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Maya Musings Blog

An explanation of Maya Superfoods certification describing our criteria and how we make sure our Maya products are good for people and the environment through certification.

Maya Nut Certification

Frances Bursch

 

We developed Maya Nut Certifiedtm  to ensure that our products support our core values of empowering women, protecting children, and conserving and restoring rainforests. We hear time and time again about “greenwashing”, where companies make false claims about social and environmental benefits.  We realized we needed a way for us and our customers to be sure that our product is what we claim it to be (pesticide and herbicide free, non-GMO, wild harvested, sustainable, carbon neutral, bird friendly, bee friendly, kid friendly and fair wage). It is complicated to certify Maya Superfood, but our discerning customers demand a product that is friendly to people and the environment. No other company offers Maya seed certified to this standard:

  • Produced by Women

  • Quality Guaranteed

  • Sustainably Wild Harvested

  • Fair Trade

  • Natural, Chemical-free, Non-GMO

  • Reforestation guaranteed

  • Local consumption guaranteed

 

Consumers in today’s global market should demand proof of sustainable management and natural/organic production methods. More discerning buyers also demand full participation of local communities and proof of fair compensation and distribution of profits.

Certifications exist that we could adapt to address sustainability and consumer demands yet these certifications are too expensive Maya Superfood producers.

Maya Superfood is a labor-intensive wild-harvested rainforest product with high production costs.  Over the past 19 years we have worked tirelessly to empower rural women producers to demand fair wages for their work. This results in higher wages for producers but also reduces the profit margin to intermediaries and distributors. Our producers can’t afford the expensive “Brand Name” certifications such as Organic and Fair Trade Certifications. In response to this, we have created a proprietary Certification Program which is affordable to producers and will not notably increase costs to consumers.

Maya Nut Certified! certifies producers and distributors. With this certification, Maya Superfoods guarantees the highest quality product that provides the best benefits to our producers and the highest level of protection for Maya forests and the plants, animals and streams that depend on them.

The criteria for Maya Nut Certified! were established in June 2011 in the communities of El Guayabo and Marañones, in the Rio Plátano Biosphere Reserve, Honduras with the participation of Maya Superfood producers from Honduras (El Guayabo, Gracias a Dios), Nicaragua (Versailles, San Pedro and Cinco Pinos, Chinandega) and El Salvador (Plan de Amayo, Sonsonate). The process was facilitated by the director of Maya Nut Institute, Erika Vohman and the technical team of the PRORENA Program, of the GIZ in Honduras, Fredy Rodriguez, Christine Woda and Alejandra Osorto.  In December 2012 and again in January 2013 these criteria were validated and revised by the team.

The Maya Nut Certified! criteria incorporate relevant mechanisms, norms, indicators and atributes of existing and accepted standards including:

  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

  • International Standards Organization(ISO)

  • Utz Certified

  • FairWild

  • Rainforest Alliance

  • National Council of Women’s Business Enterprise

  • Café de Mujer (Coffee from Women)

  • Wild Harvested standard of USDA

  • International Standard for Sustainable Wild Collection of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ISS-MAP, IUCN)

  • Certified Naturally Grown

  • Organic Certification standards of the USDA, MayaCert and Oregon Tilth

  • Fair Trade Labelling Organization (FLO-Cert)

The Maya Nut Certified! standard can be applied to Maya Superfood harvested from natural forests, forest patches, riparian forest, agroforestry systems and individual trees interspersed in coffee or other agricultural plantations. Monoculture plantations and producer groups or individuals that depend on hired/contract labor do not qualify for Maya Nut Certified!   certification because these do not support our core values (empowering women, protecting children, and conserving and restoring rainforest). Maya Superfood producers who harvest from agroforestry plantations that apply chemical fertilizers or pesticides during any part of the year do not qualify for Maya Nut Certified! certification.

The certification and verification process:

Maya Nut Certified! certification is currently offered by Maya Nut Institute, Colorado, United States to cooperatives, associations, women’s groups, individuals and businesses producing Maya Superfoods.

The certification process is voluntary and should be initiated by the producers though it is permissible for a buyer to instigate and finance certification for a producer group.  The group requesting certification should understand the criteria and take steps to compliance before initiating the certification process. Once all criteria are met by the applicant, they should register online and pay the registration fee of $100.

