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Character in a novel becomes fair trade policy

Some of the products imported by Max Havelaar swissinfo.ch

The name Max Havelaar comes from a nineteenth century novel which described the injustices of the coffee trade in the former Dutch colony of Indonesia.

This content was published on September 3, 2002 - 20:50

"Max Havelaar" was the most popular novel in the Netherlands in the nineteenth century.

Written by a former colonial civil servant, Eduard Douwes Dekker, the novel was a bitter complaint against colonial policy, which revealed the Dutch exploitation of the Javanese.

Almost two centuries later, coffee farmers in Colombia receive a fair price for their crops, thanks to the Max Havelaar Foundation.

The Foundation is an answer to modern-day concerns over the social and ecological damage caused by unfair trading practices.

Goods bearing the Foundation's seal of approval are a sign that fair wages are being paid to those producing them, and that the environment is being safeguarded.

Santa Marta example

The Asoproban banana farmers' cooperative in Santa Marta, Colombia, is one of more than 250 projects supported by the Max Havelaar Foundation.

Despite the difficult political and social situation across the country, the Asoproban cooperative, which includes 226 small farmers, produces over 30,000 kilogrammes of bananas a week.

One third of their harvest is sold through the Max Havelaar Foundation. The cooperative provides employment for 370 full and part-time workers.

Such is the success of the business that further projects planting cocoa and coconut palms are in the pipeline. The plan is to create another 200 jobs.

And the cooperative, fulfilling the Foundation's policy of environmental sustainability, is supporting its farmers in the transition to organic production.

swissinfo, Imogen Foulkes

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