Honey, Blueberries & Dreams: The life of a Chilean Beekeeper

Under different circumstances Chino Henriquez would be described as a natural leader; however, this would conflict with the ethos of the co-operative of which he is General Manager. Instead, Chino sees himself as a cog in a system, incapable of completing his work without his team to back him up.

Founder of the Chilean honey and blueberry co-operative Apicoop, located in the city of Paillaco, Chino has steered the organization through some life-changing challenges, like diversification from honey into blueberries and even natural disaster. Recently Calbuco volcano erupted and wiped out a substantial amount of their crop, and could have been fatal to so many of the bees they so lovingly nurture. Sadly this latest natural disaster is not an isolated incident; Apicoop workers face constant adversity with frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Hardships For Agriculture In Chile

Chino faces these hardships head on, explaining that it’s simply part of local life. Yes, they lost 5,000 hives in the disaster. The fact that they’re a co-operative, though, means they don’t just rely on one area for production.

With 28 permanent employees and 400 seasonal blueberry pickers to oversee, there is no time for sadness or hesitancy. Instead, Chino notes a need for hard work and perseverance to get things back in order. First of all, he asks co-op members in turmoil how he can help so they don’t feel alone. No matter the loss — bees, hives, honey — the co-op creates a plan for rejuvenation. Chino found one solution was to pay beekeepers in advance for the next year’s crop.

“They belong to a family,” Chino says. “There is no need for them to feel alone.”

To be honest, the whole “creating a plan” aspect wasn’t so easy during the recent volcanic eruption. Within four hours the hives and surrounding landscape were covered in hot ash. Amazingly, though, the hives that were dug out still had living bees.

Chino believes the miracle has to with the ash, explaining, “It was like a stack of small marbles. This meant there was air between one marble and another, so no lack of oxygen. If the ash had been denser they wouldn’t have survived.”

The hives were moved to a neighboring area and are now fully recovered, though it will take far longer for the landscape to return to its former state — 10 years at the very least. Sure, in a couple of centuries that area will be highly fertile again; but in the short term Chino and his team will focus on getting trees growing again.

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Making Dreams Come True

Apicoop farmers diversified into blueberry production almost a decade ago, financed by a UK organization called Shared Interest. Another loan followed to buy machinery to help with packaging.

And Chino’s dreams don’t just stop there. Along with honey and blueberries, he wants a brand new purpose-built facility stretching over 4,000 square meters. Designed by the workers themselves, Chino explains how it has been a labor of love.

“Everybody in the co-op had a say in this project; every single department was consulted in the design of the building which is due to open in October 2017.”

In the meantime, Chino is keen to let Shared Interest investors in the UK know their support really is changing lives. He concludes, “Please do trust that you are directly supporting development in different parts of the world, in areas that need it even more than ours. After all, the dreams of an entire community may never see fruition just because of a lack of funds. Thanks to Shared Interest, we can work together to create livelihoods and make dreams a reality all over the world.”

blueberries

Get Involved

If you live in the United Kingdom and would like to become an investor in Shared Interest, please click here to find out more.

Want to learn more about the life of a beekeeper and blueberry farmer? You can visit Chino’s community on our Meet the People Tour to Chile

Highlights of the tour include:
– A glass of local beer in Valdivia made with honey from Apicoop.
– A tour of Santiago giving insight into General Pinochet’s regime.
– Heading to the district of Paillaco to see Apicoop again, this time to learn about their production of blueberries, which can be found in Traidcraft’s GeoBars. You will spend a little time hearing about the organization of the co-operative before meeting some of the workers who process Apicoop’s blueberries.

It’s a cultural experience not to be missed, especially as it benefits the community you’re visiting.

Meet the People Chile Group

By Stina Porter of Shared Interest Society

Southern India: An Insider’s View

Rachael and Simon enjoy a Taste of Southern India!

Traidcraft’s Product Manager Rachael Colquhoun and Key Account Manager Simon Pickersgill set off on our Meet the People Tour of Southern India in January. Rachael reports on the first week of their tour, revealing just how much of an adventure they are having…

When I was first asked if I’d like to be part of the India Meet the People tour I didn’t hesitate in saying yes and Simon was exactly the same. Meeting the people behind products is something we’ve both wanted to do since joining Traidcraft and we couldn’t wait to be on our way. When writing this at the end of our first week, the trip has been everything we hoped it would be and more.

