*German human rights commissioner visits the Preda project
*Ambassador’s Cup tournament nets big donation
For the first time in Philippine history, mango fruits grown and harvested by the indigenous people of Zambales and Bataan have been internationally certified as organic and recognized as a top export product that can help hundreds of indigenous Aeta families. They alone have reached the highest standards of organic certification this September 2015.
The Aeta indigenous mango farmers associations organized by the Preda Fair Trade Project led by team leader and agriculturists Donard Angeles and Roger Hermogino and community organizer Shawn Dave Brooks have passed the grueling three-year, rigorous, intensive preparation as organic farmers.
Although poor and living in remote mountains as subsistence farmers in areas with little educational opportunities, where most villages are without electricity or roads, they have shown remarkable intelligence, organization ability, wisdom and ingenuity. They have reached this prestigious organic standard for their chemical-free organic mango production. They made it by the cooperation of several organizations working for the betterment of the indigenous people and the environment.
Their mangos have been finally certified organic by ACT-EU, the prestigious organic certification organization that has perhaps the most rigorous standards and inspection criteria in the world. ACT-EU is a highly regarded training and certification organization of experts in organic criteria and standards accredited by the EU. Products claiming to be organic cannot be sold under the much-desired organic label in any EU country without such a certification as that issued by ACT-EU.
The Organic Agriculture Certification Thailand (ACT) agency is reputed to be one of the most strict and yet most creditable and prestigious organic certification agencies. It works in the Philippines with the assistance of the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines (OCCP). The progress over three years was guided by Vitoon Panyakul, manager of ACT, and chief inspector Ong Kung Wai.
Following this certification by ACT-EU, the most well-known and highly respected German organic certification agency Naturland has also issued its certification for the Aeta-Preda organic mangos.
Naturland has the highest standards for organic certification arising for the commitment and belief of its founding members that the environment must be protected from the harm of chemical farming that damages and pollutes the land and rivers and the resulting food products can be harmful to people.
From Germany, the effort was guided and supported by Manfred Fuerst, head of the Naturland Certification of non-OECD countries and Naturland General Manager Steffen Reese. He came himself to the Philippines to visit the Aeta Ffrmers and the Preda Fair Trade organic mango project. .
This achievement of the Aeta farmers and the Preda Fair Trade is highly significant. It has been a long process assisted by the German Catholic development agency Misereor as part of its commitment to assist indigenous people and sustainable agriculture and protect the environment and combat climate change.
The organic certification opens the doors to a huge market in Europe especially in Germany where organic certification is required on most high–quality food products. The Aeta-Preda mangos are expertly processed by Profood International in Cebu into mango puree. Profood is in partnership with Preda Fair Trade and meets all the organic criteria for processing the mangos to the organic standards of ACT.
The organic mango puree is shipped to Dritte Welt Partners (DWP) of Ravensburg, the German trading partner of Preda Fair Trade headed by Thomas Hoyer. Mr. Hoyer came to visit the Aeta farmers and the Preda organic project and made a film about it in April this year.
The puree is used in a wide variety of DWP food products in Germany and distributed by DWP throughout the chain of World Shops across Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy.
Preda Fair Trade also donates to the Preda Foundation to support projects that release and provide shelter and education for jailed street children and children rescued by Preda social workers from brothels and abusers.
Last September 15, Mr. Christoph Straesser a leading member the German parliament and commissioner for human rights and German Ambassador to the Philippines, Mr. Thomas Ossowski, met with Preda Executive Director Francis B. Bermido Jr. to visit a government child detention center in Manila.
They drove to Zambales and discussed the situation of human rights in the Philippines and the impact of Fair Trade. They visited the Preda children’s homes for child victims of human rights violations. The German Ambassador’s Cup, a famous golfing tournament, was held this October for the support of the Preda children’s homes. The event raised a large donation that goes to help many more children in need. Fair Trade earnings also help the farmers and the children.
The hope of the farmers is being realized by the growing demand by discerning customers for organic products in Europe. The Aeta-Preda certified organic mango puree is already finding its way to the German and Austrian World Shops in a variety of products from chocolate to yogurt.
The great challenge now for the Aeta farmers and PREDA Fair Trade is to expand membership of the association, to train the new members to meet the criteria and standards for organic production and to maintain it.
They will also be highly motivated by the high price paid by Preda Fair Trade, which is 200 percent higher than the local market farm gate price and by other Preda development projects in the remote villages of the Aeta people, the original inhabitants of the Philippines. All this has been achieved by their amazing ability and dedication to plant thousands of trees to preserve and improve their ancestral lands and domains and to provide a happier life for their children.