Fairtrade Stories


A school should be a safe place. And that's what three Youth Monitors of San Victor, Belize have worked to achieve as part of a ground breaking project funded by the Fairtrade Premium via Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA).

The project, made possible by the purchase of Fairtrade Certified sugar, recruited three young people from Northern Belize and set them the task of improving child safety in the small town of San Victor.

“It started in July”, said Youth Monitor Emmanuel Hall. “We had UNICEF training in issues like Child Rights and Child Protection. Then later that month we stated holding focus groups with the local people.”

These young people didn’t hang around. They were tasked with finding ways of improving the wellbeing of local children with quick solutions from within the community. “We didn’t know what to expect. Then 80 people came to our first group!” recollected Youth Monitor Graciela Murillo. “We held seven groups in all. We discussed dangers faced by young people, where these occurred and the potential solutions. We then wrote a report for BSCFA.”

In October the Youth Monitors presented to a small group of parents and children from San Victor, explaining their findings and the outcomes. The energy of their investigations had been carried through into concrete action.

In one example, a high Water Tower had been identified as a source of accidents, as children would climb it to play because of a lack of other facilities. So the team, working with community volunteers and with funds made available via Fairtrade, built a brightly coloured play ground near the Water Tower. Now local children have a safe alternative.

A lack of fencing around the school was also a serious problem, as anyone could enter the school grounds or children could walk out onto the main road. So a wooden fence was erected giving children both security and privacy in the school grounds.

“We are very satisfied with the work we have done. We try to help people with what we do. And we would like to continue helping others.” Said Youth Monitor Neima Keme.”.


The 28 children of class Standard 5 at San Estevan Roman Catholic School in San Estevan, Belize, spend their school day in a clean and spacious classroom. And it was made possible by the money raised through the Fairtrade Premium.

The school was founded in the 1930s, and educates 308 students from the ages of 4 – 14. Most of them are from families that depend on sugar cane for their livelihoods. The school has struggled for classroom space.

“Before we had the classroom, I would put the children in the computer room. It is small and was not a good place for teaching. We also had larger class sizes which made things more difficult.” said Leticia Perez, an educator for 25 years and Principal at the school for the past six.

“The Fairtrade money was enough to get us going and encourage others to support us. We secured the rest of the funds through other donations and community events. We have an active Parents’ Association which runs events throughout the year like a BBQ, Raffle and Valentines’ Party”.

“We really appreciate the help we get through Fairtrade funds, distributed via the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association. And if more Fairtrade funds
were available?

“I would complete the school fence. It only surrounds part of the perimeter. People sometimes wander into the school and we have had several burglaries. I want safety for the children”.


“We hold our games every three months. The children love it.” Says the Treasurer of a community group in San Andres, northern Belize.

She is the mother of Alisha, a young girl born with Cerebral Palsy. Alisha needs constant attention and suffers from muscular problems and other complications like frequent illnesses. She attends a special education class at her school, but her chance to play with other children can be limited.

“We have been taking part in our ‘Special Olympics’ for five years. We bring children together from around the area to play ball sports. We are all volunteers and don’t get paid. When I see the children smiling then I am happy!”

The events are made possible by the time and effort of these volunteers, and also funds made available by the sale of Fairtrade certified sugar, distributed by the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association. The funds are used to pay for transport and food for the group at each games.

“Once a year we have a national tournament for the children in Belize City. Children come from all over Belize and it is a great opportunity for them that they wouldn’t otherwise get. Who would pay for the transport and food?”

There are seven volunteers, all mothers of children with disabilities. When they aren’t organizing the games they also arrange fundraising events and help out mothers who are in difficult situations, like homelessness or funding for medications.

“I would like to see the support continue. Others need more than me. It would be very helpful to have a vehicle to take the children to hospital or school for those who live far away. ”


In the western world we take some things for granted. Like food, water and a roof over our heads. And we tend to expect that the roof isn’t leaking, infested with bats or spreading diseases.

The same cannot be said for the young children occupying classroom B2 at Santa Clara Roman Catholic School in Louisville, Belize. At least not until the roof was replaced with a grant generated by the Fairtrade Premium on the sale of certified sugar.

“We have 260 students from ages 5 – 14”, explains Gilberto Perez, Principal. “Our younger children use building B2. The old roof was very bad. Bats would nest in it and their faeces can create lung diseases in the teachers and the children.”

Gilberto, working with the active Parents’ Association, submitted a request to the Belize Cane Farmers Association for a Fairtrade grant to replace the roof. The application was successful and the funds helped purchase a new zinc roof, which was fitted without cost by volunteers working together from the local community.

“Parents gave their time for free. It helps our money go further. The classroom is now watertight and clean. There are no bats and the children can be taught without distress.” Principal Perez.

Since the roof was replaced, the Snr Perez has applied for and received further grants that have helped build a new classroom for 24 students, and re-divide another building to create better teaching space. It is part of a continuous effort to make a better school. And his does not intend to stop pushing through improvements.

“We would like another classroom. Then I can turn B2 into a library. We don’t have anywhere to store books and encourage reading.“



Sugar cane farming is a tradition in the Xaibe area of Northern Belize. Most of the families are involved in this crop, which is essential for the health of the local economy.

