Fair Trade in Action - Candida and the Tractor, Costa Rica
Guest post from Sri Artham, the Director of Strategic Accounts
This guest blog post comes to us from our very own Sri Artham, the Director of Strategic Accounts at Fair Trade USA. Sri is focused on creating business opportunities to transform the lives of farmers and farm workers around the world. Read on to learn more about his recent visit with banana and cocoa farmers in the Talamanca region of Costa Rica.
Sitting in the far Southeast corner of Costa Rica, right next to the Caribbean Sea, lives a group of indigenous farmers who grow Fair Trade organic bananas and cocoa in a truly sustainable fashion.
Asociación de Pequeños Productores de Talamanca (The Association of Small Producers of Talamanca or APPTA) is a group of about 1,300 farmers who use a unique intercropping method that harnesses the power of nature to prevent disease, increase productivity, and preserve a safe habitat for the local animals, like toucans, monkeys, and three-toed sloths! The heart of the age-old system consists of layers: tall fruit trees to provide shade for the farm, followed by banana trees, then cocoa trees, and herbs at ground level. Each level helps protect and fertilize the others while acting as a barrier to prevent the spread of diseases.
It's an amazing system that generates more income for the farmers and their families.
We met one farmer, Candida Salazar, who has been farming the few plots of land she owns her entire life. Her bananas have a long journey to make to get to your grocery store, and it all starts on her farm on the side of the hill. Once the bananas are harvested, she used to haul them down to the hill, load them on a small boat, where they were then taken down the river and loaded on a truck which hauled them to the nearby port. It's a long journey, and starts with a back-breaking haul for Candida.
However, a few years ago, she and her fellow farmers decided to invest their Fair Trade community development premiums in a tractor, which makes the journey so much easier for Candida and her bananas. The tractor has found all sorts of unintended uses - like hauling building materials up the hill to build a school, or transporting visiting doctors when someone gets sick in the community. It's one of their proudest possessions.
So the next time you pick up a banana for your morning smoothie or to put on your cereal, think about the long journey it took to get to your kitchen, and the farmers like Candida who worked hard to get it there. When you choose to buy Fair Trade, you'll certainly bring a smile to her face.