juice to the spices and cook for about a minute.
  4. Rinse the rice and add to the pan, mix all ingredients and serve hot.

Fair Trade basmati rice, coconut milk and cinnamon sticks could be found at il-Ħanut l-Arka! If you try this recipe, send photos to marthese.formosa@l-arka.org or post them on KKĠ’s Facebook Page

Dates for your diary

Forthcoming Activities of Koperattiva Kummerċ Ġust

KKĠ Annual General Meeting 2016 - 1st April

National Seminar on Make Fruit Fair – 19th March

WorldFest 2016 – 14th May

Vacancy - Sales Manager

Job Overview: The sales manager shall be responsible for obtaining profitable results through the sale of Fair Trade goods from il-Ħanut l-Arka and through public activities organised by Koperattiva Kummerċ Ġust.
For this work Koperattiva Kummerċ Ġust is seeking a motivated, goal-oriented and independent individual that is ready to experience new challenges and opportunities while working in a dynamic environment.

Vacancy is for part-time work and most duties can be carried out at time and place of the Sales Manager’s convenience. Sales Manger will be expected to attend meetings and report on activities.

In particular the Sales Manager will:

  1. Lead research to identify Fair Trade products from disadvantaged producers to be sold in Malta,
  2. Administer logistical work relating to the ordering and importation of Fair Trade stock, including the determining of price schedules for goods,
  3. Be responsible for paperwork relating to accounting and record-keeping, including receiving and shipping operations,
  4. Monitors, supports, trains and motivates volunteers and staff working at il-Ħanut l-Arka,
  5. /Ensures that customer complaints regarding sales and service and resolved, while monitoring customer preferences to determine focus of sales efforts,
  6. Leads initiatives aimed at raising capital for the purchase of Fair Trade stock and prepares budgets for the purchase of Fair Trade stock,
  7. Consults with staff to plan activities promoting the sale of Fair Trade goods, and
  8. Assess marketing potential of new or existing activities organised by Koperattiva Kummerċ Ġust aimed at selling Fair Trade goods.

The successful candidate has to demonstrate readiness to work on own initiative together with good communication and managerial skills. Previous work experience in sales will be considered an asset.
Wage will correspond to performance.

Applicant should send their CV together with a letter of motivation or queries relating to this vacancy to info@l-arka.org.

Closing date is 29th February 2016.