Many of the farming practices have been handed down from generation to generation. While this has helped sustain the community over many decades, as some farming practices have modernised with the changing world, others have lagged behind.

For people like Senor Williams, who farms 40 acres, the use of fetilisers and some pesticides have become essential practice. Without these valuable tools in a farmer's armoury, crops would be prone to fail as a result of harsh conditions and virulent pests.

“We used to leave the bags of fertilizer and pesticides out in the fields or around the outside of our houses. Everyone did this as we didn’t have the space to store anything.”

The danger of this common practice, particularly for young children, did not go unnoticed by the local farming association, the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA). Using grants made possible by the sale of Fairtrade sugar, they funded the purchase of materials to create small scale warehouses across the community.

“Once we had all the construction materials we were able to build the warehouses ourselves. And then the BSCFA helped us with training on using these things safely; using masks, gloves and things like that. Most people didn’t use any protective equipment before.”

These steps help ensure safer living conditions for Senor William, his wife and six year old child, not to mention countless others across Xaibe.


“I wish I could show you but thieves stole it yesterday.” said Principal Yesemi Tun, of the Ranchito Government School in Xaibe, Belize, when explaining the support received by grants made possible by the Fairtrade certified sugar.

Thieves had broken into the small cooking and dinning building, and stolen the microwave. It and a cooker had been bought with funds received from a grant from BCSA & Fairtrade.

“Some of the children live too far away to go home for lunch. So we feed them here.”

This isn’t the only way money generated by Fairtrade certified sugar has benefited the school. Other grants have helped construct gates and fencing around the school to keep the children safe. And audio visual equipment installed into the pre-school classroom to help use more modern educational aids.

“Safety is important. I have been Principal here for ten years and we have had threatening incidents”

The school has 204 children aged 5 – 14 and 11 teachers. It operates 9 – 12 and 1 – 3.30.

“We would like to replace the equipment in the kitchen with new cabinets, fridge and freezer. They are very old! We have good fundraising from the local parents. Our next event is a Halloween fair which is always popular among children and adults.”

These aren’t the only challenges faced by Principal Tun. The school has been struggling for space, with students crammed into spaces designed for half their numbers.

“Four of our classrooms are currently condemned and are unusable. So I have had to fit classes into the remaining spaces, including my office! We hope work will start on a replacement building in January.”


Senor Timoteo has been farming sugar cane for 40 years. He has 18 acres of land in which he has in the past farmed with his two sons.

“”I mainly work by myself now. My sons are IT technicians. I helped them with their education. I bring in cane cutters during the harvest”.

The life of a cane farmer can be challenging. Weather plays a big part in the success of a harvest. And the success of a harvest plays a big part in the amount of money that farmers like Senor Timoteo can receive.

“My harvest will start in February. When I take the cane to the mill I will know the yield. Then I will know how much I will get.”

The year has already been difficult. At the time of writing, a tropical storm had appeared off the coast of Belize, bringing with it heavy rain.

“This rain is good. It has been very dry so far and that has been bad for the cane. It has not been growing as much as usual. It also means I’ve had to spend money on more fertilizer.”

Senor Timoteo is grateful for the support received through funds generated from the Fairtrade Premium. He took part in a project run by the Belize Cane Farmers Association to improve the profitability of part of his crop.

“They gave me the fertilizer, seed and machinery to re-plant 1 acre of my crop. It has massively improved the productivity. I now get almost three times the sugar from that same acre as I did before.”

Re-planting involves digging up the existing roots, cleaning up the field to promote growth and planting new sugar-cane seeds (which are actually cuttings). The cost of doing this can be out of reach for many cane farmers. Without this initiative they will typically keep re-growing the same cane for many years, even as productivity starts to decline.

“If there was more money available I would replant more of my land. Then maybe one day I could also expand. I have had a dream for a long time to keep pigs.”


“The froghopper is very bad for the cane. They suck it dry so the leaves wither and the plant can’t grow.” So explains Senor Raul, the Chairman of the San Narciso district of Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association. “Before the Ferti-Rastra we used to get regular infestations that would cause us very real problems.”

Cane farmers in Belize cannot afford a poor crop. Their livelihoods, and those of their families, depend on a successful harvest. Senor Raul heads a community organization of 140 farming families in his district. They were regularly finding problems with an insect called the froghopper, which would lay eggs in the soil and whose young would then become a serious problem to sugar cane.

“We got the idea for the Ferti-Rastra from some similar devices in Mexico and the USA. We designed this one ourselves, and we were able to get a grant from Fairtrade money to have it built.”

This unusual machine, simply put, is a type of plough. It is towed behind a tractor and is specially designed to serve three purposes. Firstly it turns over the soil. Secondly it cuts through the churned soil, exposing and destroying any froghopper eggs. And lastly it has a dispenser to spread fertisliser, saving time and improving the efficiency of an exercise usually done by hand.

“We share the machine out amongst the members without cost. All they have to do is get a tractor, which they have to rent.”

“I’ve been farming sugar cane for 25years and this is one of the best aids we’ve come up with to solve a major problem.”

“We appreciate the Fairtrade funds and we would like to see if we can have more. It helps the farmers and the community as a whole. It would be great if we could afford our own tractor one day.”