Farmworker Olga Quevedo’s community is located 4.5 miles from the nearest secondary school. Until recently, local students who wanted to progress past elementary school had to scramble to find a ride or take an unreliable municipal bus. But now, all that is changed — because Olga and her co-workers at Wholesum Family Farms voted to use Whole Trade community development funds on a school bus for children of farmworkers.
What Are Community Development Funds?
When you buy a Whole Trade product, a portion of what you paid goes into a development fund for that community. The farmers and farmworkers then determine how to use those funds for education, healthcare, housing or other social, economic and environmental projects that meet the needs of their community.
“With the bus, attendance has improved,” Olga says proudly. It’s just one example of how purchases of Whole Trade produce have empowered Olga and her fellow workers to make tangible improvements in their community.
Olga (center) and Rosa Maria (right) examine Whole Trade® produce in a store.
“In the past, many students would drop out due to economic concerns,” adds Rosa Maria Gallegos. When Wholesum Family Farms became a Whole Trade supplier, workers decided to use a portion of the Whole Trade community development funds for scholarships. Now Rosa, who works in the farm’s packing shed, is studying business administration at Sonora State University. In the fall, Rosa Maria’s young son will start kindergarten with a scholarship to help pay for uniforms, books and supplies.
Olga is going back to school as well, because participating in the Whole Trade program has honed her leadership skills and cleared the way to a new career. Originally Olga worked in the seedling house, but she worked her way up to become team leader at the farm’s on-site day care. Eventually she served as the first president of the farm’s fair trade committee, and that experience prepared her for a paid position as a case worker, assisting her fellow farmworkers with access to health care, education and housing. Now Olga is completing her high school education with the goal of one day earning a degree in social work.
Opportunities are scarce in Lucia Montoya’s remote community in the Ecuadorian highlands. Many people have not finished primary school. “I haven’t had the opportunity to complete my studies,” Lucia explains, “because my parents did not have the money to pay for them.”
“But now, thanks to the Whole Trade community development funds, I am completing my studies…and I have the best grades,” she adds, with a sheepish grin.
Lucia (left) and her co-worker Gabi (right) get to see how Whole Trade® flowers are displayed in the store.
For the past 7 years, Lucia has worked in the flower greenhouses at Agrocoex, a long-standing grower of Whole Trade roses for Whole Foods Market. Each day, she hand selects the premium blooms that are ready to be cut and packed and shipped. Sixty percent of her fellow workers are women, and the farm’s partnership with Whole Trade is helping to clear traditional social and economic barriers to a better life.
For example, loans are very hard to find in Cotopaxi, and they usually come with very high interest rates. At Agrocoex, the workers decided to use some of the Whole Trade community development funds to make small, low-interest loans to farmworkers.
Through this program, Lucia was able to get a small loan to buy a refrigerator. Where she used to have to shop for food every day, now she can do one big shop for the month, which saves time and money.
Similarly, community development funds helped alleviate the grueling labor associated with family laundry. “Most people wash their clothes in the river,” Lucia explains. “It’s very cold and time consuming. And, most of the time, women are the ones who do the laundry.”
With community development funds from sales of Whole Trade flowers, the workers decided to build modern laundry facilities for all 260 farmworkers and their families. “Now I enjoy my time with my family on the weekend, and I don’t need to wash my clothes in the river.”
“We have a better quality of life,” Lucia concludes.
Whole Trade producers grow everything from roses to bananas, and more Whole Trade products are available every day. Do you have a favorite?