Message from Randy Hooper: I am writing you today with some urgency
March 31, 2017
Message from Randy Hooper: I am writing you today with some urgency. Some of our most important farmers in the Global South are in a very vulnerable place, and the current flood situation is dire for them. And to be entirely honest, and upfront, this letter is a big ask – we have hundreds of growers homeless, roads washed out, plantations under water, no income on the way, and no money in their jeans to start over without help. I’m asking you to join us and pitch in.
For the third time in 7 years we are committing a fair amount of cash to growers who get up every day and grow fruit that ultimately ends up on your shelves and your customer’s plates. Our customers (perhaps you!) were part of efforts we undertook in 2010 to help re-build worker housing for our Green Tribe blueberry growers in Chile after a 9.2 earthquake left a path of destruction. Together we came up with $39,000 in 2 weeks.
In 2012 after a devastating flood in Peru, both our Peru Relief Fund and P4P Pennies for Peru Campaigns raised nearly $30,000, distributed to banana and mango growers, all members of 7 cooperatives in Piura, specifically to re-build and restore the 7 primary schools in their communities, (not one of which was left unscathed.)
And today, my hand is out again, in our third matching funds campaign. We aren’t going to say no to these people. Not at this time. We don’t know them personally, can’t call them by name; they are faces at the back of the room when we attend grower assemblies. They are the women in the kitchen making passion-fruit juice for us as we get out of dusty cars after hours on country roads. They are the old guys in their resin stained shirts and dirty sandals riding home from their 1 hectare plantation on their antique bicycles.
But we do know what they look like, and how hard they work, and can certainly feel their anguish.
Rare flooding events are occurring more and more frequently in northern Peru. What used to be a 10 or 20 year event is now becoming bi-annual. The intensity and durations are increasing. Climate change? El Nino? Doesn’t matter if it is, or isn’t – after 6 weeks of rain, the devastation in the northern Piura area is worse than ever imagined previously. Being a predominantly Catholic area, they are calling it biblical.
Just last week saw a renewed onslaught of storms.
This is the rural, tropical region of Peru where nearly all bananas, mangos and grapes are grown. The two major rivers in the area started overflowing in early March. In that region of Peru alone, dozens have died and 13,000 people have been evacuated. Across Peru hundreds of km. of road and rail have been lost, 180 bridges have collapsed, over 100 people have died, and 200,000 families have been left homeless. Even in Lima, (where annual rainfall amounts to less than 1 measly centimeter of accumulated annual drizzle) life has been seriously impacted. Swollen rivers fed with rain falling at rates of up to 100mm an hour in the mountains above the city have swarmed through the city of 10 million, impairing the hodge-podge of waterworks and sewer lines.
In the north, where we work, there is no wealth. No lines of SUV’s picking up kids from school. A regional population of 500,000 provides little tax base to support social infrastructure, and certainly no money to help individuals whose lives have been ruined by this devastating flood.
So, I need your help here. Hundreds of people we have a relationship with, whose entire lives are dedicated to growing bananas for you, are screwed. They have just lost land, ditches, irrigation systems, access roads, and in some cases, their homes. They have also lost their current income source for many weeks or months at the least, and even worse, at $4 each, where are they going to get the funds to buy hundreds of banana plants to replace those that have rotted and died under water? What they haven’t lost is hope. I know, because I’ve seen them recover before after this kind of disaster.
We are not a charity. We cannot offer tax receipts. We don’t have time to try to mount campaign materials to engage your retail consumer. (Although we can try to provide you with any pictures or information you need to start one.) I am not asking for a contribution to a relief agency for Peru in general. What I am asking is that you take a moment and put yourselves in the shoes of these small producers whose lives have been completely turned upside down, and who are not going to get any help from their local or federal governments, no crop insurance, nothing, Nada. Except from us.
I’m asking you to open up your hearts and wallets to your banana growers, because ultimately, that’s who they are; your growers.
We will match any and all donations, up to at least $15,000, maybe more. The money will go through our Peru Relief Fund account directly to the BOS Coop, whose board of directors will be responsible for distributing the money amongst hundreds of small producers evenly, based on how dire each family’s circumstances are. Direct action! Let’s help get these people back in the saddle. Pronto!
We started working with banana cooperatives in Northern Peru in 2009. Our first container, shipped in May of 2009 from Association BOS was the first order of Fair Trade Organic bananas shipped from Peru directly from a cooperative to a foreign customer, and not through a multi-national, ever! This was a very big deal for the producers, because their returns per case literally shot up overnight, and they could finally see the promise of social premiums come true. Over a dozen cooperatives all grow bananas in one valley (Piura Department). This is a very unique area – surrounded by desert land in every direction, with less than 10cm of annual rainfall. The Sullana and Piura Rivers have carved out a lush, tropical growing area, a little valley with rich bottomland soil. Dry, warm, no frost, no intense heat, protected from wind, plus a major river for irrigation – this is every growers dream come true. You can drive across this small valley and view the entire growing area in ½ an hour.
Those same rivers have now been running over their banks, destroying 100 of ha of banana groves for a month. The fruit is lost, as are the plants, and the road networks and irrigation ponds and canals that ring every tree. This gift of perfect growing conditions has turned to tragedy – the rivers that created this area, and provide ample irrigation water, have become the enemy. And it’s worse than that. Both these rivers have been dammed many times farther up into the Andes. The lakes behind the dams are over-flowing. The only way to protect the dams is with controlled releases, unleashing vast torrents of water through this same narrow valley that houses all these banana plantations. Unannounced. Every few hours. Ongoing. Today.
I’ve seen this first hand. In 2012 a major (albeit smaller) flood also impacted the area. Accompanied by Dave from Choices Markets in Vancouver and Sean from Canadian Fair Trade Network, we spent 4 days visiting 7 different cooperatives distributing relief money. It was heart-breaking to see the destruction. Meeting with 6 BOS bananeros, as we looked over their destroyed groves then under water, banana plants rotting, all three of just stood there and cried. Yup.
We followed that visit up with the Pennies for Peru campaign, raising another $5,000 specifically to rebuild roads and dikes for that particular group of producers, so they might not have to see that again.
We do NOT have time to mount another multi-week fund raising campaign. 1/5th of all the BOS banana growers have been displaced and dozens and dozens of hectares of bananas have been flooded, and potentially completely lost.
I know these people. They are wonderful, humble, hard-working people who care so much about community and family, yet who might save up for a year to buy a new kitchen sink. They will never own a car. They will never go on an airplane. They may never go to another part of Peru by bus. No RRSP.
These are very small growers, whose gross incomes are less than $4,000 a year. The BOS coop has over 700 members producing between 6 and 9 containers a week – or about 600 boxes a year per grower. The tax base to support social infrastructure is the surrounding area is very small. The $1.5 Million from social premiums that flow into the region every year from the sale of Fair Trade Bananas, for the most part, makes up for a lack of government health programs – basic human needs – electricity, running and potable water, windows in classrooms, dental and eye care, school funding, trade school training, sports funding etc.
Your help to provide rescue money to these producers is the big ‘ask’ I have on the table. Please feel free to call me on my cel at 604 841 5186 or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org No matter what, between us, we are going to have a measurable and meaningful chunk of money in the hands of those growers by Easter Sunday – April 16th.
Really. Thank you.
Pay by cheque and mail it to us: write “Peru Relief Fund” on the cheque.
Transfer to our credit union with Certipay (up to $2,000) and notify Kim in AR that it’s for Peru Relief Fund account
Pay by credit card – again, notify Kim it’s for Peru Relief Fund.