Posts Tagged ‘small farmers’

The TRADE Act, currently before Congress, is an attempt to rethink U.S. trade policies. The following is a press release from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University about the impact trade policies have had on small-scale farmers:

Agricultural trade liberalization has largely failed to bring lasting benefit to rural areas in Latin America, where small-holder agriculture remains a key economic activity says a new report published by WOLA and GDAE.

Trade liberalization has provided a few countries in Latin America with unprecedented export opportunities, say authors Mamerto Pérez, Sergio Schlesinger and Timothy A. Wise in their report The Promise and Perils of Agricultural Trade Liberalization: Lessons from the Americas,but it has not generated broad-based development and has caused long-term harm to small producers and consumers.

“This report comes at an important time,” says Vicki Gass, WOLA’s Senior Associate for Rights and Development. “Unregulated trade liberalization in Latin America’s rural sector is clearly a contributing factor to the current food crisis hitting Latin America. Policy makers in the region, and the U.S., have to re-think the whole package of policies they have adopted in recent years. The new administration and Congress will have the opportunity to reconsider U.S. support for trade liberalization policies and move toward financially supporting small producers who supply local and regional markets.”

Among the report’s main policy suggestions: (more…)

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In her blog, GreenLaGirl, Siel wrote about the issues presented in the Business Week article, “Is Fair Trade Becoming ‘Fair Trade Lite’?” and asked those of us at Equal Exchange why we were so opposed to the idea that plantations and multi-nationals should be operating within the Fair Trade system. Siel wondered if EE is simply nostalgic for the good ole days of co-ops, or if being a co-op means we only want to work with co-ops. Similarly, Jaqui de Carlo asks in her blog, Fair Trade Beginners, can’t fair traders be more inclusive – why can’t Chiquita sell fair trade bananas as well as Oke USA?

Both Rodney and Nicholas have written responses to Siel’s blog, so I won’t go through and repeat their arguments about why it is not just ideology, nostalgia or a desire to be exclusive, that keep us following our own path regardless of the direction being pushed by the Fair Trade certifiers. Please read their comments for some great reasons that should help clarify our position.

Personally, I think it comes down to the question of what the goal of one’s work is and how to best achieve it. Paul Rice, Executive Director of Transfair, was quoted in Business Week as stating that the goal of Fair Trade is to help poor people. While there’s nothing wrong with helping poor people – I prefer to work along side others who want to change the conditions that actually create poverty and injustice. Not just to help – but to change the system. To me, Fair Trade is more than a higher price, as important as that higher price is to the farmer who receives it. It’s more than a supply-side strategy in which the more people buying and selling Fair Trade, the better. It cannot be reduced to a seal; rather it is a holistic approach to economic development and political empowerment and self-determination.

How ironic. During the same week that Business Week came out with their article entitled, “Is Fair Trade Becoming ‘Fair Trade Lite’?” by Pallavi Gogoi, Alternet printed, “Why Fair Trade May be Our Only Hope,” by George Monbiot (originally published in the Guardian). If you want to understand why we should be supporting small scale agriculture, please read this latter article. Monbiot clearly explains why small-scale sustainable farming is the only solution to our multiple problems of environmental protection, feeding the poor, and providing for dignified livelihoods for farmers.

Here are some excerpts:

“…Though the rich world’s governments won’t hear it, the issue of whether or not the world will be fed is partly a function of ownership. This reflects an unexpected discovery. It was first made in 1962 by the Nobel economist Amartya Sen, and has since been confirmed by dozens of further studies. There is an inverse relationship between the size of farms and the amount of crops they produce per hectare. The smaller they are, the greater the yield.” (more…)

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On June 4, Representative Michael Michaud and Senator Sherrod Brown introduced the TRADE Act to Congress. As the press release from the National Family Farm Coalition expressed (see our earlier blog post), this is an exciting opportunity for Congress to finally reform existing trade bills and ensure that future trade agreements are designed to actually benefit small farmers, workers, local economies and the environment.The bills have been officially introduced into both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Debate most likely won’t begin until early next year, but this is an important time to begin gathering support for the bills’ provisions.

Please consider calling or writing your Congressional representatives to urge them to co-sponsor the bills – a strong show of support will strengthen the chances of passage and ensure solutions to skyrocketing food prices, loss of family farms, disintegration of communities and massive waves of immigration.