After a long journey of 26 hours we finally arrived in Kalpetta which is a town in Wayanad district in the Indian state of Kerala and since then it’s been full steam ahead. It’s still quite surreal that we are actually here and experiencing this whole new vibrant culture and I am loving what each new day brings. Curry at every meal time is talking a bit of getting used to, but when in Rome!

On our second day we visited coffee farmers from Fair Trade Alliance Kerala (FTAK) who produce our classic blend coffee. The two hour drive up the mountains flew by as I gazed out of the window taking in the breath taking scenery. I was surprised to see that you don’t go far in India without coming across a village decorated with brightly coloured houses and shops selling an array of items – everything from fruit, mostly bananas, to sheets of shiny roof metal!

We visited three farmers at FTAK who were incredibly friendly and welcoming. Whilst coffee is their main crop they also have others on their land including pepper, oranges, coconut, pineapple, tapioca and rubber to name but a few.

It was interesting to find out that a number of the farmers are moving into organic coffee as pesticides are expensive and they receive more for organic beans. The majority of the beans grown by FTAK are Robusta, as it is more suited to the land and yields higher crops for the farmers. It was great to see that all of the farmers that we visited had electricity and their own well.

FTAK is clearly an innovator in the fair trade movement, going above and beyond fair trade by developing a strategy called ‘fair trade plus three’. The strategy focuses on biodiversity, food security and gender equality. In three years their goal is to go from 4,000 farmers to 10,000 – for farmers to become more self-sufficient and bring women to the front line and empower them. They are also encouraging biodiversity which is encouraging.

After a busy morning FTAK were very kind and hosted us for lunch which was welcomed after a busy morning in the farms and we were not disappointed. Lunch was served up on a banana leaf, a good way to save on washing up! It was beautifully presented and tasted delicious with a stark contrast of fresh and crisp coconut and spicy peppercorn. All finished off with some cardamom water. It certainly beat my usual lunch of soup at Traidcraft HQ hands down!

 

IMG_3835 (2)On Tuesday we met a cashew nut farmer and some members of his family. Like many farmers they have diversified and are now growing rubber trees, although it will take 7 years before a harvest. Simon made lots of new friends when a group of children from the neighbourhood took a shine to him, amazingly they are now adding Simon on Facebook!

In the afternoon we visited the coconut processing factory which was something I was really looking forward to and I was not disappointed! We saw how they make dried coconut, coconut oil and virgin coconut oil which was a very long, hot and noisy process! We also met Tommy Matthews, founder of FTAK, a truly inspirational leader and fair trade pioneer that described fair trade as ‘an iceberg in a sea of poverty’. A definite highlight of my trip so far!

Today we’ve visited a church and synagogue and museum and have a free afternoon to have a look around Kochi, an old port which is very different to our last destination and is far more catered to tourists and back packers. I quite liked being off the beaten track but it’s nice to have cold water again and pancakes for breakfast!

An incredible first week in India and if this week is anything to go by I have high hopes for the rest of the trip!

For more details on our A Taste of Southern India Tour then you can click here to view the holiday page or you can request a tour dossier here.

For more photos from Rachael and Simon and from all of our Southern India Tours you can browse our Flickr Gallery here.

For more information about any of our tours and to ask questions please contact Lizzie or Paul at Skedaddle on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.co.uk

Western India: A sneak peek…

Alison Marsh headed off to Asia to explore our Western India tour. We caught up with her to find out how she got on:

Few are strangers to the pearly white majesty of the Taj Mahal, just one of the amazing features you can discover during our Western India Tour. Whilst one of India’s most impressive historical gems awaits in Western India, even greater national treasures can be discovered here as we explore some of the country’s best crafts, as well as the people behind these exquisite creations.

Having heard of the amazing experiences up for grabs and with the exotic sights of India on her travel bucket list, Alison headed off on our Indian adventure to soak up the sights for herself. Here’s what she thought of our tour:

The best bits…
India has always held a fascination for me so I was delighted when I had the opportunity to accompany the Western India tour. It was amazing! We visited Traidcraft producers including Creative Handicrafts, Aravali block printers and Tara stone works was truly inspirational, and possibly the most heart-warming highlight of the tour for me was St Mary’s. We also visited other projects, which included Shrujan and Qasab, where exquisite hand embroidery and textiles are produced using traditional techniques. I was totally captivated by the skill and commitment of the women in the villages, who produce the finest embroidery I have ever seen.

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Other highlights…
We also visited Agrocel to learn about their organic farming methods and the Vivekananda Research & Training Institute where we were treated to a delightful cultural show by the school children. Let’s not forget about the tourist visits which included spectacular temples, historic buildings, the amazing Amber Fort at Jaipur (my personal favourite), the Red Fort at Agra and of course the Taj Mahal, which needs no introduction!

