Awards Update - Tropical Wholefoods

TW has steadily grown since 1997, increasing the quantities of fairly traded dried fruits and vegetables imported and sold into the UK market, and developing a market in Japan. The numbers of countries we now trade with has also increased to 4 developing countries. Fruits of the Nile (FON) in Uganda and Cercle Des Secheurs (CDS) in Burkina Faso are still our main trading partners, selling us dried mangoes, tomatoes, oyster mushrooms, pineapples, papaya and bananas. But we also buy dried organic chanterelle mushrooms from the Mpongwe Development Corporation in Zambia, and dried apricots, apples, apricot kernels and tomatoes from The Dried Fruit Project (DFP) in Pakistan.

As always, our fair trade involves working with our partner businesses abroad in a number of ways. In Gilgit, North Western Pakistan, we have worked extensively with the Dried Fruit Project to develop their new processing facilities to HACCP standards and EC Organic Standards. Similarly in Uganda, a series EC sponsored training workshops on HACCP standards have been held by FON and CSIR (the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) for rural producers of dried fruits. The procurement and export of vital equipment for all three partner businesses is an ongoing commitment, as is the provision of market information and product evaluation and development to all three companies. As a major contribution to this process, we hosted the visits of the managers of CDS and DFP to UK in March 2001.

Our fair trade network has increased in the last five years, as we now import and package significant quantities of dried fruit and related products for the Alternative Trade Organisations: Oxfam Trading, Traidcraft and the People Tree in Japan. The ethical lending agency, Shared Interest, has also pre-financed the purchases of harvests from Pakistan and Burkina Faso in recent years, increasing Tropical Wholefoods' and the local businesses purchasing power. We have also become members of the International Federation of Alternative Trade (IFAT) - the North/South association of fair traders. Our innovative fair trade work was recognised in 2000 when we were awarded the National Westminster/Directory of Social Change Enterprising Solutions Award.

A recent major development for us has been that in 2001, TW merged with FM Foods, a sports and health bar manufacturer in Sunderland. The merger has produced an excellent synergy with TW continuing to source innovative and ethically traded products from overseas businesses, and with FM developing top quality production, manufacturing and distribution systems in Sunderland using dried fruits and UK sourced ingredients. FM Foods pack our pure dried fruits into quality retail packaging for the Tropical Wholefoods brand, as well as manufacture snack bars and energy bars for the TW and FM brands. Our HACCP production systems have also recently been approved by a major UK multiple, to whom we supply own label health bars.

Social progress is important to TW and means the empowerment of impoverished people throughout the world. Empowerment should be understood to mean financial, educational, cultural and political strengthening. Tropical Wholefoods' contribution to social progress is to give third world farmers and business people access to profitable markets in Europe that they would have had great difficulty breaking into without our commitment to maintain long term, developmental trading relations. Specifically we have made a commitment a) to train people in new technologies and standards b) to maintain transparent and equitable pricing policies in all our trading relations c) to promote fair and equitable employment terms amongst all businesses that we deal with d) where possible, to encourage the participation of women in businesses we deal with e) where possible, to provide pre-financing to companies in the third world to ease cash flow problems, and f) to guarantee long term relations with all businesses that we work with, despite encountering difficulties and problems along the way.

The responses from people who trade with Tropical Wholefoods in the developing world make it clear that socially responsible business fosters security and strength for people in the third world - a platform from which they can plan for their families' futures.

Jane Naluwairo

Jane Naluwairo, Bukoloto, Kayunga, Mukono dries Pineapple for sale to Fruits of the Nile. "Originally I was earning my living by running a sewing machine. I was living in a rented room with my family. When I started solar drying, I realised that it was more paying than the sewing business. I mobilised some women in a Tukolelere Wamu Women's Association of which I was the Secretary and took on fruit drying." She sold her only sewing machine and put the money into fruit drying. "Now I do not regret anything," Jane states.

Through the fruit drying she was able to improve her family's situation by buying a piece of land, and constructing a semi-permanent house with bricks and solar electricity. This enables her to run some of the driers during the day and provide light, and operate a television and a radio at night.

This has enabled Jane to provide employment to a number of women in her neighbourhood, by providing a reliable market for the pineapples in my locality and those vended from afar passing by my locality. This has enabled her to become a local and national focal point. "I have become an eye opener to a number of people who have not only copied fruit drying from me, but also I have trained them to do it properly."

Norah Kagimu, Mbarara, is another person who has benefited from trading with Tropical Wholefoods. As a founder member of the Prosper Women's Association she has been able to earn more by drying ndizi and bogoya bananas than she did running her shop and restaurant.

"I have managed to get a maximum benefit from my banana plantation by adding value to my apple bananas and bogoya bananas. I use the refuse (peels and off-cuts) to feed my cattle which in turn yield more milk than before. I sell some of the milk and some is used by the family as a source of protein. I use the unpalatable refuse to mulch my banana shamba (field.)"

The association now has 3 dryers and permanently employs 5 women. FON has meant that Norah has been able to pay for day to day expenses, and her children's schooling after the death of her husband in 1997. Without this important source of income Norah believes that she would have become a burden to her family.

Malik Shah

This is Mr. Malik Shah of village Askurdass, valley Nagar. The meaning of the village Askurdass means 'village of the desert flower'. This is the village which was visited by Mr. Richard Friend during his field visit to valley Hunza and Nagar. After his return, unfortunately there were heavy rains in the Northern Areas, the rains caused floods form the mountains and it washed two houses killing 4 persons of a family in the same village. Even than the master trainer of this village Mr. Mohammed Essa who is the son of this gentle man was able to sell 4951 kg of Whole dried apricots to DAP. About 3 tons have been rejected because they have been damaged due to the rains. The farmers of this village are still happy to sell so many apricots at a good price to Dried Fruit Project. Mr. Essa and his partner are now enthusiastic to construct an electric dehydration system for the village so that they may able to protect the fruit from rain losses.

Mr. Malik Shah is an activist of Askurdass village organization (VO), he is a trainer in rural forestry, marketing of agriculture produces for his VO. He has long history of services for his village, now he is less energetic therefore he has opened a small shop in the village, he has given his task to his son Mohammed Essa, to continue to help the farmers of his village.

Mr. Malik Shah is also a progressive farmer he is well into grafting on fruit trees, he is expert in raising plants nursery, he is also a good carpenter, he manages to make his own apricot drying tent an the drying trays. The apricot drying tent shown in the picture is his own construction but the idea and assistance for material was provided by AKRSP Dried Fruit Project marketing section.