To read the proposed legislation (or summaries and key provisions of the bills), a list of those organizations supporting the TRADE Act, and a series of press releases from a wide variety of labor, farm, and worker rights organizations expressing enthusiasm for these bills, please go to citizenstrade.org.

There you will find everything you need to email or call Congress, such as talking points and a quick link to your Senator or Representative’s office.

Keep up to date on actions you can take to ensure our free trade agreements are FAIR at Equal Exchange’s action alerts web page.

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Angela Vendetti and Don Wilfredo Herrera Mendoza in Nicaragua.“Leading a business with your ideals? You must be crazy.”

That’s what Angela Vendetti and her business partner, Jill Fink, heard when they started dreaming about opening Mugshots Café in Philadelphia. “When we were writing our business plan and trying to get Mugshots open, people told us we were crazy for putting our ideals before business sense,” Vendetti explained to John Steele in the Philadelphia Weekly‘s recent article on Mugshots.

Angela has heard this before. She heard it firsthand when we took her and six other Equal Exchange enthusiasts on a trip to Nicaragua to visit our coffee co-operative partner CECOCAFEN in 2005. Pedro Haslam, the former General Manager who has since been elected to the Nicaraguan Senate (but remains President of the Board of CECOCAFEN) let her know she was not alone. “We are a business with a social mission,” he told us in a meeting in Matagalpa. “Unlike traditional businesses we are not motivated by profit for profit sake, but our goal is to provide the highest quality coffee and the highest quality of relationships with our importer partners so as to provide the highest quality of life for our co-op members. People told us we were crazy when we started, but we’re very proud of our accomplishments.” (more…)

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The following article, written by Peter Rosset, is an excellent analysis on some of the causes and potential solutions of the current food crisis. Dr. Rosset is a food rights activist, agroecologist and rural development specialist. Currently working in San Cristobál, Mexico, he is the former co-director of Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy in Oakland, California.

The original article, translated by Peter Rosset, was originally published in Spanish in La Jornada:

May 9, 2008

The Time has Come for La Via Campesina and Food Sovereignty

Peter Rosset

Around the world it seems more and more that the time has come for La Via Campesina. The global alliance of peasant and family farm organizations has spent the past decade perfecting an alternative proposal for how to structure a country’s food system, called Food Sovereignty. It was clear at the World Forum on Food Sovereignty held last year in Mali, that this proposal has been gaining ground with other social movements, including those of indigenous peoples, women, consumers, environmentalists, some trade unions, and others. Though when it comes to governments and international agencies, it had until recently been met with mostly deaf ears. But now things have changed. The global crisis of rising food prices, which has already led to food riots in diverse parts of Asia, Africa and the Americas, is making everybody sit up and take note of this issue.

But, what are the causes of the extreme food price hikes? (more…)

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Equal Exchange was founded 22 years ago to change the way business is carried out and trade is conducted; to expand and deepen the opportunities for consumers and producers to relate to each other; and to change an anonymous, corporate-controlled food system to one in which each participant is treated with respect and dignity, and whose contribution is recognized and valued. Integral to this vision is an economic model that builds vibrant, healthy businesses and communities.

Together, we’ve accomplished a tremendous amount and have successfully paved the way for each of these goals to be realized. Through our co-operative structure, and by supporting other co-operative business models, we are building an alternative network of democratic, mission-driven businesses that place relationships above the bottom line. Fair Trade has entered the mainstream; consumers are increasingly demanding information about where their food comes from, insisting that conditions are fair for those who grow it, and increasingly see themselves as advocates for a just food system and a healthier planet.

We’ve made enormous strides. And we’re proud. We hope those of you who have walked this path alongside us share in this pride as well. But, despite tremendous efforts and accomplishments, sadly we are still swimming upstream. The world around us continues to be dominated by corporate interests and greed. Trade agreements favor the interests of multi-national corporations and treat workers and producers as objects (and their products as commodities) to be discarded when they no longer serve. Climate change is wreaking havoc on poor communities and small-scale farmers are being disproportionately affected. Taken together, these agricultural and trade policies and changing weather patterns are threatening entire communities, the quality, quantity, and price of our food, and the planet itself. We can’t really afford to rest on our laurels. (more…)

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