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Food for thought…
Everyone loves food and no-one more than me! The choice in India was amazing and simply delicious, especially the lunchtime buffets that were prepared for us by the producers. The options were mainly vegetarian, particularly in the more rural areas we visited, with meat and fish more widely available in the bigger cities. Full of spices, of course, but there was always a choice from mild to really spicy, and, if you wanted a break, then pasta, noodles and pizza were usually available too.

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My top tips
Hey I could wax lyrical all day, but you have to see it for yourself to truly appreciate it. Having sampled the delights of this extraordinary country I have two pieces of wisdom that I think could help make your experiences that little bit better:

  1. Travel with an open mind
  2. Allow yourself to be immersed in the sights, sounds and chaos that makes India truly unique.

I’m sold and I’m sure you will be too.

Whilst away Alison managed to lend her hand to some videography and for a real flavour of this tour, check out our first ever Meet the People video below:

Alison took on our Crafts and Cotton of Western India tour. For more information about this tour click here, call us in the office on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.com.

Producer Highlight: St Mary’s Embroidery and Tailoring

Where: India
Trip: Crafts and Cotton of Western India

How did the project start?
This embroidery project was set up up in 1970 in the slum area of Gomtipur, Ahmedabad. It grew from work of the Spanish Dominican sisters who arrived in Ahmedabad in 1954. The sisters of St Mary’s are therefore both Indian and Spanish.

How does it work?
Production began, leading to the sewing and embroidery centre, where women use traditional skills to make beautiful handicrafts. Today there are 400 women embroidering in their own homes and 50 working at St Mary’s.

How does this benefit the community?
St Mary’s employs disadvantaged local women and provides income and social support in an area where opportunities are scarce and women can be disempowered. Work also gives the women a sense of identity and helps the break -down of cultural rivalries.

_Holiday.91.14553_fullSt Mary’s also has an associated clinic, maternity unit and nursing home – with a mother and child care programme. In addition it has a social programme based in the surrounding area. Based in a mixed Hindu, Muslim and Christian area has provided a tough history in the past with riots forcing many to leave their homes. St Mary’s was a place of refuge during troubles and has worked with other agencies on re-housing and rehabilitation for the future.

Feeling inspired? If you’d like to meet the inspiring women behind this project join us on our Western India tour where you get the chance to visit St Mary’s and watch the creation of these incredible crafts. For more information click here.

Celebrating Women around the World

In celebration of World Fair Trade Day we wanted to share the stories of some of the most amazing women behind the products you’ll visit with us. So, time then to check out our top 4 fairtrade products and the women behind them:

  1. Vietnam – Crafts. We visit Mai handicrafts, an organisation set up in 1990 by two women, which aims to help poor, disadvantaged women in Vietnam by helping to sell their local handicrafts both internationally and locally. The women’s work here is incredibly diverse, ranging from lovely fabric purses to the popular crochet items.
  2. Peru – Alpaca knits. The women of the Collosuyo communities in the high Andes always provide a fantastically warm welcome when we visit! Having been mastering this dramatic landscape for years, they know a thing or two about spinning a fine fabric from the Alpacas that they live alongside!
  3. Thailand – Hand-made silk products. Travellers to Northern Thailand will have the pleasure of meeting the inspiring women from the Panmai cooperative, who have masterfully developed and shared their traditional silk-spinning, natural dyeing and weaving skills. This is an inspirational effort ensuring their rural community can help support their young people.
  4. Swaziland – Chillis. One of our new tours for 2017 is an incredibly exciting tour in Africa, visiting the chilli grandmothers of Swaziland! For the past five years, these ladies have been growing chillis for Black Mamba’s range of sauces and pestos. Keep your eyes peeled for more information!

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Thailand: A Postcard

A Fairtrader for over twenty years, Julie Miles often found herself reading about other people’s Meet The People holidays. She and her husband David longed to sign up for a tour, and after years of aspiring- they finally did it! Here she shares her unforgettable memories of our Thailand tour. 

Visiting silk producers in Ban No Pho:
Including spending the night in a chalet in the grounds of their enterprise. The project was led by an energetic and inspirational lade who is passionate about providing work for women in the area. Watching the women work as they prepared orders was fascinating.

silkAn evening visit to a temple:
It was magnificent and looked particularly beautiful in the evening sunlight. A peaceful time allowing us to reflect on the amazing things we had seen and experienced.

templeThe day spent with Tui & Brian on their organic rice farm:

Here we experienced working in the paddy fields and collecting giant snails which hold protect the rice plants. Fortunately, we didn’t eat snails! We also spent some time with local school children who showed us how to make table decorations from flowers and fruit.