The decision to certify the applicant organization is made by Maya Nut Certified!  based on an evaluation of compliance with criteria, using the indicators outlined in the application. The applicant is expected to cooperate with the evaluation and provide the necessary documentation, access to business records, profit and loss statements, business expense sheets, and full access to harvesters, drying areas, processing and storage sites and harvest sites by certification inspectors. Evaluations are conducted on a peer to peer basis, meaning that Maya Nut Certified! producers evaluate new applicants to verify compliance.   Once certified, the applicant is granted the right to use the Maya Nut Certified! seal for marketing purposes and will be listed on the Maya Nut Certified website as a source of Certified Maya Superfood products.   Certified producers agree to voluntarily travel to inspect new applicants  when necessary. The applicant group assumes responsibility for travel costs, lodging (in their homes if necessary) and food for the inspectors.

Failure to meet one or more of the criteria will disqualify the applicant. The decision to disqualify an applicant is made by Maya Nut Certified!  based on the evaluation report filed by the inspectors.  Maya Nut Certified!  reserves the right to conduct lab analyses on products seeking certification.

Certification process:

  1. Fill out the application. The application will form part of your online profile for the Maya Nut Institute and Maya Superfoods website (www.MayaSuperfoods.com). This application is a key component of your certification and should be updated annually or whenever there are changes in your business.

 

  1. Pay $100 registration fee to Maya Nut Certified!

 

  1. Sign and mail your declaration confirming that your business conforms to the criteria of Maya Nut Certified!  and that you meet all requirements for certification. This declaration is renewed annually.

 

  1. Receive the inspectors at your place of business. Each applicant must be inspected every other year to qualify for certification. The inspectors are required to meet all of the harvesters, inspect all of the harvest sites, drying, processing, storage and packing areas (if applicable). The inspectors also must review legal documents of the business or cooperative and the documentation of purchase and sales of Maya Superfood. Inspections are carried out by Maya Nut Institute inspectors or by  members of other producer groups who have been trained in certification inspection  by Maya Nut Certified!  It is not permitted for two groups to inspect each other bilaterally.

 

  1. Every certified group is required to visit and inspect other groups seeking certification or renewal of certification.  Renewal inspections must occur every two years.

 

  1. The reports and photos of the inspections will be delivered to Maya Nut Certified!, together with all other required documentation and samples of the product (s) to be certified for review and approval/rejection. The group seeking certification agrees to pay for shipping documents and samples to Maya Nut Certified!

 

This standard was developed based on the realities of harvest, processing and commercialization of Maya Superfood in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras, all of which have had producers participating in the establishment and ratification of the criteria presented here. We hope that this standard is applicable in all countries where Maya Superfood certification may be a tool to improve livelihoods and rainforest management. Nevertheless, if necessary (for example, in cases of differences in national legislation, culture or customs) it may be possible to adapt this standard to local conditions as long as the basic criteria can be met. Proposed changes to the standard should be submitted to Maya Superfood Certified for approval and annexation.

Transparency: Maya Superfood Certified is based on the philosophy of maximum transparency and diffusion of our work. To this end, Maya Superfood Certified! will publish the certification standard on our website along with evaluation reports of all certified groups, always respecting industrial privacy and the intellectual property of the applicants.

Maya Superfoods is committed to publicizing and promoting the Maya Nut Certified! program and to implementing activities to improve public knowledge of and demand for Maya Nut Certified!  products.  This is in line with the mission of the Maya Nut Institute to continually seek balance between people, food and forests, by ensuring that Maya Superfood commercialization is fair and just, benefits women and never jeopardizes forest health and community wellbeing.

Core Values of Maya Nut Certified:

Seek and respect balance between the use and conservation of forest resources

Motivate forest protection through fair and dignified income-generating opportunities for rural women and their families.

Ensure participation of and decision making by rural and indigenous women

Ensure economic benefits from Maya Superfood production and sales accrue to rural women by minimizing the participation/roles of intermediaries and maximizing participation and roles of producers in the value chain

Ensure that Maya Superfood bearing Maya Nut Certified! seal is produced with zero application of chemicals throughout the entire chain of custody, from harvest to final sale.

2. Criteria of Maya Nut Certified!

Certification is based on meeting 10 criteria

The  criteria are:

1: Compliance with local/national  forest, food production and labor laws and with Maya Nut Certified! criteria

2: Legal ownership of or written access granted by landowner to access Maya trees.

