Wal-Mart Deserves the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize
From a 2008 NPR report "The Supermarket Revolution Moves Into Honduras":
"If somebody says "developing-world food market," what comes to mind? Maybe a street filled with fruit, vegetable and meat stands, like one in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. But another kind of market is taking over in Honduras: the supermarket. Paiz, one of two supermarket chains in Honduras owned by Wal-Mart, is as bright and clean as any in the U.S. The number of Paiz stores is growing fast.
Supermarket sales in Honduras have been increasing by about 20 percent a year. Luis Alfonso Andino, who's in charge of vegetable shipments at one Paiz store in Tegucigalpa, says the growth is because customers know the food from the supermarkets won't make them sick.
High in the hills, near the town of Lepaterique, Vicente Sanchez ticks off the crops that his farmers cooperative grows: carrots, lettuce, cauliflower, cilantro. They all go straight to Wal-Mart. Sanchez's cooperative signed a deal with the chain, with the help of a Swiss aid organization called Swisscontact. "Whatever we plant, we know that it's already sold before we plant it," he says. "Before, we'd plant things without knowing whether we had a buyer, and we used to lose out."
Edward Bresnyan, an agricultural economist at the World Bank office in Honduras, says the deals between farmers and supermarkets help fuel the economy. That translates to better roads and cell phones, so that farmers can find out where they can get the best prices.
For the farmers in Lepaterique, it's working pretty well so far. Some of them arrived at the Wal-Mart supply center in the outskirts of Tegucigalpa driving a pickup truck loaded with broccoli, green beans and carrots. Wal-Mart manager Gabriel Chiriboga looked pleased. Within 24 hours, shoppers will see those vegetables on supermarket shelves. And some of the money that they spend will flow back to the small — but well-connected — village."
MP: According to a recent fact sheet from Wal-Mart, it now operates 53 retail stores in Honduras, including seven Paiz supermarkets, and it employs more than 2,500 associates. Wal-Mart has also been responsible for introducing a "wide range of recycling, energy preservation and residual water treatment programs" in Honduras.
Contrary to all of the criticism from groups like "Wake-Up Wal-Mart" that Wal-Mart destroys local businesses and depresses local communities with low wages and sub-standard benefits, violates labor laws and safety standards, engages in gender discrimination, etc., much of the evidence seems exactly the opposite:
In Honduras, Wal-Mart has helped stimulate local farmers and local communities, helped increase safety standards for food, created thousand of good-paying jobs, helped improve the distribution infrastructure with better roads, introduced environmentally-friendly practices like recycling and energy conservation, etc.
Bottom Line: For all of its efforts to raise the standard of living in countries like Honduras, and help to lift millions of people out of poverty, I nominate Wal-Mart for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.
HT: C. August