Eco-Palms NAFTA Outgrowth: Fair-Trade, Sustainable & Spiritual


Brahea berlandieri leaflet, transverse section
Native range: Mexico
Planted 15 JUN 1969, photographed 20 JUN 2006 by Jay W. Horn
Currently alive in Fairchild plot 101B-E-8

Yesterday was Palm Sunday for Eastern Orthodox Christians whom worship under the guidance of the number one eco-leader of faith "the Green Patriarch." We told you about concerns over illegal harvesting and trafficking of Central America palms to Churches for Palm Sunday. On the susty flip side are "eco palms" from the Chamaedorea Palm Certification Project which certifies palms harvested from the forests of Mexico and Guatemala for sale to Christian congregations in the United States and Europe.The goal is to save forest and to help workers earn a fair, sustainable wage. The program ensures that chamaedorea palm leaves have been harvested in Mexico and Guatemala in an environmentally sensitive manner by workers getting paid a fair price. An AP report has the year 2009 count of fair-trade fronds used for Palm Sunday Easter services at 640,000 ordered by 2,500 U.S. churches, a great increase from the 5,000 stems ordered by 22 churches in 2005. Said one Ohio parishioner:

We believe that God created the Earth, and it's our job to preserve it the best we can.

Why Palms? Just What is Palm Sunday All About?

According to the Bible, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while his devotees spread palm branches before his beast of burden to indicate the arrival of VIP despite his humble mode of transportation.

Origin of the Eco Palms Project

The project grew out of the North American Free Trade Agreement not largely known for praise for its effect on the environment. However, one of the pact’s side agreements set up the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) to promote environmentally friendly trade policies. While taking a look at products sent from Mexico to the north, the commission touched on palms. According to a New York Times account:

Dean A. Current, a professor of natural resources management at the University of Minnesota, was called in to study the economics of the palm industry. He discovered that about 10 percent of the palms sent to the United States were bought by churches. The rest go to florists, who often use them in arrangements for weddings and funerals.

In surveying churches, Mr. Current found that most were willing to pay up to double the going price to be sure their palms were responsibly harvested. A big church might spend as much as $1,500 on palms for Palm Sunday.


Why Eco-Palms?

• Eco-Palms preserve the vitality of the communities and forests for years to come.

• Community groups receive 5 to 6 times the normal payment per frond.

• Eco-Palms are purchased directly from the communities, which lessens the impact of the fluctuating market and allows value-added processing to take place within the community.

• A typical Eco-Palm is harvested in the forest by men and processed by women in the community. This increases employment opportunities for women in the community and helps them contribute to their family’s financial stability.

• Continue to buy palms for Easter Season and floral arrangements. Without a market for the palms the forests are at risk of being converted to agricultural fields.

For beautiful photos and fascinating facts, check out the Palm Guide from the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Chamaedorea seifrizii "Bamboo palm," "Reed palm"
Native range: SE Mexico to Honduras
Planted 01 JUL 1963, photographed 20 JUL 2005 by Brian J. Wood

Also on TH: Zaproot Easter Special & Alternative Autos (Video)

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