Archive for February, 2008

As if there weren’t enough happening in Peru, the country has been experiencing torrential rains, heavy flooding, landslides and mudslides in the central highlands and the jungle provinces that have caused at least 20 deaths, extensive damage to crops, and the destruction of many roads and bridges.

We recently received this brief note from Santiago Paz, Manager of CEPICAFE, one of our coffee trading partners in northern Peru: (more…)

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February 20th marked the end of a two-day national agrarian strike in Peru. Campesino organizations demanded government measures to alleviate the financial hardships small-scale farmers will face as a result of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) recently signed with the U.S. Under the FTA, tariffs will be lifted on heavily subsidized U.S. grains, like corn and soybeans, creating unfair competition for millions of small-scale farmers in Peru. The strike began on Feb. 19, when farmers in eight departments throughout Peru held marches and blocked traffic. Four protesters were killed, hundreds of people were arrested, and the government declared a state of emergency in all eight departments. The following day, on Feb. 20, the government agreed to undergo negotiations and the strike was suspended. (more…)

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I would like to share a highly inspiring story from Nicaragua of solidarity between unemployed farm workers and a small-scale farmer co-operative that Equal Exchange has partnered with for over 15 years.

In the early 1990s when the coffee crisis was most severe, conventional coffee companies were paying farmers as little as 45 cents per pound. With costs of production about twice that high, plantations throughout Nicaragua were going bankrupt. Landowners abandoned their estates and many thousands of coffee pickers had nowhere to work and no way to feed their families. Malnutrition throughout the country was high and 14 children died in 2002, literally from lack of food. (more…)

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“There used to be one bus a day leaving this area (Esquintla, Chiapas) heading north. Now, four buses a day go to the border…. And each is packed with our young boys. Today, with the conditions the way they are, youth have become our biggest export.” -Miguel Angel Barrios Bravo, president of a coffee co-operative affiliated with FIECH, the Indigenous Ecological Federation of Chiapas, one of Equal Exchange’s trading partners.

“You can build the Berlin Wall. You can build the China Wall. The U.S. can build a wall any size it wants. But they will never be able to stem the migration north as long as farmers are hungry and have no way to support their families.” -Gabriela Soriano, CIEPAC, the Center for Economic & Political Research for Community Action.

In January, I took a group of Equal Exchange staff to visit our trading partners in Chiapas. We also met with local organizations in San Cristobal to learn about the current political and economic realities of the region. Our first meeting was with CIEPAC, a very active organization devoted to research, analysis, education and action. We have been very impressed with CIEPAC’s work and last year Equal Exchange was able to facilitate a portion of our profits to support their educational programs. Unfortunately, others find their work with indigenous farmers threatening; CIEPAC’s offices have been raided on numerous occasions and individual staff members have received multiple death threats. 


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Suddenly everyone’s talking about local: “Local is the new organic,” we’re told.

Farmers’ markets are springing up in food co-operative and church parking lots and on Main Streets throughout the country. More people are joining CSAs (community supported agriculture) and choosing locally grown products in their grocery stores. And as this trend continues, more and more consumers are starting to ask hard questions about where their food comes from and how its grown, who is growing it and under what conditions, and equally important of course, who’s making the decisions that control our food choices and who’s making the profits from those purchases?

The “buy local” movement implies that people are acknowledging all the hard work that goes into producing high quality, healthy, flavorful products and they want to support their local farmers. They want to know the farmers, how the food was grown and be assured that it’s both healthy for them and safe for the planet. To me, it says that we as consumers are choosing to re-personalize the food system; that we want to be a part of a movement that supports community and the planet and that we are ever more ready to resist the trend for corporate control of our food system and our values. (more…)

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About this blog

At Equal Exchange, we buy from co-operatives of small-scale farmers who love what they do. And they want you to love what they produce. But the system is stacked against them. While corporations strengthen their grip on the food system, consumers and farmers lose. Consumers lose their connection to the land. Farmers lose the land itself. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Our new campaign, “Small Farmers. Big Change: Creating a Green and More Just Food System,” represents a path to bringing justice to the food system and health to the planet. Through our actions, we can take steps to reduce our environmental footprint, help farmers save their local ecosystems, and advocate for agriculture and trade policies that actually benefit small-scale producers and workers instead of corporations. The positive impact of these actions would indeed represent a powerful change.

Why are small farmers and their organizations so important? Quite simply, they provide us with really great, high quality, healthy food. They also take care of the land. Sustainable farming protects the forests, soil and watersheds, and helps cool the planet. Small farmer co-operatives encourage democratic decision-making, provide dignified livelihoods for their members, and give opportunities for producers to feel pride in their accomplishments and hope for the future. These organizations help keep communities healthy and strong, and keep local cultures vibrant. They provide real alternatives to migration, gangs, and the cultivation of coca and other illegal crops. (more…)

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