3: Fair prices paid for purchase of green seed, dry seed, and other products. Fair wages paid to all workers (at least minimum wage plus benefits).

4: Indigenous rights and intellectual property are respected

5: Women and youth from local communities are the primary beneficiaries of Maya Superfood harvest and sales

6: Quality and hygiene meet Maya Nut Certified! standards

7: Sustainably wild-harvested from natural forest, forest patches or wild trees according to a Management Plan or Harvest Plan.

8. Natural production, without application or contact with chemicals during any part of the chain of custody. Never genetically modified.

9. Ongoing reforestation with a minimum of 3 trees for each 100lb of Maya Superfood sold by the producer group. The trees can be planted on community or private land, or can be produced and sold or gifted as seedlings to third parties wishing to reforest.

10. Local consumption of Maya Superfood. 10% of all Maya Superfood sales will be used to purchase and distribute processed Maya Superfood to local schools as part of the Healthy Kids, Healthy Forests Maya Superfood school lunch program.

Criterium #1: Compliance with local/national laws and with Maya Nut Certified!  criteria

Ensure that Maya production and commercialization complies with national legislation as well as international treaties of which the producing country is a signatory.

Harvest and commercialization of Maya Seed does not violate any national laws

Harvest and commercialization of Maya respects international agreements, including treaty 169 of the Organization of International Trade regarding indigenous rights, International Labour Organization convention #182 (preventing child labor) and the CBD (Convention on Biodiversity).

Maya harvesting is conducted in predetermined areas and when those areas are not owned by the harvesters, they have written permission from the owner (private land) or government (public land) to harvest and sell Maya from said parcels.

Processing plants conform to national legislation regarding hygiene, worker health and safety.

The applicant organization knows and applies the standard Best Practices in Manufacturing established in their country.

Criterium# 2: Land use rights and access to harvest sites are guaranteed

To ensure that land use rights, access to and use of forest resources are clearly defined, documented and legally established.

2.1 Harvesters have a legal, written right to sustainably harvest Maya (If they dont own the land/forest, they must have long term access or a renewable access right signed by the owner or government entity governing the area)

2.2 The certified agents constantly monitor and take steps to protect their rights to access and manage their harvest area.

2.3 Consensus building activities (meetings, committees, etc.) with stakeholders are used to prevent or resolve conflicts between or among resource users.  In cases of loss of income or damage to the resource caused by harvesting Maya, stakeholders will be compensated on par with losses to mitigate conflicts.

2.4 In case of major and/or unresolvable controversy regarding land use rights or forest access, the application will be suspended until controversy is resolved.

Criterium # 3: Fair wages paid to workers and providers of green/fresh and dried seed.

Guarantee that the applicant respects minimum fair established pricing for green/fresh seed and dried seed when purchasing from harvesters and that fair (minimum or better) wages are paid to workers. The fair established prices are established based on production costs, plus a profit margin for the harvester, seed dryer, and processing plant. The fair price should be reviewed every 2 years by a 3rd party or Maya Nut Certified!  and published and adjusted for all certified producers.

3.1   Harvesters calculate production costs using the format provided

3.2. Processors/producers calculate production costs using the format provided

3.3 Workers in processing plants are paid minimum wage or better

3.4 Harvesters and processors sell their products at the fair minimum established price (cost of production + % profit). Exceptions are made for sales to humanitarian, emergency food aid and sales to Healthy Kids, Healthy Forests programs. Harvesters, processors and businesses selling Maya Superfood for less than the established fair minimum price will lose their certification.

Criterium # 4: Respect for indigenous and local rights

Ensure that indigenous and local rights to administer and manage their lands and natural resources are recognized and respected.

4.1 In indigenous territories, indigenous communities must be in agreement with Maya Superfood harvest practices and related forest management.

4.2 Maya  harvest and management must not affect indigenous rights, land tenure, or intellectual property or cultural heritage.

4.3 Sites with special cultural, religious, ecological or economic significance for local communities are exempt from Maya harvesting where conflicts currently or potentially exist.

4.4 In indigenous territories, indigenous women represent at least 50% of the women beneficiaries of Maya Superfood commercialization.

Criterium # 5: Women beneficiaries

Guarantee that Maya harvesting, drying, processing, packing and sales are predominantly carried out by and compensated to local women.

