Meet Sugar Cane Farmer Ruberra Figueroa

Ruberra, or Ruby as she is known, is part of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) –which has been Fairtrade certified since 2008 – and a single mother of three.

She supplements her farming income by baking sweetbread and selling it to the local community.

Fairtrade has made a difference to Ruby’s life. The BSCFA decided to put some of its Fairtrade Premium towards providing education grants for families struggling to support their children’s education.

Ruby’s 15-year-old son Amilcar has benefited and is studying to be a chemist.

Almost all Belize’s sugar crop is exported to the UK and Portugal.

Life as a sugar farmer

Around 15% of Belize’s population is reliant on sugar for their income and almost all sugar cane farming is carried out by smallholders.

Poverty is a reality for farmers in the sugar belt, in northern Belize. Between harvests, the income from sugar is often insufficient to meet household needs and farmers struggle to put food on the table without a secondary income such as working in construction or selling vegetables. Increasingly, students are not completing secondary education because their families cannot afford the school fees, transport and meals.

HOW FAIRTRADE AND BSCFA HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE

How Fairtrade and BSCFA have mad difference

  • The co-operative has invested Fairtrade Premium payments in education and community welfare programmes, providing grants to enable children to continue their education and assistance to older and disabled people for medical costs
  • Farmers now harvest more effectively meaning more sugar is extracted from the same amount of harvest, which means increased income. There is now a more effective and environmentally friendly way of controlling the ‘froghopper’ insect that can blight whole crops
  • Under half of the sugar produced by Fairtrade certified organisations is sold as Fairtrade Smallholder sugar cane farmers’ ability to export sugar to the EU is under serious threat from changes to the EU sugar regime in 2017. Prices are already falling fast with the anticipation of limitless European sugar production

More sugar sales means more benefit for the 61,800 sugar farmers and workers in the Fairtrade system. So let’s convince more shoppers and businesses to choose products that change lives.

Author: David Wiggs

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