Our shareholder cashew farming co-operative Fair Trade Alliance Kerala (FTAK) has over 7,000 members. Their small ‘homestead’ farms are scattered around the tropical, rugged Western Ghat mountains, a United Nations World Heritage Site.
So it’s not surprising that we meet new farmers every time we go, as well as seeing familiar faces.
During his recent trip, our Technical Manager Dan met 67-year-old Thomas who has been farming since he was 15 years old. Thomas learned his farming ‘trade’ from his father and grandfather and today farms with his son. He says that, for as long back as he can recollect or has heard, the family did nothing but farming. They are a farming family.
Thomas’s favourite time of the year is during the cashew harvest, which falls between February and May. Cashew is Thomas’s most important and lucrative export crop – certainly since he joined FTAK and Liberation and started to sell his cashew nuts under Fairtrade and Organic certified conditions. The crop now provides a secure annual income for the family.
Thomas leads the farmers in his local area in plant and crop diversity. He meticulously records all the crop varieties in his 3-acre farm, which now has over 130 different varieties of crop!
Thomas’s crops include mango, grapefruit, starfruit, yam, jack fruit, pineapple, various potato varieties and numerous spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger – he also produces honey on his farm.
By being such a champion of crop diversity Thomas is improving his family’s diet, reducing their food bills and reliance on imported produce and really enhancing the quality of his soil. Quite a virtuous circle and one that we are delighted to feel part of. Thank you Thomas.