If we believe in equality, justice, and happiness for all and that it is right for some of us to be rich and enjoy life and ignore others living in poverty without trying to help them change their unjust and unequal situation, we are living a contradiction. We could be called hypocrites. If we believe in the value of life and virtue, then we should act on our principles. Not to do so and act for justice is to be like a robot without feelings, without principles and not be fully human. But we are humans and so is everyone else and they have human rights that must be protected and enhanced.
At Preda Fair Trade and with our partner Misereor in Germany, we believe that Fair Trade is one important way to overcome social and economic injustice. We believe that trading fairly is helping people help themselves overcome poverty through fair wages, social benefits and paying just prices for their produce. This Preda project gives fair payment to the poor farmers. Preda Fair Trade pays the mango farmers three times higher than the very low price that the commercial buyers offer to them. There are other benefits provided by Preda Fair Trade such as giving them mango saplings and development projects to the tenant farmers and helping the indigenous people. Misereor helps these projects and with the Preda Foundation, we are providing hand pumps to the remote villages where there is no running water. Preda is distributing solar lights to the farmers because they have no electricity in their villages in the mountains. Together with the people, Preda Fair Trade is building sanitary public toilets for better hygiene in the villages and to prevent disease.
This is part of Preda Fair Trade and working for social justice to make society fair it is part of the work of Preda and it is the Christian values in action. If we have principles and values about how people ought to be respected, we should help others to share those rights too. If it is true that we believe in values such as equality, human dignity, and human rights and we want a fair and good life for ourselves and all others, we must do good and find ways to get justice for the poor and the deprived people who are denied their rights.
Here is a story about a family benefiting from Preda Fair Trade, how it helps people. Juan and Maria de la Costa are a poor farmer couple living with three children in the mountains of Zambales 140 kilometers north of Manila. They have lived in poverty making a living from planting vegetables, gathering wild honey and gathering mango fruits to sell in the market many kilometers away from their village. Like millions of impoverished indigenous people, they are subsistence farmers surviving on what they can grow on sparse public lands they don’t own.
They live in a small ten-meter by ten-meter shack made of bamboo and grass. They have two children aged 9 and 12 years of age. There is no electricity, sanitation or running water in the village. Millions of poor people survive on the edge of life in this modern age of great wealth and great poverty. Juan knows nothing of the causes of his poverty. He doesn’t know that a few wealthy families and their cronies in the Philippines rule Congress and they own or control the wealth of the nation. He does not know that the super rich that comprises just one percent of the 104 million Filipinos is the cause of his hardship and poverty. He doesn’t know that the majority of Filipinos suffers as he does and lives and survive in extreme poverty in the rural mountains and in the city slums.
He and his children will remain in poverty and his children will never experience a life of happiness, dignity, and freedom. They will not go to school and most likely they will become street children and be arrested and jailed as homeless children. They will be behind steel bars in cells without beds, proper toilets, no showers to take a bath, no education, no exercise, no sunlight or any hope of freedom. Their children’s rights are violated every day. They are doomed to a life of poverty and treated as criminals they will become criminals when they grow to adulthood.
That is the way most of the rich ruling class wants it to remain. They don’t care, have no compassion for the children, and they live in luxury and allow the government to abuse the children. They stay in control of 70% of the wealth of the Philippines. The millions of poor have nothing but their hunger and hardship and children stunted with malnutrition.
Juan and Maria only knew that the traders in the towns would only give them four or five pesos a kilo for his pico mangoes and he knows they are worth three times that amount. But if he does not sell them for the low price they will quickly rot in the hot tropical climate. He will get nothing. That low price given by the unjust traders in the towns is not even worth a day of his hard work harvesting the fruit in the high trees and the long walk into the town with a heavy sack of mangoes to sell. So he does not go to sell the mangoes and they rot on the ground. Without a just trading system, Juan’s and Maria’s children will remain poor and uneducated because they cannot get a fair price for the various crops they grow including mangoes.
At least, that is how it was until Preda Fair Trade and Misereor came to his village and offered Juan and his villagers help to produce organic mangoes and offered to buy the mangos at three times higher price than the low unfair price that the commercial buyers offered them. Juan and Maria and all the villagers were ecstatic with happiness.
Now with this fair price, they would really earn good money, get paid a high price and earn a bonus payment as part of the profit sharing of Preda Fair Trade project. This is what fair-trade is all about, paying a just price for products and bringing economic justice to the poor and exploited people and empowering them to educate their children.
The Philippines and the poor nations need more of it. If we have principles, we must act on them and help make this a more just and fair world so there will less poverty.