I’m on my way to El Salvador and Honduras to visit our cashew co-op partners. Sadly, we got word last week that “unseasonable” rains and winds have destroyed 75% of this year’s cashew crop and the co-op in Salvador (Aprainores) has had to shut down their processing plant after just two weeks; laying off the 60 or so women whose income depends on the plant. Instead of the 60,000 or so pounds of cashews that Aprainores was planning to export this year, they will export nothing.
Very sad indeed.
This is the precarious nature of a small farmer co-op, becoming increasingly more difficult every day due to climate change.
It’s also the challenge for Alternative Trade Organizations, like Equal Exchange, that work hard to build these supply chains: working closely with our farmer co-op partners in the south and then just as diligently in the north where everything depends on an informed, educated and engaged citizen-consumer and a retailer whose values, principles, and behaviors match our own.
On both ends of the supply chain, the bigger context is also becoming increasingly more challenging as government agriculture and trade policies, climate change, and the corporatization of the food system create an unwelcoming set of conditions to be navigated. Despite the challenges however, the rays of hope and community shine through: our model of alternative trade, authentic fair trade, a new economy- whatever you like to call it – will persevere because it is built on relationships, community, a concern for the planet, and a system which is based on the principle that people come before profits.
To quote our friends on the banana team, at OKE USA: please look beyond the seal! Ask questions before you purchase. When we behave as engaged citizens – not just as consumers – we can awaken the sleeping giant and create the world we envision.