“It’s the height of summer in Kerala and it’s an extra dry, hot one. ‘There’s a cashew tree laden with promise’ said 68 year old Joseph as we explored his hillside plot with his son and grandson with whom he runs the farm. The tree is laden with small, pretty white flowers that within a month can transform into cashew fruits each with a nut encased in its sturdy shell. If only it rains.
There’s been no rain yet this summer and rain is badly needed for the cashew crop to be a good one this year. We hear rumbles of thunder as we walk around the farm but Joseph’s daughter in law won’t rush back to the house to bring in her washing for fear of tempting fate and chasing the rain away.
I’ll be doing my best effort at a rain dance for Joseph and his fellow some 4,500 FTAK members. The farmers and their families these days rely on the annual Fairtrade cashew crop for their annual income. They don’t even harvest their rubber trees anymore since the rubber price crashed due to low oil prices making synthetic rubber cheaper than the stuff that they use to tap from their trees.
The families rarely go hungry though, as they follow the FTAK mantra of multi crop homestead farming. The list of foods growing around us on Joseph’s farm seemed never-endingly wonderous. From cinnamon to cocoa to coffee, all manner of spices, tasty bright pink berries completely unknown in the uk, mango, pineapple, guava, sweet potato, soy beans and more. At lunch we feasted on boiled yam, tapioca root and cassava all dunked in homemade spicy chutney.
The food was only bettered by the company as Joseph’s verandah had been taken over by the local FTAK ‘self help group’. These all-female SHGs (self-help group) are injecting a powerful shot of new energy into smallholder farming up and down Kerala. In just a couple of years these energetic women have gone from never handling money at all to having their own bank accounts and running micro credit schemes.
Joseph’s young great granddaughters, Leah and Alna running around amongst us all, are assured of a good education thanks to the micro credit scheme. As long as we keep fuelling it all by buying Fairtrade cashew nuts, what better incentive could I ask for to keep on doing what we do here at Liberation Nuts.