It is 7am the next day and I am with Mario outside the Fairtrasa office in Trujillo. Already his mobile phone is glued to his ear. On our way south towards Chao, in between his calls, I tried to find out more about the local producers. Fernando and Carlos, from a US-backed NGO, remained quiet in the back.
Fairtrasa work with several associations here, including Mocha and Santa Catalina. Today we visited members from PROPALTO. All export their produce to the USA, Canada and Europe. As well as avocados, some producer members grow mangoes and bananas for export, though they generate a lower income than avocados.
The increased return for avocados has typically been due to the rise in demand in North America and Europe for the Haas variety. Fuerte is a more traditional variety and far more common, going back nearly 100 years. Haas is a recent convert but it generates more demand and higher prices for export. It takes time and money to switch avocado varieties from Fuerte to Haas but all the producers I met were willing to make the change.
I met Mario at the Fairtrasa at 7am, along with Jorge, our driver. Our destination for the day was the area around Chao, south of Trujillo.
Narciso and his wife Rosa were the first producers we visited. He was quite positive about fair trade and its higher prices it generated for him and wanted to convert more of his existing mango trees to avocado. Fairtrasa has committed to buying all their harvest at fair trade prices. Their farm was small and they harvested the production themselves.
Narciso at the entrance to his house. Most producer families live in these types of single story, simple dwellings. Many don’t even have a concrete floor inside.
The children were generally bemused by our presence, and seemed a lot happier tucking into pieces of mango.
The sheltered side of Narciso and Rosa’s house. Their ‘kitchen’ is in the foreground. All the trees are avocado.
Next we met Isidro and Maria. Their situation was similar, farming 4 ha of avocados, though they had plenty of animals too – chickens, sheep, cows and guinea pigs.
Despite only having mud floors, they try to keep things tidy. An elderly neighbour is giving the place a sweep and wash. Isidro built the house himself.
Maria (left) and her neighbour.
The guinea pigs had their home beside the house, but not necessarily for long. I later learned they are a popular local snack.
Isidro and a neighbour tend to their avocado trees.
You can hang your hat, or hang your pet…
Isidro and Maria chatting about avocados with a neighbour…maybe
Catharina and Carmilo lived in the town of Chao on the main road. Their situation contrasted heavily with everyone else I had met. The most prosperous-looking of everyone, they owned a two-story cement house with a garden and a car that they kept in a garage. Carmilo works the land though he also employs two workers. Like Narciso, they had mango trees but wanted to convert them to avocados. Their married son, an electrical engineer, had lived in Italy for 20 years. They had yet to visit them there.
Catharina enjoyed talking and was much in favour of fair trade. Currently they farmed three ha, all organic, but wanted to invest more.
Before we left Chao I was treated to some home brew courtesy of Luis Sanchez, from the NGO. It was merely an aperitif and he seemed genuinely upset when I told I couldn’t join him for mango pisco sours.
A couple of the Fairtrasa office crew in Trujillo.
The Fairtrasa office. All work and no play makes…
- Comprises more than 75 members (PROPALTO)
- First year of fair trade certification. It took 3 years to transition to fair trade, organic
- Typical producer cultivates less than 5 hectares (ha)
- Also looking at obtaining fair trade certification for mangoes