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Whole Foods Market Blog: Whole Trade Haitian Mangoes
05/30/2012 - 10:04 AM

We’re celebrating another Whole Trade Haitian mango season here at Whole Foods Market.  These juicy tropical treats will be in most of our stores for a few more weeks, so there’s still time to grab some if you’ve missed them so far.  A small group of us returned to Haiti this April to visit with our partners on the ground and to plan the coming season.  We were amazed at the progress that has been made in the past year and wanted to share the news with you.

This previous post, including a great video, covers the unique nature of our Whole Trade program.  (And this post shares mango recipes!) Whole Foods Market remains the only buyer of the limited supply of Fair Trade Certified mangos from Haiti.  While we do our part each year to help expand supply and build this program, which ensures that more money gets to the small farmers, the real hard work is done by a group of non-governmental organizations and business people whose deep dedication to fair trade makes it all happen.

We were excited to hear about two ways that the program is having an impact: 1) More farmers are joining the program and 2) they are getting more money for their mangos.  Here’s how:

 More farmers

Last year, we purchased mangos from seven Fair Trade Certified farmer groups.  During our visit, we checked in with the leaders of two of these groups.  Both reported that their membership is growing quickly as word of the premium price spreads in their communities.  They spoke of excitement at their meetings and they were expecting to deliver lots of mangos this year.  We met with one farmer who had used his increased mango income to buy a goat, which has since had kids.  He was grateful to have been able to leverage his profits in this lasting way.  We thanked them for their work and assured them that we were ready to receive their fruit again this year.

The most impressive development this year is the new farmer groups organized and trained by TechnoServe, an innovative international nonprofit that helps entrepreneurial men and women in poor areas of the developing world to build businesses.  TechnoServe’s Haiti Hope Project is a  partnership between The Coca-Cola Company, the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank Group, the US Agency for International Development, and TechnoServe that aims to double the incomes of 25,000 Haitian mango farmers over five years.  Their expert field staff has guided 10 new groups through the intense training required to participate in the program, more than doubling the number of Fair Trade Certified farmer groups that supply Whole Foods Market.  As a result, more than a thousand additional farmers will receive a premium price for their fruit this year.  These new groups represent expansion in other ways too:  all of the new groups are in geographical areas of Haiti not currently represented in the program and 45% of the new farmers signed up by TechnoServe are women.

More money

Reliable data is not available, so the following numbers are very rough but they should give you an idea of the benefit to farmers of more direct market access.  Most farmers in Haiti sell their entire harvest to middle men because they need the cash and they may not have another opportunity to sell their fruit.  A farmer in a rural area with few market options might earn $15 for the mangos on an entire tree.  Alternatively, a farmer can cut down his or her tree to make charcoal for a better (though single year) return.  A good size tree could produce up to 5 bags of charcoal, perhaps returning $40 to the farmer that year.  (We watched a huge truck get filled with charcoal across the street from a meeting we attended with one of the new groups.) Those farmers who have access to one of the groups we buy from can sell their mangos through the Fair Trade Certified program by the dozen.  On an average size tree, a farmer could earn $52 each year.  Again, these numbers are rough and intended only to explain the drastic difference training, organization and market access can have on farmers.

Each of the farmer groups we met with thanked us for our interest and support, and we want to pass that thanks along to all of you.  The “work” on this end of the supply chain is easy – enjoy this unique, tasty, seasonal fruit and know that the small act of enjoying a mango can help a real person in Haiti.

Thanks to our partners at TechnoServe, Fair Trade USA, Perry Exports and Tropic Trade LLC for their contributions to this post and for their groundbreaking work building this program year after year. Bon bagay!  (Good stuff!)

Have you tried Haitian mangos?