Tui Brian

Our day with elephants:
Such an exhilarating experience being so close to these magnificent, clever animals with their amazing trunks. David also enjoyed learning how to make paper from elephant dung… an amazingly non-smelly process!

elephants

“We visited so many places which ordinary tourists would not have even known existed. We feel really privileged to have been able to have such wonderful experiences and now feel we’re in a better position to talk about the ins and outs of fair trade.”

You can find out more information about our tour to Thailand on our holiday page by clicking here.

For any questions and to check availability you can call Hannah in the office on 0191 2651110 or you can email us at info@skedaddle.com.

Vietnam: A behind-the-scenes look

Gateway World Shop’s Manager, and member of the BAFTS Board, Hazel Dobson, signed up for a Traidcraft Meet the People Tour to Vietnam last Autumn. She had previously visited Peru and Kathmandu on producer trips and thought her gallivanting days were over! She opted for Vietnam as it was a challenge for her to find out about a country which she had only ever associated with a horrific war in the 1960s, when she was a teenager. It was somewhere she would otherwise never had thought of visiting.

The visit was almost three weeks in total, with internal flights, two long road journeys, and two by river. The tour covered almost the entire country in that space of time (the bright orange country on the map). Vietnam is a long thin country with its Eastern coast bordering what the Vietnamese call the Indo-China Sea. It was a French colony from the middle of the 1800s and the people suffered a lot under the French. Vietnam is now a Communist Country -this was the reason for the Americans entering the war in the 1960s. Hazel was rarely aware of this fact on her visit, as visitors are very well catered for. Half the current population of 90 million is under the age of 25. Vietnam aspires to be a first-world country, and has good trade relations with Australia, but Russia is never mentioned. It seems to have a mixture of Hinduism, Buddhism, and veneration of dead relatives as its main religions.

Her tour embraced many stops, including Hanoi (North), the capital City, Hoi An (about halfway down the country) and Saigon (in the South). Vietnam was very green and agriculture appeared good, with an abundance of fish and prawns. Livestock at local markets was still “on the hoof” alongside a never-ending array of noodles!

In terms of suppliers, the visitors went to see “Craft Link“, one of Traidcraft‘s suppliers, with over 40 artisan groups and around 5,000 artisans in the North of Vietnam. They work with many minority groups, (about 12% of the population) and a few traditional tribes who have been left behind as the economy improved. Typical crafts include lacquer works involving crushed egg shells, from designs created from the artisans’ own imagination or memory, or carving mother-of-pearl shells for the inlay.  This long process is repeated many times, dipped in lacquer, dried then rubbed smooth.

Some entire villages make furniture from bamboo, and smoke the wood first to harden it. Craft Link supports this industry by giving training in marketing their products, which are for local markets, not for export.

There were also visits to a social enterprise in the city of Hue, in which Traidcraft has had some input. It provides work opportunities for disabled and disadvantaged young people. One particular project stood out in Hoi, a fair trade project called “Reaching Out” for severely disabled young adults, many of whom were deaf-mute, and a silent tea room. This project has concentrated on marketing themselves locally and with great success. They produce bedding, tableware, woven and metal goods and more.

The tour included Mai Handicrafts, a Traidcraft supplier, and visiting some crocheting projects, in Central and Southern Vietnam. They saw workers packaging items and doing quality checks at Mai Handicrafts, as well as creating recycled paper products, although there was some doubt as to whether this project would be sustainable in the long-term.  All in all, there were some excellent social enterprises and fair trade businesses doing their best to keep traditional skills alive and work with some of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of their society.

Our next tour to Vietnam will be departing next November. Click here for more details or contact us in the office for more information and to check availability. You can call Hannah on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.com

Malawi making waves

Our tour Magical Malawi is a fantastic chance for travellers to discover this beautiful South East African country. Whilst we’ve known about this regions’s amazing Fairtrade organisations for some time, it’s great to see the world also wisening up to this destination too. Cue our latest media mention from the folks at the Independent, who have featured our tour to Malawi in their top ‘Adventure holidays’. Here’s what they had to say…

Tour operators are increasingly offering visitors the chance to meet local people and give something back during their trip […] Saddle Skedaddle is known for cycling holidays but new for 2016 is a bike-free, 13-day tour of Malawi visiting Fairtrade producers. The Malawi Meet the People tour (0191 265 1110;meetthepeople.skedaddle.co.uk) runs from 4-16 June and gives you the chance to meet Fairtrade coffee farmers and rice producers in their homes and see the real impacts of Fairtrade, as well as visiting national parks. The price of £2,445pp includes 12 nights’ half-board accommodation in locally owned guesthouses, guiding, transfers and donations to the producers visited. Flights not included.

