Philippines: Fr Shay writes on the impact of Fair Trade

Fair Trade Fortnight begins next Monday, 23 February. Columban priest Fr Shay Cullen writes about the impact Fair Trade is having on the community where he works, in the Philippines.

Maria Lopez, 34, lost her husband, a coastal fisherman, in a terrible storm a few years ago. With four children and no income she was destitute and reduced to begging to hold-off starvation. But with a small loan from the Preda Fair-Trade project, she bought an old model mobile phone and established the first telephone service in her remote fishing village. The customers were queuing up outside her house to send text messages and call relatives. Soon she couldn't cope and bought another cell phone with the earnings and her business grew and thrived. All from a small loan which she soon repaid.

A group of women sewers are making custom-designed T-shirts and polo shirts for the Galway Community College, in Ireland. The College, only wants their members to wear guaranteed Fair Trade sports clothes and don't want their staff or students to wear t-shirts not Fair Trade guaranteed. No customer can know if what they wear is made with child or exploited slave labor unless it is guaranteed Fair Trade.

Fair Trade is a movement based on strict ethical criteria that guarantees justice and protection for workers and the environment and provides an opportunity for people of moral principles to buy justly made products and are not tainted by exploitation, child labor or environmental degradation.

Preda Fair-Trade is a sister project of the Preda Foundation Inc. and is active in Fair Trade and humanitarian development projects since 1975. Developmental Fair-Trade is not only buying and selling fairly-traded fruit and making chemical free dried mangos, it is involved with the lives of poor people to help them live a better life and overcome injustice and exploitation, like the small farmer-fisher folk along the Zambales coast. Recently as many as 100 villagers asked for help in removing dangerous fish cages near their coastal village that are damaging their fishing grounds and reduce their catch. Preda is now part of their struggle for justice.

Preda Fair-Trade is committed to combat the scourge of child labor especially in the sex industry. Hundreds of thousands of wealthy foreign sex tourists flock here to sexually exploit the impoverished children lured to the sex bars.

Last week, an emergency call came in asking Preda to rescue three children, 13 and 14 years old from a sex club. They had been lured by traffickers into prostitution and sex slavery, the worst form of child exploitation and person- trading. Preda is rescuing dozens of victims and giving them a new start in life and bringing the traffickers and abusers to trial when possible. In the recent case, Preda rescued the children but the well-connected traffickers escaped.

This is what makes Preda dried mangos and other Preda Fair-Trade products in demand at supermarkets in Ireland, England and in the World Shops across Europe. The delicious, healthy dried fruit is of greater value and quality and importance.

Thousands have been spent on school supplies, books, pens, uniforms, shoes, school bags, and bus fares for the children of small farmers and farm workers as a share of the sales of dried mangos. The school bags are made by another group of Preda producers who make the school bags with recycled drink pouches.

Preda Fair-Trade is a holistic organization heavily involved in protecting the Indigenous People and their ancestral domain from logging and irresponsible and destructive mining. The reforestation component of PREDA Fair-Trade working with small farmers to plant trees on barren lands has rejuvenated the environment in many remote mountain areas of Zambales. The Preda project is planting 1200 trees yearly and this will double this year. The farmers have received thousands of tree saplings and some have their own tree nurseries. This has saved hundreds of hectares of land that would have lost its top soil and be washed into the rivers and sea and would destroy many fish species.

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