Late May is hot in Kerala. This year hotter and dryer than usual, reports not of hunger in this the homestead state, but drought in villages near Calicut http://s.coop/1p1nk
Elsewhere, it’s still dry but a green countryside… coconut palms, rubber trees and smallholder farms known as Homesteads where 10 different tropical products from coffee and cashew to cinnamon cloves and vanilla are Fairtrade certified, many all on the same few acre farm.
We’d met women farmers and tribal communities, all members of Fairtrade Alliance Kerala (FTAK) as part of a field visit to celebrate partnership and the inauguration of their office building in Thadikkadavu village in northern Kerala.
The gleaming white building shone in the eerie evening glow as clouds descended and the heavens opened. Perhaps it was only fitting that the first heavy pre-monsoon shower should christen this brand new building, the new home for FTAK, Kerala’s largest and most successful Fairtrade small-farmer association.
As thunder and lightning crashed and flashed, excitement over the refreshing rains turned to concerns as chairman and organisers stripped to their dhotis to dig channels to clear the deluge away from the venue.
Speakers focused on the continued passion to improve livelihoods on journeys shared since 2005 by nearly 10000 member farmers across this State. Mention was made of those 100% Fairtrade partners such as Equal Exchange, Twin and Pakka and Liberation CIC, http://s.coop/1p1ph a Fairtrade Nut company co-owned by FTAK and other farmer groups across India, Africa and South America.
Several hundred proud farmers shared lunch with us and renewed dreams before their annual AGM later in the afternoon. The new office was a fitting stepping stone to even greater innovation lead through the ‘Fairtrade plus 3’ programme begun last year focusing on Gender Justice, Biodiversity and Food Security.
I left reflecting that a rarely publicised component of the Fairtrade value chain is their association or coop. It is a critical step in scaling up the individual family efforts, so that collectively, they have power and can gain market access. Here was an fine example of where the bar should be set.