Aiding victims of exploitation, small farmers and their children

Fr. Shay Cullen
June 18, 2010

Since its beginning in 1976, Preda (People’s Recovery, Empowerment Development Assistance Foundation) has been helping Filipinos find ways out of poverty and advocating for social justice for children, women and indigenous people. Preda’s mission is to promote sustainable development through fair trade and poverty alleviation while helping people realize their value and importance as children of God affirming their unique gifts and talents.

Filipino mango farmers with Preda supplied mango saplings ready for planting

Filipino mango farmers with Preda supplied mango saplings ready for planting

Handicraft projects were among the first programs sponsored by Preda and helped many craft makers find lives of dignity and prosperity. While Preda continues to support artisans and handicraft makers, the sale of handicrafts has been small in the wake of the global recession that began in 2008. All of the earnings go to the producers leaving no surplus for justice campaigns. Preda has been fortunate that our Developmental Fair Trade program funds many projects that have been established to aid the poor, the outcasts and the children and women who have been trafficked and enslaved in the Philippines.

Preda Developmental Fair Trade found inspiration in the words of Jesus of Nazareth when He told the disciples to share what little food they had, their lunch of bread and fish, with the crowd of hungry people. Everyone ate what had been shared. Today, the sharing and distribution of natural resources and opportunities will give thousands of people economic benefits through their own efforts.

The mango processing factory in Cebu employs hundreds of young women.

The mango processing factory in Cebu employs hundreds of young women.

Preda Developmental Fair Trade helps people feed and educate their families through the sale of dried fruits and fruit purees. Interest free loans from Preda and access to foreign markets for the fruit grown and dried in the Philippines give small farmers the chance to prosper. Preda Developmental Fair Trade exports dried fruit and fruit purees to many countries including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the United States and many European countries. The sale of mangoes and tropical fruit purees has remained steady despite the recession. Customers can be assured that there is no child labor, sweat shop conditions, or exploitation of any kind in the production of the dried fruit and purees. Furthermore, Preda plants 1,200 fruit and other kinds of trees annually to help the environment.

Preda Fair Trade has been exporting dried mangoes for years. Through the program, hundreds of women, many with limited education and financial resources, have been directly employed processing the fruit. In addition to helping thousands of small farmers, this project has focused on helping farmers get a higher price for their mangoes and assisting them with the growing, harvesting and processing of mango fruits into dried mangoes. It has produced magnificent results. We are also developing organic mangoes. Consequently, the project changed the way the Philippines has done mango business for years.

The Preda-Profood International Corporation (Profood) partnership challenged the price-fixing cartel that kept farmers impoverished. Profood is the largest Philippinebased dried mango producer from the Philippine islands. Profood’s products are available throughout the Philippines and exported to many countries in Asia and Europe as well as Canada and the United States. By buying thousands of tons of fresh mangoes from the small farmers at higher prices, Preda and Profood helped end the unjust price fixing cartel. Preda and Profood created a shortage of mangoes, and the price fixing cartel had to compete and pay higher prices to the farmers. Soon the cartel collapsed. All small farmers have benefited.

Alex Hermoso, who is an adviser to the Preda Fair Trade department, says: “This volume buying has helped small farmers all over the country. Like a rising tide, all boats get lifted up, so too the small farmers have greatly benefited with the higher prices. Preda wants to keep it like that and our export sales of dried mangoes help the Preda projects as well as the farmers.”

In partnership with local communities, especially the indigenous people of Zambales, Preda has been planting thousands of mango trees and a mixture of other native trees to achieve bio-diversity. Preda human rights workers are defending the rights of indigenous farmers from the encroaching mining companies that are land-grabbing with the help of powerful and corrupt politicians. The land is rich in minerals, but the mining corporations destroy the land and environment with openpit mining which causes  landslides and forest destruction.

Recently, a large community of indigenous people, the Lakas group from Botolan, Zambales, won their legal rights to their ancestral land. On December 14, 2009, the president of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, gave a signed certificate acknowledging their rights to ownership. It was a 30-year struggle to win these rights.Preda agriculturists Roger Hermogino and Aris Arlantico are traveling to remote villages and cooperatives and training farmers to go organic especially for mango production since there is a huge market waiting to pay very high prices for organic produce. Aris Arlantico says: “Filipino farmers have been made dependent on spraying chemical inducers to get a big harvest. They earn less because it’s costly, and it damages the soil and their trees. Organic mango production is a smaller, healthier harvest, and they can earn higher prices to compensate for the lower yields. However, they are slow to see the benefit and to change. What we need is a natural organic flower inducer but it’s not yet discovered.” This project saves the environment and protects the people from the toxic sprays. Going organic is what the Filipino farmers need today.

Preda is a dedicated advocate of organic food production and chemical free foods. The Preda Fair Trade team is campaigning for the passage of a new Philippine law that will promote modern progressive organic farming in the Philippines. The law is vital for thehealth and well-being of the  people of the Philippines. Sadly, chemical-based food farming has replaced natural organic food production in most areas in the Philippines. The processing of the mango fruit into dried mangoes has always been free of any added chemicals.

The dried mangoes pass the stringent laboratory tests of the European Union every time a Preda shipment arrives. The naturally sweet dried mangoes fi ll the growing demand for chemical free and organically grown food. Through generous benefactors and a percentage of the earnings from our fair trade products, Preda helps as many as 150 children at any given time having rescued them from dire and difficult circumstances. We provide direct care in four children’s homes through high quality best practice programs that give protection and a new start in life to many and quality education to many more. We also engage in advocacy, public awareness building and education about the rights of children and deprived people. Preventing abuse is as important as changing the unjust practices, polices and systems that exploit and deny children, women and indigenous people their rights. We work to improve laws that protect human rights and have them implemented justly.

Preda has preventive education programs, education for action, to bring communities to an understanding of human rights and the rights of children and to take action to save and rescue abused children. In the Filipino community, we invite and encourage people to act justly, report abuse and to contact and avail of the Preda rescue and social services to give protection and therapy to abused kids. We lobby and challenge government offi cials to act to protect children and stop the proliferation of the sex industry and child pornography and to release children from sex clubs and prison.

Father Shay Cullen

Father Shay Cullen

The mission of Preda is to bring change to individuals, families, communities and the world. Empowerment means helping people to help themselves. Together we can change the world and bring light into darkness, replace misery with happiness, ignorance with enlightenment, imprisonment with freedom and hunger with prosperity and selfreliance.

To learn more about Preda, please visit www.preda.org.

Columban Father Shay Cullen lives and works in the Philippines.