One of the newest addition to the projects we support in South Africa, ‘the Association for Fairness in Trade’ (AFIT) has organized a spring school on fair trade issues from the 16th to 20th of October 2017. Small-scale farmers and farmworkers were invited to the event to learn about their rights and given the opportunity to network with other farmers and farmworkers.
40 participants from 9 different cooperatives spent one intensive week together in the South African Gaanzekraal. Amongst them workers from the Heiveld Cooperative. Over the course of a year we worked with partners from the fair trade landscape to realize a land buying campaign for the independent rooibos farmers of Heiveld. The goals of the spring school are, to inform the participants about standards and rights within the fair trade system; to strengthen the solidarity between the workers; to facilitate the exchange of experiences and daily challenges; to encourage the participants to pursue their own projects. One of the workers describes the newly found solidarity with the following words:
“During the training I realized even though we come from different walks of life and different working environments we share common issues.”
“I know now the full power of my rights (…) I am now in a position to share the proper and accurate information (…)”
This year’s workshops focused on four topics: leadership training, workers’ rights and labor law, understanding politics and where the power lies. The course offered both, practical tools and the theoretical backbone.
On the practical side the participants learned about where to turn to for help with problems or complaints. On the theoretical level topics such as how power runs along the lines of gender, religion, ethnicity, age and class; the root causes for inequality; worker’s rights and the role of the state in the distribution of resources were touched.
Altogether, the participants had the opportunity to gain a variety of different skills and build up their social network. To conclude with the words of one participant: ‘The Spring School as a whole for me is about raising awareness and imparting knowledge of the everyday problems that we [small-scale farmers] are facing on our farms. The premium Project training has confirmed that if we do not know our rights we will not be able to take on the issues.’