Lisa Zaslow is a guest blogger and the views expressed herein are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of Shared Interest Society.
Lisa is a passionate fair trade and microfinance activist currently living in North Carolina, USA. She is the founder of Blue People Fair Trade Ltd., an online store that specializes in fair trade and environmentally friendly accessories from all over the world. If you would like to be a guest blogger, please contact us with your interest.
Just a few years ago, the sick, injured and heavily pregnant would have to travel over long distances in Mchinji and wait for treatment in the scorching sun. There was no water, nowhere to cook and no beds for the “guardians”-the relatives and others who accompanied and cared for the sick and injured. The hospital in Mchinji District, which lies on the western side of the Central Region of Malawi, was built over 20 years ago for a population of 275,000. Now, the hospital must minister to over 600,000 people, many from over the border in Mozambique and Zambia. In 2008, the Fairtrade Premium provided by the International Nut Producer Co-operative was able to build a guardian shelter for the community, a plain brick building that provides safety and comfort for the guardians that care for their sick relatives.
During the 1980s, TWIN Trading brought together small scale, marginalized nut farmers from Mozambique, Malawi, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Brazil, Peru, India and El Salvador to form the International Nut Producer Co-operative (INC). By forming INC, TWIN hoped to facilitate a dramatic shift in the influence of farmer co-operatives with the launch of Liberation Foods.
Liberation Foods, a 100% fairtrade nut company, was started in the UK by Twin Trading and Equal Exchange. Both organizations were dedicated to establishing long term relationships with producers, empowering small farmers and developing the fair trade supply chain for coffee, tea, nuts, cocoa, sugar and fruit farmers. These farmers lacked market information and technical expertise to market their own crops. They also had to cope with limited infrastructure and poor access to capital. Before the co-operative was formed and fairtrade was practiced, nut farmers were easily cheated by unscrupulous buyers who manipulated the scales in their favor, cheating the farmers out of a fair price. Now the scales are standardized to ensure transparency and a stable, fair price for the farmers.
The producers who grow and gather the nuts, over 22,000 smallholder farmers from co-operatives in Asia, Africa and Latin America, own a 42% share of Liberation Foods, making them part owners and enabling them to participate in the direction of the company. This helps make the farmers a real force in the market, moving them up the supply chain, maximizing their returns and offering a more secure future for them, their families and for their communities.
As well as peanuts from Malawi and Nicaragua, Liberation Nuts sells cashews from India, El Salvador and Mozambique and brazil nuts from the rainforests of Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. Buying brazil nuts, especially on fairtrade terms, helps protect the Amazon Rainforest. Brazil nut gathering provides an income which is sustainable and doesn’t involve cutting and destroying the rainforest. This helps to protect the communities in these regions and the people’s livelihoods-as well as preventing the rainforest from being cut down.
Liberation Foods is a Community Interest Company (CIC) which means it is run for the benefit of the community it serves…the nut famers and gatherers and their families. It supplies its own Liberation branded nut snacks to major supermarkets and health food stores all over the UK.
Liberation Nuts’ vision is a world in which smallholder farmers can enjoy secure and sustainable livelihoods, fulfill their potential and decide their future. Like it says on their website, (http://www.chooseliberation.com), they want to “help people trade their way out of poverty and bring about positive change in an unfair trading system, whilst having fun at what we do-we want to change the world, one nut at a time”.