The fair trade dimensions of chocolate:
An interview with Norandino´s cacao representative, Eduardo Espinoza
The cacao and chocolate world has been watched closely because of implications surrounding environmental sustainability and the ethics of labour practices. This year, while learning more about the Norandino cooperative, it came to my attention how necessary it is to understand the real sense of fair trade. Fair trade by itself is a global social movement. At the same time it is structured as a “trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade” (WFTO, 2016). This partnership gathers multiple levels of stakeholders in the production, trading and consumption of some agrofoods, including those like us, who are trying to understand what happens behind the production of the chocolate we love.
To ensure that every actor is on the same page when making trade more fair, additional, specific, standards were developed and agreed upon and are represented by different certification schemes. Here it can get a little bit overwhelming for us consumers because there are a lot of certification schemes based on different agreements. However, what caught my attention with Norandino is that they have identified themselves with more than one certification scheme: the Fairtrade certification (FLO) as well as the Small Producers´ Symbol (SPP for the name in Spanish, Simbolo de Pequeños Productores). This led me to understand that they were reinforcing their commitment to fair trade, but also letting everyone know how important the partnership between and with small producers is for it to be successful in seeking equity.
As a chocolate lover I was very happy to know these new details about Norandino´s cacao. Nonetheless I was even more intrigued about the world of fair trade certification, as it can be a big unknown for consumers. So I did some research of my own to see what the FLO and SPP are all about. The information I found was full of history about the fair trade movement, its implications on market pressure, and several opinions of how good or bad it is for the movement to be represented by several varying schemes. In the following I have done my best to summarise some relevant facts about the two aforementioned certification schemes, and the implications for Norandino and the small producers working with them. At the end of this post you can find a list of references which give more information about the topic.
The FLO certification is open to diverse agrofood products whether they come from large plantations employing hired labourers or from small producers. The latter includes only smallholders with up to 15 ha run mainly by families or communities. However, the FLO certification is very clear that in the case of cacao and other agrofoods, the certification of plantation products is not allowed, but still incorporates some flexibility into this. FLO is rigorous enforcing rules related to hired labour practices, paying special attention to issues of slavery and child labour. Both, FLO and SPP, establish a minimum price for products, which serves as a guarantee for producers to cover the average cost of sustainable production, even when there is a downturn in market value. Additionally, a Fairtrade premium is granted at a cost to the purchaser under FLO, which is an additional sum of money given to the certification holders, with an obligation to invest it democratically in development projects.
On the other hand, the SPP certification stresses the involvement of small producers in the decision making around trading; only products coming from organised smallholders is certified by SPP. It is also interesting that if a firm wants to use the SPP certification, at least 25% of purchases of the firm need to be from small producers. There are not many holders of this certification, those that are, are mainly located in Latin America and the Caribbean. The small producers themselves mostly decide the minimum prices paid for SPP agrifoods and negotiate what they consider the right price for their products,
It is clear that despite their differences, both certification schemes are important for cooperatives and small producer organisations like Norandino cooperative and Palo Blanco association. Eduardo Espinoza is in charge of the Cacao branch of Norandino. He is well aware of the implications that fair trade certifications have in practice and has kindly agreed to answer some of my questions.
– Karla: In your experience in the context of the Piura´s small holder cacao producers, how do you think fair trade certifications benefits these small producers and their communities? Could you mention some examples of before and after effect of certification?
– Eduardo: I think that fair trade schemes have improved the social and economic prospects of the Peruvian small producers organisations. In the social aspect, fair trade involved the criteria of solidarity, transparency and democracy within organisations, which are core values of the producers. In the economic aspect, the main effect is seen in that all fair trade clients agreed on fair prices based on real production costs, which has generated better income for the producers and improved their quality of life.
– Karla: What are the differences and similarities between the Fairtrade (FLO) and SPP certifications?
– Eduardo: The SPP is based in the core principles of fair trade and it was created as an alternative. The organisations feel that Fairtrade (FLO) has implemented policies that go against small producers, like granting certification to transnational companites that do not fully comply with the principles of fair trade. This negatively affects companies that do implement real fair trade practices and puts them at a disadvantage when competing with the other companies. There is also the case when certification assessments are unfair toward small organisations, demanding documents that are very difficult to prepare on a budget. These were the main reasons for the creation of the SPP.
It was good to know Eduardo´s opinions about fair trade and how Norandino deals with them. However, since my visit to Palo Blanco, and my conversations over the phone with Mr Juan (see previous blog posts), the issue of climate change has left me very concerned about the future of cacao production and the communities that depend on them. For small producers the local consequences of climate change need to be evaluated, acknowledged and urgent action towards adaptation needs to be made. For the global community, including certification bodies, global climate change consequences need to be directly embraced and action must be supported by their regulations and decisions. I also asked Eduardo about this topic.
