Palms Equal Fair Trade
February 15, 2008—Every year, Christian congregations across the nation purchase palm fronds to celebrate Palm Sunday which commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. In that time, the worshiping crowd paved Jesus’ path with palms and shouts of “Hosanna!” Today, palms are paving the way for fair trade and a better ecosystem. For harvesters in Guatemala and Mexico, palms symbolize fair wages.
UMCOR is partnering with the University of Minnesota to build support in the US for the Eco-Palm Project. The project ensures that palm harvesters in Guatemala and Mexico are earning a fair income for their labor. March 16 is Palm Sunday and United Methodists are encouraged to support this social and environmental justice project through the purchase of palms.
The Eco-Palm Project is an effort of the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation and the University of Minnesota Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management. The project helps to sustain forestry, protect local jobs and preserve livelihoods.
Conventional Palm Harvesting
More than 300 million palm fronds are harvested each year for the US alone— most of them for Palm Sunday or church-related events. Families in Guatemala and Mexico rely heavily on the palm harvest for income. Although purchases of palms in the US may reach as high as $4.5 million each year, the palm harvesters themselves earn very little.
In conventional palm harvesting, community members are hired by local contactors who then sell palms to large floral export firms. Payment to workers is based on volume, so harvesters are encouraged to gather a large number of palms without regard for the quality. As a result, up to 50 percent or more of the palms are later discarded because of poor quality—threatening the rainforest as more fronds are cut.
In Guatemala and Mexico, an effort is underway to develop a new harvesting practice that protects the environment and minimizes direct impact on the natural forest, while providing a fair income for the workers.
The Eco-Palms, as they are called, are harvested in a more sustainable way. Harvesters are trained to gather fronds in a way that allows the palm to continue to grow. The harvesters are also paid on the quality of the palms they harvest rather than the quantity, which helps to limit the amount of palms taken from the forest. Community members then sort and package their own palms rather than relying on middlemen for the job. This ensures that more of the money paid for the palms actually goes to those who harvested them.
UMCOR supports fair prices for farmers and the investment in communities, people, and environmental sustainability. Consider purchasing Eco-Palms this Palm Sunday as an act of worship and on behalf of fair trade practices.
How You Can Help
Your purchase of Eco-Palms will ensure that palm harvesters are earning a fair income for their labor, and that palms are being harvested in an environmentally sustainable way. Click here to download your order form to purchase Eco-Palms by February 20 and download the church bulletin insert to share with your local church community. You can also support sustainable agricultural programs by giving to Sustainable Agriculture and Development, UMCOR Advance # 982188.
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