Once Again has worked with Jubilee House for more than 2 decades. The Jubilee House is a 501(c)(3) charity whose main purpose is to bring employment to Nicaraguans. About 20 years ago, Once Again, with the help of Jubilee House, planted a few acres of sesame as a test plot in Nicaragua.
A few acres of successful sesame seeds planted 12 years ago have now turned into the development of 11 farm cooperatives. Within each co-op are more than 100 farms, nearly 2000 farms in total! Lloyd Kirwan, Purchasing Manager for Once Again, has been buying sesame seeds at world market prices, which has greatly enhanced the living conditions of the farmers and their families.
Once Again was engaged in Fair Trade initiatives before there was ever a Fair Trade Certification process. We are hopeful that this year, our sesame Tahini will move from being Fair Labor-certified to being Fair Trade-certified. There is future potential: you will be able to search on the product's lot number and link to that product's co-op on our website. We are really excited about this.
In stark contrast to Once Again's work, we saw banana growers and sugarcane workers in tents on strike. Living under plastic tarps, they are protesting against companies who have provided harmful pesticides for use on banana and sugarcane crops throughout Central and South America. These farmers have been on strike for 3 years, in hopes of getting the medical attention they need! It was really tragic to see, firsthand, the damaging environmental effects and, worse still, the diseases caused from non-organic farming practices. In addition, in our travels, we came across a million dollar 6-acre facility that was developed for the garment industry. The building stood shining new, unused, and abandoned. Apparently, a tax write-off for some corporate giant! Just a mile down the road was a community of some 15,000 people living in slums and open sewers, many unemployed, all in need of suitable housing and clean water.
It was then that the importance of our work really became apparent. Once Again's support of the farmer co-ops helps to ensure collective bargaining to keep prices stable and farmworkers from being taken advantage of. The purchases of our commodities are, at a minimum, at world market rates, and more often than not, we pay above world market prices. The support we have shown our co-ops has improved the living conditions of small farmers, and provided them with a network and means of solidarity. We have supported the honored work of Jubilee House. We thank you for doing the same by casting your dollar vote for Once Again products, through your purchasing decisions. Together, we spread integrity.