– Karla: How do you think fair trade certification schemes include climate change in their agendas? What climate change adaptation actions are supported by Norandino and how? Could you mention some successful examples of small producers coping with climate change?
– Eduardo: Climate change is real. In dry places like Piura, Peru, it is even worse. We already had three years of drought that directly impacted cacao production. Norandino has been supporting several projects to cope with this.
– Carbon credits: we support a reforestation project in the highest areas of Piura, where the springs are. More than 250 000 native trees have been planted in these areas. These trees are also seen as highly valuable for local communities in extreme poverty.
– Conversion of crops – DECAPI project: this involves the conversion from rice crops (perceived as low benefits/high risk) to cacao farms. Now, there are 70 has with cacao crops amongst forest areas which are used as carbon offsets.
– The development of waterholes to use underground water for irrigation and the improvement of the irrigation systems.
– Restoration of native cacao and coffee varieties that are resistant to illnesses
Climate change is a massive problem for the field partners of any company that works with agrifoods. Actually, it´s a massive problem for everyone on the planet, the only difference is that for some of us the consequences will take longer to appear. Eduardo said that actions are being taken for adaptation to climate change and implemented in the communities that Norandino works with. I also know from Mr. Juan that specific actions towards the conservation of forest are protecting some land in the Palo Blanco community aiming to secure their water and soil. As chocolate lovers we also have a responsibility to help these kind of initiatives. We need to learn more about the products we love, the ones we use every day and those ones we save for special occasions. Everything counts!
– Karla: Do you have any additional advice for chocolate consumers across the world?
– Eduardo: I think that consumers should be informed about where the products they consume come from and who is behind every step in the value chain; who, where and how are the goods produced, and how is the principle of equity reflected in the value chain. It is important to be responsible consumers committed to the conservation of the environment and biodiversity.
Clark, P. & Hussey, I (2016) Fair trade certification as oversight: an
analysis of fair trade international and the small producers’ symbol.
Jaffee, D. & Howard, P. (2015) Who’s the fairest of all of them? The fractured landscape of U.S. fair trade certification.
Fairtrade International (2016). Retrieved from http://www.fairtrade.net/
Simbolo de Pequeños Productores (2016). Retrieved from http://spp.coop/
SPP (2015). Norma general del Símbolo de Pequeños Productores. Retrieved from http://spp.coop/?page_id=44
World Fair Trade Organization (2016). Retrieved from http://www.wfto.com/
WFTO; FLO-CERT & FI (2011) Fair Trade Glossary. Retrieved from http://www.fairtrade.net/fileadmin/user_upload/content/2009/about_fairtrade/2011-06-28_fair-trade-glossary_WFTO-FLO-FLOCERT.pdf
The chocolate, the people, the environment, and the challenges
Post by Karla Ramirez
After a couple of hours of travelling out of Piura city, we arrived at Palo Blanco community. We were under the unmerciful Chulucana sun and I had the chocolate bars in my backpack. Mr. Juan and his colleagues were showing me around. I thought it would be a pity if these bars, made using their cacao, that went all the way from Piura to Wellington and back, turned into chocolate, melted away and disappeared in front of our eyes. I reckon they where thinking the same; we stop for cold cebadas at a local shop and some electric fan breeze. I took out a chocolate bar and hand it to them. Mr. Juan examined the packaging very closely and recognized that it says Peru Co-operative Norandino Piura Blanco. “That´s us” he said.
Wishing you could see it? Here a video of the visit:
At that time, I did not know all the challenges that Mr. Juan and his colleagues have to constantly overcome to produce their amazing cacao. I also was not aware of the resource limitation that the whole community goes through. To put this in other words, the water was simply not there.
Mr. Juan told me that his community was slowly building up a better future, together. Fortunately, in comparison with other rural areas from Peru, the Palo Blanco community is getting support from the government at different levels. But none of these efforts would have been possible if the community was not organized. Getting together as an association of farmers gave them opportunities that they otherwise wouldn´t get.
The water channel that Mr. Juan showed me during the visit is not always full. He told me that this channel depends on a water stream from a river, which in turn relies on the rains over the highlands. If it does not rain, there is no water in that channel, and there is no water to irrigate the farms. Years ago, the community organized and managed to make a waterhole. Where the resources are scarce, the creativity is abundant. So the community and the farmers association worked together to set up petrol engine water pump and basic infrastructure to run it. That has been a great relief for them!
For the Palo Blanco community, water is very appreciated. They have managed to run water pipes to the houses that are in the lowest parts of the community. They have organized a water committee to make sure that the water gets to the houses for an hour per day. They have truly made it through real challenges so far.
