It’s a magnificent story of turning un-saleable mangos into high-value, internationally-certified organic mango puree. In the ancestral mountainous lands of the indigenous Aeta people in Southern Zambales Province, Philippines, the Aetas are subsistent farmers. They have thousands of mango trees over a huge area but they are mostly Pico mangoes- a mango variety that is of a low or non-commercial value.
The Pico and Katchamita (locally called Indian mangos) varieties were rarely harvested. What the Aeta would earn selling them was not worth the hard work climbing the trees and carrying sack loads of mangos to the local market ten or twenty kilometers away. They earn only a miserable four pesos a kilo at times.
The fruit mostly would be left to rot on the ground. Then Preda Fair Trade, working in partnership with Welt Partner, a Fairtrade importer from Ravensburg, Germany and Weambard and Profood corporations, processed the Pico and Indian mangoes into a delicious puree that is the ingredient in a dozen mango products that are sold throughout the European Union (EU).
We trained the almost 400 subsistent farmers to practice the international organic standards and they achieved the near impossible. They succeed to pass all the international inspections. They do not allow any chemicals into the area and meet all the evaluation standards. It’s a success story for sure. Yet, that is threatened by climate change. For three years, there were no mangos to harvest. The rains had come too early and washed the blossoms off the trees. Then in 2019, there was positive change and there was a bumper harvest. The farmers were paid by Preda Fair Trade 300 percent higher than what they would get in the local market.
Nowadays, customers everywhere are very aware of the need for quality and fairly traded food. They know the dangers of chemical additives used in processed foods and how their health can be damaged. They also want to know about the source of the food they eat, the life and conditions of the producers. They need to know if they are getting fair wages and payment for their products. Who wants to taste the food of injustice?
That’s why the Fair Trade movement was established in the1960s to try to provide customers with an alternative to the exploitative and unjust trade where many poor communities are exploited by the local traders and the international importers.
In Fair Trade, there are many criteria and standards that the Fair Traders must comply with. One is to help the farmers benefit economically and rise out of dire poverty by building their capacity, giving value to their products and buying the products at fair prices. They also engage with the producers so that there is a partnership between the Fair Trader and the producers.
Openness, accountability and transparency are the rules to follow. In the Preda Fair Trade mango project, the importer partners are invited and encouraged to visit the project and see for themselves the fair trade practices and visit the farmers and talk with them. They are advised to bring their own Tagalog-speaking interpreter. Independent verification is the most important test of any fair trading organization by the importer. It is better than a non-verified certificate which is sold without inspections.
Most important is the duty and obligations of the importer partners. The importers are required by Fair Trade rules to provide pre-payment of 50 percent of the value of the shipment if requested at a reasonable interest rate. They must contribute to “capacity-building” of the producers also. Customers can then believe in the product as fair and true.
Preda Fair Trade does not ask this pre-payment from importing partners but actually finances the harvesting and processing of the mangos in advance of shipping to the importers. This is a big benefit to the Fair Trade importers and the farmers.
Besides, Preda has great interest in supporting the cultural dignity of the indigenous Aeta farmers. Preda Fair Trade has succeeded in organizing them and providing legal aid as necessary to protect their culture and threatened ancestral lands from mining corporations and land grabbers.
Paying a fair price is the most fundamental principle of Fair Trade. The fair trade products as sold in the Fair Trade shops and other supermarkets are slightly higher than the commercially-produced similar products. That is because the farmers are paid more and get bonus payments and other community-based projects from Preda Fair Trade.
The small earnings of Preda Fair Trade are donated to the support of children’s homes for the child victims rescued from child sexual abusers, sex tourists and brothels. There are as many as 65 girls 14 to 16 years of age rescued and given therapy and care by Preda professional staff. Preda Fair Trade also campaigns against the evil trade in persons and brings as many as twenty human traffickers and child abusers to justice every year and many of them receive a life sentence.
Many commercially-produced dried fruits are bought at such low prices the poor farmers cannot have a decent life and remain in poverty. Preda Fair Trade dried mangos are chemical- fee, contain low sugar and have no coloring or preservative.
Gender equality is an important fair trade principle and equal pay for men and women is essential. In the Aeta and small farmers associations organized by Preda Fair Trade, the women are the business managers in many cases. There is no child labor or forced labor and the training and education seminars given to the farmers inculcate these values in their communities and families. They also receive child protection and anti-child abuse training given by the Preda community education team.
The Aeta people are at one with nature. By tradition, they protect and nurture the environment. That is why they have been internationally certified for 2020 as organic. Organic certification is a big achievement in capacity-building of the indigenous people. This capacity building has been helped by our dedicated partner Misereor of Germany. The planting of thousands of mango trees is a big part of this project.