“Instead of foreigners sending us food, they should give us the chance to do our own agriculture so it can survive.” So said Rony Charles, a rice grower and member of the Agricultural Producer Cooperative of Verrettes, in Haiti.Giving domestic agriculture the chance to survive would address four critical needs:
1. Creating employment for the majority, estimated at 60% to 80% of the population;
2. Allowing rural people to stay on their land. This is both their right as well as a way to keep Port-au-Prince from becoming even more perilously overcrowded;Addressing an ongoing food crisis. Today, even with imports, more than 2.4 million people out of a population of 9 million are estimated to be food-insecure.
3. Acute malnutrition among children under the age 5 is 9%, and chronic under-nutrition for that age group is 24%. Peasant groups are convinced that, with the necessary investment, Haiti could produce at least 80% of its food consumption needs; and
4. Promoting a post-earthquake redevelopment plan that serves the needs of the majority, unlike the one currently promoted by the U.S. and U.N. which is based on the growth of sweatshops. See “Poverty-Wage Assembly Plants as Development Strategy in Haiti”.
We are the most divorced from ecology and agriculture civilization in history resulting in a cultural ignorance when it comes to food. As was recently said by Joel Salatin, “we know more about the Kardashians than we do about what we eat.”
As I stood there today in the presence of farmers, pseudo-farmers, and food shysters I began to ponder what initial questions we asked while perusing produce and what might be helpful to others. Here is what I came up with:
Markets like Crossroads support immigrant farmers by connecting them with other immigrants, making it easy to exchange knowledge, and helping them find a way to return to their agrarian roots.
The Crossroads farmers’ market is known statewide for being the first farmers market in Maryland to electronically accept various types of nutrition benefit programs: food stamps, known federally as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); as well as senior food assistance vouchers. Dudley explains that the market committed to accept electronic food stamps after paper vouchers disappeared in the late 1990s.
Although there is a growing population of Latino and Hispanic farmers in the United States, they often struggle with linguistic, cultural, and legal barriers. According to the Agricultural Census of 2007, Hispanic farmers are the fastest-growing population of new farmers and grew 14 percent from 2002, as compared with a 7 percent overall increase in farm operators.
Marie was only 11 years old when she spoke at the “Raise the bar, Hershey!” rally in 2010. She’d seen videos of children in Ivory Coast and Ghana lugging around heavy sacks of cocoa beans and wielding machetes to open cocoa pods. She heard that these malnourished children in forced labor are often whipped or beaten. And she knew that wasn’t right.So Marie started a Fair Trade group at her middle school in San Francisco. She began telling everyone she could about the chocolate farmers who don’t earn a living wage, and the children kidnapped to work on plantations.
This is a great article which breaks down some of the problems with Fair Trade and poses some possible solutions. Also discovered in the article that a Mennonite started the fair trade movement.
There is today a far wider, more exciting range of chocolate bars available than we knew even a decade ago, and consumers can exercise a certain amount of ethical practice in buying them. Putting faith in a blue-and-green Fairtrade label alone is, perhaps, too simple. Through their different models, Fairtrade-certified companies, direct-trade companies, and artisanal producers are pushing each other to rethink standards for the entire chocolate industry.