Now, climate change is a major issue for them. Mr. Juan and his colleagues are deeply concerned about its consequences for their production and the community. “When it is dry season, our production gets lower” said Mr. Juan. With climate change, the seasons are getting more extreme and the measures that the Palo Blanco community will need to adopt in the not so far future remains is a big unknown.
Even though the challenges for them are increasing, the Palo Blanco community, Mr. Juan and his colleagues, keep their spirits up. Organized as always, working towards the development of their community, and willing to be prepared for the future. They have decided that forest conservation is important to ensure their wellbeing and as a way of facing climate change implications. Furthermore, the community recently established a 200 ha protected area in the highest parts of their land. At the same time, Norandino Co-operative and the association of farmers in Palo Blanco are also setting up goals for reforestation in the community and in the farms. And more projects are coming!
Last week Mr. Juan and I talked on the phone and he shared with me their plans, struggles and worries. He remembered my name because he had two neighbours, one with my same first name and one with my last name. He remembered the chocolate bar from the Wellington Chocolate Factory that we ate with their colleagues. They dreadingly await for the dry season that is threatening to be very strong this year. Mr. Juan invited me to come visit again and walk up the mountain to explore their new conservation area.
I am really looking forward to it, who wants to join? But more importantly, what can we do to help Mr. Juan and the Palo Blanco community to get on top of their water challenge?
The Mystery Behind the Peruvian Chocolate
Post by Karla Ramirez
My name is Karla and I am from Peru. Life brought me to Wellington to study a Masters in Environmental Studies at Victoria University. With this amazing opportunity I also had to get used to a new city, new language, and new friends. I basically passed from hanging out in the amazon rainforest during my last years living in Peru, to cycling around a nice small city in the middle of the ocean.
A huge amount of my thoughts kept related to the amazon even when living in Wellington. I often think about the villages where I lived, the people that I have met, and their amazing relationship with the land and their products. One day I was looking for something to do in Wellington and I found an incredible tour around a mystery chocolate factory. I was so curious about it! It was a pleasant surprise to realise that I was living in a city with an artisan chocolate factory. And it was even better when I learnt that they were using Peruvian cacao beans to make some of their chocolates.
By coincidence, a couple of days later, the factory’s co-founder Rochelle was presenting their work at an open morning coffee in a co-working space called In Good Company on Cuba Street. I knew I could not let this opportunity pass me by. We met that day at the end of 2014. That morning, without even realizing it, my journey with the Wellington Chocolate Factory was to begin.
Working and living in Peru among cacao farmers for over a year gave me a perspective of chocolate that I would have never had in other circumstances. Many people in the world love chocolate, that is a fact. But how many of us actually know about the process behind it, the people involved, their motivations, and how everything comes together in the amazing chocolate bar that we are probably eating right now? That was the great thing about meeting Rochelle, Gabe, and the team at Wellington Chocolate Factory. They were truly interested in finding out more about their team mates in Peru, their needs, and of course their opinions about the chocolate the factory was making with Peruvian cacao beans.
The village of Palo Blanco is located in the Piura Region. This is a coastal region of Northern Peru with beautiful beaches, very rare mixture of dry lands and rainforest, and shares a border with Ecuador. Mister Juan Rivera is the President of the Palo Blanco’s Small Farmers Association. He has been very active in the Palo Blanco Village and he is very proud of the cacao that they are producing. During my visit to the village, Mr. Juan and his colleges Mr. Miguel, Mr. Clesenciano, and Mr. Tomas, took me for a special visit around their farms. The association members represent 29 families in the village. Each of them owns a farm no bigger than 1 ha. of land. They realized that being part of a farmers’ association gives them the opportunity to grow. At the same time, they work with the Norandino Cooperative that gathers more associations of farmers from the region and beyond. These other associations, like the Palo Blanco’s one, are trying to sell their cocoa beans with a fair price and are constantly improving the quality.
We went walking around the farms. Mr. Juan explained to me that their region does not receive much rain. This means they have to rely on underground water, which they pump up to the surface and distribute to the different farms using a simple but skilful method. They also have a water channel that depends on the closest river to their village, and most of the time it is not enough for watering their crops. The challenging conditions of their region and climate change pressure have an impact in their production and they are worried about the future. That is one of their main concerns as farmers of the best cacao in the world.
As a chocolate eater I feel in the obligation to know how chocolate is made, from the beans to the bar. The journey with the Wellington Chocolate Factory to the Peruvian cacao beans and their producers is just starting. So many stories to share, so many farms to visit, and so many more cold cebadas to drink with Mr. Juan and his colleagues under the Piura’s sun.