Lucy's Visit to See Fair Trade in Action in the Philippines

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Posted: 26/02/2019 Print

Lucy's Visit to See Fair Trade in Action in the Philippines

I’m often asked about Fair Trade and what it really means. I thought the best way to tell you is to share my trip to the Philippines visiting one of the communities on the Fair Trade Scheme.

The Fair Trade Sustainability Alliance (FairTSA)

Firstly, to explain a bit about the Fair Trade Scheme that we work with, the Fair Trade Sustainability Alliance.

Not all Fair Trade schemes are the same. For example, we pay a 10% premium for our coconuts and funds are used for both sustainable community projects AND higher wages but this can vary from scheme to scheme, so it is best to do your own research on what different Fair Trade schemes do.

The FairTSA scheme is amazing because the people who are involved (farmers, producers and families), are the ones who benefit, rather than the money being put into one big pot and shared around. For instance, with our Coconut Oil, the money goes back to the workers and farmers involved in the Philippines, whereas with our Cacao, it goes to those workers in the Dominican Republic, and for our Turmeric and Chai, those workers in India benefit.

Getting to Know the Locals

The extended 'Lucy Bee family' in the Philippines

After a four-hour drive from our producer’s factory we arrived near to where the Catanauan Cluster live (‘cluster’ is what the communities on the Fair Trade scheme are called) and that evening, we met with the cluster for dinner.

We met with the farmers on the Fair Trade scheme and also the other people who were in the committee that look after each area, such as the feeding programme, insurance, school scholarships etc.

The heads of the committee are chosen by the community, so they have total control and a say on who is going to run the programmes and what exactly they want from the money they are given.

The Fair Trade scheme is there to help and give advice but it is up to the communities to decide what they want from the money. This is great and is as it should be, since they are the ones working and living that lifestyle. This isn’t always the case in other Fair Trade organisations.

We saw a brief video of how the programme has helped and then chatting, I asked lots of questions about how the Fair Trade scheme had helped and what they wanted to see in future.

One thing they asked was if I could get other companies to be Fair Trade. I said that it wasn’t down to me, but hopefully the more we share how valuable it is and the difference it makes, it will inspire others and I assured them all that Lucy Bee will always be passionate and driven to produce Fair Trade products. We want to give back to the countries and communities whose produce we use.

We then had some delicious local food and a little dance before calling it a night.

Seeing the Benefits of Fair Trade First-hand

The next day, we went over to the cluster that we’d met the previous night and it was nice to see some smiley, welcoming, familiar faces. We were greeted with more food, a homemade cacao hot chocolate from their plantation and an in-depth presentation on the Fair Trade scheme. This was hosted in one of the lady’s shops, which we soon learnt was all through hard work and the Fair Trade lending programme. We learnt a lot and heard and saw how the scheme had helped each individual and the people around them.

Shirley was able to set up her shop through hard work and a loan make possible through Fair Trade contributions

The Fair Trade scheme is there to help and give advice but it is up to the communities to decide what they want from the money. This is great and is as it should be, since they are the ones working and living that lifestyle. This isn’t always the case in other Fair Trade organisations.

The presentation included a talk from each head of the committee and we learnt about the following:

  • Coconut planting - one of the priority projects of clusters is coconut planting/re-planting programme. This project will sustain coconut production for the next generation.

The source of seed nuts was selected from the best mother trees in certified organic / Fair Trade coconut farms. This project will ensure the sustainability of the coconut industry and secure the future of many generations who depend on coconut. All clusters have already planted 69,879 seedlings in different municipalities covering 495.8 hectares.

  • The lending programmes - as I mentioned, the morning was hosted in one of the couple’s (Elmer and Shirley) shops, where they have become successful through the lending scheme that the Fair Trade scheme provides. They can take out loans (from the Fair Trade money) to start up a small business or to help buy cattle. They can start off by borrowing php1000 (£16), once they prove they can afford to pay the loan (2% interest). The next month they can borrow more, and so on.
Meeting Shirley and Elmer

We saw first-hand how a small loan can become a sustainable enterprise with them owning two coconut buying stations and a customer shop with groceries and everyday products on sale.