5.1 At least 70% of Maya Superfood related activities are planned, implemented and managed by local women, who also receive the majority of remuneration for these activities and assume the risks of said activities.

5.2 100% of the members of the board of directors of the producer group are women. At least 70% of the paid positions in the business are held by women.

Criterium # 6: Quality and hygiene guaranteed

All certified groups apply the international standards and Best Practices in Manufacturing for Maya Superfood during harvest and processing to ensure highest quality products.

6.1 Harvesters do not collect seeds with physical damage from animals, fungus, mold or other defects.

6.2  Seeds found less than 2m from animal feces or 10m from human feces are left in the forest.

6.3 Use new bags for each lot harvested

6.4 Equipment for posharvest handling, drying and packaging are washed and disinfected before and after use.

6.5 Processing areas (drying, roasting, selection, milling and storage) are constructed following national laws for sanitary processing plants.

6.6 Use of chemical repellents or poison to control pests is not permitted under any circumstances.

6.7 Postharvest handling and management is conducted in a way to minimize mold and fungal growth and cross contamination. This is done using proper drying equipment, storage silos and other recommended equipment.

6.8 Certified producer groups must implement Best Practices in Maya Superfood Production established by Maya Superfoods and published on the website (www.MayaSuperfoods.com)

6.9 Certified producer groups must apply the International Maya Superfood Standard established by Maya Nut Institute and published on the website (www.MayaNutInstitute.org)

 

Criterium # 7: Natural production without use of chemicals or genetic modification

Guarantee that certified Maya Superfood is wild harvested from forests and is never subjected to application of any pesticide, fertilizer or other chemical. Guarantee that during the entire chain of custody, certified Maya Superfood is never exposed to chemical contamination. Guarantee that certified Maya Superfood is not genetically modified in any way.

7.1 No application of chemical pest control or fertilizers is permitted on certified Maya Superfood products or in harvest sites.

7.2. Where chemicals are applied to agricultural production sites interfacing with Maya Superfood harvest sites, a border of 10 meters is respected between the chemical application and the border of the Maya Superfood harvest site.

7.2 Every lot of Maya Superfood harvested is packed in a new bag

7.3 It is not permitted to dry Maya seed on galvanized metal surfaces or other surfaces that may contaminate the end product

7.4. Where silos are used to store dry Maya Superfood, said silos are for exclusive use with Maya Superfood and storage of other crops is not permitted

7.5 When Maya seed is transported in vehicles, these should be previously inspected and washed, to avoid contamination. If other crops are transported in the same vehicle as Maya Superfood, those products should be certified “natural” or “organic” or be tested for pesticide residues (big 4 heavy metals, arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury)

7.6 Processing is done only in plants where organic or natural products are processed, or with equipment reserved specifically for processing organic or natural products.

Criterium # 8: Sustainable Forest Management

Maya Superfood harvesting should be carried out using a Sustainable Harvest Plan or a Sustainable Management Plan to ensure the long term healthy ecosystem function of the harvested forests.

8.1 Maya Superfood harvesting should be carried out under the auspices of a Management Plan following the guidelines of Maya Superfoods (where permitted) or local forest management agencies.

8.2 Implement a system of long term impact monitoring for environmental and economic sustainability.

8.3 Sustainable harvest plans are reviewed every 5 years to incorporate results of long-term monitoring and new understanding of Maya Superfood ecology and management of nontimber forest products and to incorporate new community or business needs or adaptations.

8.4 Maya Superfood producers are trained to implement their own forest management plans, including systems of long term monitoring and silvicultural management techniques.

Criterium # 9: Reforestation guaranteed for Carbon Neutrality and Sustainability

9.1 Producer group plants or facilitates planting 3 Maya trees for every 100lb of dry Maya seed sold internationally

9.2 Producer group maintains a map of Maya reforestation and monitors tree survival rates every 2 years. Dead trees are replanted whenever possible. Tree survival is reported to Maya Nut Certified! every 2 years.

Criterium # 10: Local consumption of Maya Superfood guaranteed by distribution of Maya Superfood school lunches through Healthy Kids, Healthy

10.1  10% of every lot sold is returned to the community in the form of Maya SuperCereal to be served in schools of the producer communities

10.2 Healthy Kids, Healthy Forests is financed 100% by Maya Superfood sales including delivery of Maya Superfood products to schools and training for mothers and children in the benefits of Maya Superfood