Want to read the Independent article in full? Click here.

For more information about our holiday in Malawi, click here.

Mzuzu coffee in Malawi

Malawi is a little known gem in the heart of Africa, a small country of diverse beauty, friendly people and amazing wildlife. We spend our time in Northern Malawi viewing game and relaxing in one of the country’s incredible national parks before visiting smallholder farmers growing coffee, rice and peanuts. 

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Our first fair trade visit will be to the farmers who produce the delicious coffee from Traidcraft’s single origin Malawi coffee and we’ll enjoy a cup of coffee while learning about coffee production and the benefits Fairtrade has brought to the cooperative. Moving on to Karonga, we visit rice farmers who have been working with Just Trading Scotland and we’ll visit a school involved in the 90kg of rice ‘send a child to school’ project. We then spend a few days on the shores of magical lake Malawi before our tour draws to a close with a visit to Liberation’s peanut producers close to the border with Zambia.

Malawi (60) LiberationWe work with local partners in Malawi who help us develop our itineraries and provide local guides and logistics for all of our tours. Alongside keeping all of our travellers safe and comfortable, our priority is also to support the local tourism initiatives and businesses, and as we travel and we will visit communities engaged and benefiting from these projects. Our holidays run in June each year during the coffee harvest – the perfect season for travelling as temperatures are warm but not too hot and there is little chance of rain. Malawi is often known as ‘the warm heart of Africa’ and on this tour we can expect beaming smiles and welcoming handshakes everywhere we go!

Click here for more information about our Malawi Holiday and click here to request a tour dossier with a day by day itinerary.

Alternatively contact Lizzie for more information:
Email: lizzie@skedaddle.com or Call: 0191 2651110

A Wanderlust Win

Efrain Valles heads up a team of fantastic guides who lead our Meet the People Tours to Peru and we were delighted to hear Bill Bryson announce him as the overall winner of Wanderlust’s 2014 Tour Guide of the Year Awards.

AwardsWhether it’s the producers you visit or the guides themselves, we know that it’s the people that you meet on our tours that make our trips such a special experience and we’re always delighted for any excuse to celebrate just how fantastic they all are. Wanderlust are the only travel awards to focus specifically on recognising the contribution of tour guides and with the judging being made on the testimonials from previous travellers, this award means so very much to Efrain.

Efrain at Chicuchas Wasi(2)

Efrain guided our very first Traidcraft Meet the People Tour to Peru in August 2008 and has just completed his 12th tour with us this year. In 2012 Efrain came to the UK to run the London Marathon, a lifelong dream and a fantastic opportunity to raise over £5,000 for Traidcraft Exchange and a further £6,500 for Chicuchas Wasi in Peru.

Huge thanks must go to everyone who sent in testimonials about their tours to Peru with us and for those who were able to join us in celebrating with Efrain at the Awards ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society last month. He’s been overwhelmed by the level of support from Traidcraft supporters and we’ll all remember the massive cheer when his name was first announced at the ceremony!

Efrain wins a bursary of £5,000 which will be going to Chicuchas Wasi, a school providing an education for young girls in the Cusco region. It’s a charity really close to Efrain’s heart and we always make a visit to Ruth and the girls at Chicuchas Wasi during our tours and we are looking forward to hearing how they plan to spend the bursary money next year. You can find out more about Chicuchas Wasi on their website by clicking here and for further information about how to stay in touch with the charity and donate through the UK based Friends of Chicuchas Wasi then do get in touch with Lizzie at Skedaddle.

Although Efrain’s trip to the UK was short, he had a great time celebrating with many old friends and even had a little time to enjoy some of the sights of London:

Chased by a train!(1)

For more photos from Efrain’s Adventures in London you can visit our Facebook album here.

We’ve been delighted to see lots of coverage of Efrain and his award all over the British and Peruvian press. For those interested in seeing some of the articles, you can find more on our Facebook page or click the following links:

Wanderlust
The Guardian
The Telegraph

And for those looking to improve their spanish…
La Republica
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Frecuencia Latina

You can find out more about our tours to Peru by clicking here and to join our tours to Peru with Efrain and the team, chat to Hannah on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.com.