  • The feeding programmes - this programme feeds malnourished children with nutritious and affordable food following the standard set by the Department of Education.

Prior to the feeding programme, many school children would go to school on an empty stomach. Not an ideal condition to learn and pick up the lesson especially after long hours of walking to school.

This has helped feed children and uplifted their status from severely malnourished to the normal state. Aside from weight gain, children are also motivated to attend classes and learn personal hygiene. Many teachers have expressed their gratitude for the feeding programme and say, "we now have enlightened parents who realise that good nutrition starts right inside their home".

Ms. Lita Convent told us she ensures that parents are involved in the feeding programme, so that they understand the importance of preparing nutritious and affordable food right at home.

  •  School scholarships – we spoke to a couple of teenagers who are at college, they did a poem/rap and we heard how much they are benefitting from going to school and hope to be able to help their families in the future.
Back to school!
  • School supplies - the clusters have a budget for school supplies for the children and grandchildren of the Fair Trade member, to minimise their spending for the incoming school year.
  • Water purifying - clean, drinking water is made available to members and to the community. This is an income-generating project that addresses a basic need. A total of 37 household communities benefit from the project.
  • Cattle - Shirley’s husband, Elmer, heads the livestock distribution project of the cluster. Cattle for farming and also cows and carabaos are made available to farmers to help in ploughing the fields and in hauling coconut produce, thus increasing the income of farmers.
  • Insurance – on crops, accidents, weather, human welfare – insurance is something that we’re used to but for these farmers and workers it’s a very different story.

It was a real eye-opener to hear first-hand how these schemes have made a huge impact on each individual.

Fair Trade is Feeding Children

Hard at work in school

After that, we went to the school where we met the children who were all so surprised to see us. Most of them had never seen a foreigner before. They sang and spoke to us in English – they’re mainly taught English at school, to help give them a better chance in the future and with their career.

We met some of the mums on the scheme and were able to see what they were making for the children that day, which included slow-cooked pork. It was a colourful mixture of goodness and you could really see the positive impact that this variety of food is having on the children.

Fair Trade contributions are used to feed children, helping them concentrate in school

Previously, most were going to school on an empty stomach and the majority have a long walk to school. If they had eaten, a lot of time it would have been a bowl of rice. So, it’s great to see that the Fair Trade scheme is helping with this and hopefully it will continue. The mums also commented that they’ve noticed the children concentrate better since having access to nutritious food. 

Making a Difference

Next stop was the coconut plantation, where everyone from the committee was waiting for us, we went to see coconuts being cut down, and even got to plant our own ‘Lucy Bee’ coconut tree.

Coconut harvesting

We were treated to a ‘boodle fight’, this is a sharing concept. Sharing food together (eating with your hands!), it is a great honour. It takes them time, effort and love to prepare and it shows gratitude and respect. Eating with hands and sharing, creates a real bond. This was the first time they have invited people who have visited to do this with them as it’s a big deal for them and something which was very special for us.

The 'boodle fight'

One thing that was mentioned and I picked up on, was the issue with hygiene, with very limited soap around. So, we are actually sending 4,000 of our Fragrance Free Soap bars, to some of the schools and this community – you may already know but this is made using our Coconut Oil so not only will the soaps be great in a practical sense for the communities but also for them to witness and experience their coconuts being used!

A 'thank you' to you all for helping us support Fair Trade and really make a difference

The trip has definitely made me even more passionate and driven to keep spreading the message of why purchasing and supporting Fair Trade companies is so important.

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About Lucy

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Hi, I’m Lucy, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog and would love to hear your feedback. You can get in touch with me on Instagram or Twitter anytime, where I love hearing your thoughts and sharing your tips for healthy living.

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