The Forgotten Farmer: From Fair Trade To Abundance

The Forgotten Farmer: From Fair Trade To Abundance

Farmers are a great part of our supply chain. Our farmers provide us the necessary ingredients like our botanicals, teas, and herbs that we need for our skincare line, Sweeter Juice Skin. Not only that, they make up the backbone of the agricultural economy that's dominant in most African countries. More than 60% of the population in Africa is made up of farmers. It greatly saddens me to see the deplorable and harsh conditions farmers, women and communities that cultivate our high quality ingredients are forced to struggle through. Lack of farming equipment, lack of resources, and a diminished quality of life have made it extremely difficult for them to provide for their families and it has caused a negative impact to the community. We look to work together with them and support their desires to be better compensated for the time and workload that creating quality products demands.

Sweeter Juice Skin advocates for better conditions for all African farmers and Black Farmers in the United States and across the diaspora. Farmers are the foundation for many communities and products in Nigeria and around the globe. It is because of God and them that I know my purpose in life and they are the main driving force for what I do. This cannot be considered charity in anyway because they are the hardest working part of our communities and deserve everything they work hard for. Our farmers deserve to be paid generously for their labor and hard work. This means going beyond fair trade to abundance! 

Sweeter Juice Skin is a woman-led company, and I want to advocate for women as well as men in a world where we still aren't treated fairly by our male counterparts and peers. In our African homelands, women play a big part in contributing to the farming and agricultural work. In fact they represent 70% of the workforce and 90% of the labor. Unfortunately, they often get the short end of the stick by the system. Becoming a widow can have unfortunate consequences like losing access to the family land, access to resources like supplies and equipment, and not having adequate means to care for her family or herself.  

Forgotten Farmer - Sweeter Juice Skin Advocacy

Soil health is an important part of developing crops that will yield an abundant amount of profit for farmers, but they are not always able to replenish their soil as they need to. A lot of farmers do try to care for their soil in the traditional way, by using animal waste and fertilizer, but this can only do so much, and depending on the environment and resources might not be an option. Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are often out of reach, and many farmers cannot afford to get themselves an irrigation pump to help out with the process since only a small part of Africa (6%) is irrigated. If more funding for storage and irrigation was granted, the crop output could double or triple in a short amount of time.

The small number of farmers that have access to irrigation pumps face the challenge of being susceptible to weather fluctuations and climate change. Some environments in Africa are not conducive to a productive yield of crops and without having the tools to make up for this challenge, many farmers face have the misfortune of having their crops destroyed or stunted, and face financial hardship. 

There have been efforts to provide funds and small scale irrigation systems to combat this need, but more is needed to provide significant advancement.

Despite promises to make life easier for farmers and to provide adequate decent working conditions and rights, the reality has been quite the opposite. Many farmers cannot afford their basic needs like medicine and education for their families. Many farmers have had to pick and choose what necessities they would have to forgo just to survive each pay period. Pregnant women have been forced to work under hazardous conditions with chemicals that they aren't supposed to be in contact with in their condition, and some have sadly ended up miscarrying as a result. 

The demand for African exports like coffee, cocoa, bananas, and other crops has only increased in the past few years, but many farmers do not make the profit they expect despite the increase in sales. They also do not always get their pay on time as well because the Fair Trade cooperatives are not required to have a deadline or set time for that. The transfers are only documented and kept on file.

Not only that, some countries like Ghana, for example, have experienced an overproduction of goods without any buyers available to purchase them. Ghana is one of West Africa's top cocoa producing countries, and only a portion is sold under the Fair Trade cooperatives label. Since they only account for a small part of the income for cocoa, there has been little desire to find other prospective buyers that will be willing to pay the price for the excessive left over produce.

One of the saddest things that upsets me so about my homeland is the fact that most of its potential to be even better is out of the reach of its citizens due to land-grabbing, unfair contracts, and dishonest, corrupt investors that seek to take advantage of the prosperous lands we were blessed with. The U.N. reported that at least 50 million acres of African land was seized through investment contracts. The natives and indigenous residents are often not considered for land ownership, and are constantly overlooked. Most African land is quite fertile, 50 to 70 million acres, and we can't even use it. Colonization disguised as economical development and false promises have been the undoing of so much progress we could have made, and the rest of our land is either under conservation, victim to poor infrastructure, or not excavated. 

Being the founder of Sweeter Juice Skin, I feel honored and blessed to come from a family of entrepreneurs and farmers. I come from a lineage of cocoa farmers in Nigeria. My uncles were farmers and my family still owns farm land in the state they are from in Nigeria. Unfortunately, present day conditions and resources available for the farmers in Nigeria and all across the African Continent are devastating. We cannot sit idly by. Deep advancements are needed to improve the quality of life, farming equipment, resources, health and wealth for farmers, their families, and their communities. Before we can sustainably source their livelihoods, shouldn’t we improve their lives as well? Sweeter Juice Skin aims to be the answer to the skincare solutions for our customers as well as a proponent for extreme improvements for farmers and their communities.  

I was born in Lagos, Nigeria and I come from a line of cocoa farmers so I’ve seen firsthand the lack of support and pay our people have dealt with.

Olunife Ofomata as a child in Nigeria

The modern-day farmers back in our homeland, who often times are Black, are not paid equitably for their labor and resources, despite use of fair-trade practices, which is why me and and my husband are pioneering the advocacy of Black Farmers in Africa, the United States, and the diaspora.

 

We want to remedy that, and improve the conditions so that our people can move from the fair-trade standard, to the ABUNDANCE standard so that all can benefit no matter who they are. This would cement the farmer’s ability to earn livable wages so that they can provide for they and their families and improve their way of life. We are currently working directly with some of these farmers to obtain lesser-known ingredients such as the afore mentioned PURPLE TEA directly from our farmers in Kenya and Aju Mbaise from Nigeria.

We want to spread the word and put the spotlight on the corruption and issues that have been hindering the progress of a great nation for years, and provide our financial support by giving compensation to those deserving of it, by purchasing the ingredients they work hard to develop. 

Me and my husband, Dr. Johnson Ofomata advocate for the forgotten farmer - We have seen first hand what the lack of support and equitable pay does to farmers, especially those on the continent of Africa and Black Farmers in the United States of America. So this skincare couple advocates for farmers to go from fair trade to abundance.

We need more voices, more support, and more people talking about this. This doesn't just affect our people back home, it affects all Black people around the world. We ask that you lend us your support however you can. We encourage you to do the research and to see for yourself the devastating conditions that African countries have had to endure for so long, as I cannot fit them all here. Sweeter Juice Skin is leading the fight to create change for our Black brothers and sisters and we ask that you lend us your support however you can. 

The future of our livelihood is at stake.