Meet Alfredo Ortega Vice-Chair of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers’ Association (BSCFA). Belize is a small country in Central America, which borders Guatemala and Mexico. Alfredo is visiting Ireland as part of the Fairtrade Fortnight, visiting Fairtrade Cities, Towns, Schools, Colleges and Community Groups throughout Ireland.
Yesterday, Alfredo met up with Insomnia Chairman, Bobby Kerr for a cup of coffee (Insomnia 100% Fairtrade Coffee of course) to talk about the work that is being done with the help of Fairtrade especially throughout Fairtrade Fortnight, and the work that’s planned to commence in the future in Alfredo’s hometown in Belize.
Alfredo’s Farmers’ Association is certified under the Fairtrade system and receives the Fairtrade premium for sugar sold under the Fairtrade logo. In fact, it earns the highest premium of all Fairtrade certified organisations in the world. The proceeds from this Premium are used to finance their productive, organizational and social programs and activities. The Premium has been used for a number of projects that benefit the community. For example, education grants, which financially assist students in the community. This contribution alleviates the hardships of many parents who struggle with educational expenses and has been utilised for books, school fees, transportation expenses and other financial needs for education.
It has also been used to provide social welfare assistance that supported elderly, disabled and sick persons. Many of them purchased groceries, while the majority utilized the money to pay medical bills and alleviate their high living expenses. Also families of deceased cane farmers or community members received financial assistance to assist with expenses caused by unexpected deaths.
Community development projects were also supported, with the Premium contributing greatly to community centres, community roads, women’s group projects, and internet facilities to assist the rural areas. The future of the sugar industry continues to pose serious challenges and problems, but also good opportunities to the cane farmers.