Re­plac­ing coca with quinoa

Ceres Or­gan­ics’ way of do­ing busi­ness is see­ing pos­i­tive changes for the peo­ple of Hua­machuco, Peru and com­mu­ni­ties all over the world.

Good - - Social Justice - Words Carolyn Ent­ing

G row­ing quinoa is help­ing to trans­form the lives of grow­ers and their fam­i­lies in Peru, a fact that Ceres Or­gan­ics man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Noel Joseph­son cel­e­brates.

Ceres Or­gan­ics' trad­ing part­ner­ship with Or­ganic Sierra & Selva in Hua­machuco, Peru is en­abling com­mu­ni­ties to be self-sus­tain­ing by mak­ing grow­ing quinoa a fea­si­ble op­tion. This has pro­vided an al­ter­na­tive to re­ly­ing on the coca in­dus­try, which of­ten leads to in­volve­ment in the pro­duc­tion of co­caine.

Three years ago Hua­machuco had no ac­cess to the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket. Most agri­cul­ture, in­clud­ing quinoa, was ori­ented to­ward self-con­sump­tion or for lo­cal mar­kets so coca leaves were a more at­trac­tive al­ter­na­tive for th­ese grow­ers. Or­ganic Sierra & Selva have helped bridge that gap for farm­ers by con­nect­ing them with in­ter­na­tional part­ners like Ceres Or­gan­ics. Now quinoa grow­ing in the re­gion is thriv­ing and the lo­cal econ­omy is be­gin­ning to pick up.

In De­cem­ber 2015 a so­cial pro­gramme run by Sierra & Selva (which is spon­sored by Ceres Or­gan­ics) saw more than 2000 chil­dren and their fam­i­lies re­ceive warm clothes, den­tal checks and treat­ments and lessons in mak­ing toys us­ing re­cy­cled and sus­tain­able ma­te­ri­als. Two hundred homes with­out elec­tric­ity were also gifted so­lar pan­els and 10 univer­sity schol­ar­ships awarded to high-achiev­ing stu­dents.

Ceres Or­gan­ics, which was founded more than 30 years ago on good ideals and ethics, has al­ways put peo­ple first. It’s a for­mula that has proven to be good for peo­ple and the en­vi­ron­ment as well as for busi­ness.

“By hav­ing re­la­tion­ships with traders like Or­ganic Sierra & Selva who share our val­ues, we help to cre­ate a rip­ple ef­fect out in the wider world all the way from New Zealand,” says Joseph­son. “We too are able to cre­ate shared value with the broader global com­mu­nity that we are part of, and I be­lieve this is the way that busi­ness can make real change in the world. And this change is al­ready hap­pen­ing.”

Joseph­son takes the time to meet farm­ers and grow­ers, which of­ten in­volves trav­el­ling to Asia and South Amer­ica.

In 2009 Ceres Or­gan­ics ob­tained the first EcoSo­cial cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in the country. Based in Brazil, EcoSo­cial is the only fair trade pro­gramme that fo­cuses specif­i­cally on or­ganic pro­duc­tion. At the core of the pro­gramme’s phi­los­o­phy is a com­mit­ment to the land and to hu­man be­ings, in­clud­ing re­spect for the en­vi­ron­ment and good work­ing con­di­tions.

“We’ve got a whole net­work of sup­pli­ers and con­sumers that have grown around what we have done and we’re re­spon­si­ble for the health of that com­mu­nity. It needs to be a healthy re­la­tion­ship from sup­pli­ers through to the con­sumers and then the money flows,” he says.

“It’s think­ing about it in that way rather than try­ing to think about the eco­nom­ics of it which alien­ates the hu­man re­la­tion­ship. We don’t see traders, we see hu­man be­ings with fam­i­lies, who are part of a com­mu­nity and are try­ing to achieve sim­i­lar goals to us – to im­prove the health and well­be­ing of peo­ple – and the planet – through or­gan­ics.”

Five years ago Ceres Or­gan­ics joined forces with like-minded com­pa­nies from Den­mark, Ar­gentina and Thai­land to form Or­ganic Latin Amer­ica af­ter iden­ti­fy­ing a sur­plus of rice in South Amer­ica. “It wasn’t be­ing pro­cessed prop­erly so it wasn’t up to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards. What we were able to do was bring the ex­per­tise to process it dif­fer­ently and we also had the knowl­edge of where the mar­kets were. Now it’s the largest or­ganic rice ex­porter out of South Amer­ica,” says Joseph­son.

Joseph­son is al­ways look­ing for new sup­pli­ers be­cause the growth and de­mand in the or­ganic mar­ket is grow­ing faster than sup­ply.

“We could just go to the mar­ket and buy a com­mod­ity but you’ve got to get be­yond that sort of men­tal­ity and think that ev­ery ac­tion you take cre­ates the world as it is,” says Joseph­son.

“So when we take an ac­tion it’s not just an eco­nomic ac­tion, it has so­cial con­se­quences and we want to take that into ac­count. We try and find peo­ple we can work with who have sim­i­lar views to us – they want to cre­ate a bet­ter fu­ture for their com­mu­nity, for the world that they’re in ... that’s the peo­ple we look to part­ner with. Some­times we are suc­cess­ful in find­ing them and some­times we’re not. It’s still worth search­ing. We’re al­ways look­ing.”

It takes three to four years to tran­si­tion a grower from con­ven­tional farm­ing through to or­ganic. Cur­rently Ceres Or­gan­ics has mul­ti­ple projects in Asia, tran­si­tion­ing farm­ers to EcoSo­cial.

“I think for many years peo­ple have been so fixed on sci­ence, and sci­ence as the an­swer. That sort of think­ing fo­cuses on the eco­nom­ics and how to make things more ef­fi­cient, more cost-ef­fec­tive ... but nowhere has na­ture been in the equa­tion,” he says.

“I think peo­ple are con­sciously and sub­con­sciously wak­ing up to the fact that the en­vi­ron­ment isn't in such good shape. There’s been a lot of health is­sues and peo­ple are start­ing to say ‘ac­tu­ally, I want some­thing nat­u­ral and healthy'. At the apex of all that move­ment is or­gan­ics.”

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