by Amy Burke
Waving our palms this past Palm Sunday, we welcomed Jesus into our hearts as he was once welcomed into Jerusalem by the masses. This small celebration after the somber month of Lent helps us to look forward to Easter, to the promise of new and everlasting life. Holding the branches in our hands or twisting them into crosses gives us an essential physical reminder to both celebrate and be humbled by the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice.
While palms remain a vital symbolic gesture for the death and rebirth yet to come, a recent BBC article outlined the problems with harvesting Chamaedorea ernesti-augusti (more commonly known as xate) an endangered type of palm for the global flower trade.
Lutheran World Relief is committed to sustainable practices in palm harvesting through our Eco-Palm program. This includes harvesting two types of thriving palms collected through fair and sustainable practices (Chamaedorea oblongata and Chamaedorea quetzalteca).
Participating in the Eco-Palm program means supporting community involvement in harvesting, packaging, and selling the palms; fair wages for harvesters; and socially and environmentally sustainable choices.
What’s Different about Eco-Palms?
- Eco-Palm harvesters are paid for the quality of palms they deliver, not for any that are discarded.
- Eco-Palm harvesters are trained on what to look for when harvesting.
- Eco-Palm harvesters have permits from the government to maintain the bio-reserve where they harvest their palms. They feel confident that as long as they continue to maintain it, they will always have access to the palms.
- Most palm harvesters are paid by quantity rather than quality, encouraging them to cut and deliver as many as possible without regard to the environment.
- Most harvesters are not a part of the post-harvest production, and do not know what kind of quality to look for.
- Often, harvesters often do not have any investment in the land they’re harvesting from. As a result, up to 70% of palms are discarded because they are not export quality.
In their celebration of Palm Sunday, Lutherans have contributed a great deal to the success of the Eco-Palms project by encouraging their congregations to participate and by spreading the word about making sustainable choices that empower communities.