As Christians enter Holy or Passion Week with yesterday’s celebration of Palm Sunday, the demand for palm branches have increased dramatically that many Christian organizations are considering palm branches as the product that could be sold as a produce of “fair trade” and use it as a way to help poor labors in Mexico and Central America to earn more income and to protect diminishing forests in those regions.
In the midst of slight skepticism about the overall success of the process because of the weak economy, recently, a coalition of environmentalists, church groups and fair-trade advocates have been trying to develop a market-based certification process in which palm producers would be paid extra for guaranteeing they are caring for the forests where wild palms grow and following environmentally safe harvesting practices.
Through fair-trade, palm branches would be sold similarly to how organic coffee, cocoa, or tea are sold at a comparably high price to help and support poor workers in Latin America.
So far, about 18 percent of Lutheran congregations in the U.S. have fair-trade coffee promotion program.
Many faith groups have joined in fair-trade and many people are positive about selling palm branches because it offers more religious meaning.
"I think there would be a tremendously positive response," said Sarah Ford, coordinator of the Interfaith Fair Trade Initiative of the Lutheran World Relief organization in Baltimore.
"People of faith in particular are willing to spend money when they are assured it is going to a good cause, and this would be particularly poignant with the palms and what they signify in the Christian church," she said.
By Easter of 2005, the organizers of fair-trade promotion through palm branches, are expecting to set up the program to educate church administrators about the effectiveness of the idea of using palm branches as a product of fair-trade.
While environmentalists are concerned that Mexico’s rainforests are being abused of harvesting palms wastefully on top of other actions taken against forests that have led to depletion, some people are happy with the idea expecting that it will increase job openings for people in the region. Also through fair-trade, there is going to be more regulated, certified harvesting process that cutters are hoping to receive higher pay and some medical benefits.