To celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8) the UK’s leading fair trade organisation, Traidcraft, is highlighting the inspirational role of one of its team who is helping thousands of families to work their way out of poverty.
Janet Ruminju, 37, who lives with her husband and two sons, six and two years old, in Nairobi, Kenya, has been a programmes manager at Traidcraft for the past two years overseeing a portfolio of life-changing projects across East Africa.
Janet’s projects, such as FIVE (Flourishing in Vulnerable Environments) and Fair Cup, aim to improve the livelihoods of small scale farmers by educating them on skills and services so they can engage more effectively in local and international trade.
Working with some of East Africa’s poorest and most rural communities, Janet helps to transform the lives of growers through educating them in the importance of early planting, early spraying of chemicals, water conservation, weather forecasting and their business rights resulting in increased crop production, food security and increased income.
Janet said: “I first heard about Traidcraft many years ago. I learned about their excellent work in supporting the poor producers in East Africa to grow their farming businesses. It was at this point that I knew Traidcraft was an organisation I wanted to be a part of.”
During the second year of the FIVE project, Janet saw a 45 per cent increase in yields for almost all crops she encouraged farmers to grow. This led to increased food security and 40 per cent of the farmers significantly raising their income by the end of the project.
She continued: “In the past two years I have witnessed the positive impact our projects are having on the lives of thousands of farmers, improving livelihoods, well-being and ensuring farmers are in a stronger position to improve business performance, negotiate with buyers and lobby for better support from public and private services.
“Education into growing techniques and legal rights has been key to helping growers out of poverty. For tea farmers there is an increased capacity to take action and demand their rights. Farmers are now able to clearly articulate their rights as well as practice them.”
With such a significant proportion of the famers Traidcraft supports being female, Janet points to the success the fair trade pioneers have had in engaging women from East African communities.
She added: “Seventy per cent of farmers currently involved in the FIVE project are women – some of who, before becoming a part of the program, faced challenges of food insecurity due to drought or lacked knowledge on good agricultural practices suitable for semi-arid regions.
“Thanks to FIVE, these women are now acquiring the skills that enable them to increase productivity and to comfortably provide food for their families, while generating an income from the sales of surplus crops. It’s for these reasons that supporting Traidcraft’s ‘Let It Grow’ appeal is so important.”
The ‘Let It Grow’ campaign aims to help smallholder farmers in some of the world’s poorest countries to develop their farming practices and in doing so build the skills to trade their way out of poverty.
The FIVE (Flourishing in Vulnerable Environments) project has to date benefitted an estimated 30,000 people. The project helps Kenyan farmers learn new farming techniques, get organised and work together to counter the effects of climate change, helping to increase incomes, build skills and improve quality of life for all involved
The Fair Cup project is working with around 26,000 Kenyan smallholder tea farmers, helping them to be aware and take full advantage of their rights through leadership and management skills training, income diversification techniques and rights awareness training.
International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.