Raju Ganapathy, Fairtrade Liaison Officer in India, discovers a plethora of fruits, spices and other fresh produce at a Fairtrade seed festival.
I am the seed;
Seed is the creation of the cosmos
says Bhagwad Gita; holiest of Hindu Scripture.
Seed is of utmost importance: both in Hindu scripture, and for the livelihoods of the many farmers I work with. So it was with great interest that I went to the annual seed festival organized by Fair Trade Alliance Kerala (FTAK), in the pristine Wayanad district of Kerala, South India.
The festival celebrates the biodiversity on display in the homes and fields of its farmers and promotes the preservation of local seeds. FTAK supports its members to preserve this diversity, while also ensuring food security by enabling each member to meet most of their food needs themselves.
I met farmers like Benny and Shaji, who held stalls offering organic produce and seeds that are able to grow and thrive in the local climate. There were roots and tubers that I had never seen before, even after years of working in agriculture. Umpteen varieties of ginger; bananas; black pepper; I came across a small, round yellow fruit called an eggfruit; I was told about the virtues of mullachakka, a smallish thorny jack fruit which is even supposed to have anti-cancer properties.
Benny and Shaji at their stall.
The second day focused on women’s central role in farming – something FTAK seeks to promote among its members. Speaker Julie Cariappa extolled the virtues of homestead farming and said it gave her control over the food that she serves her family. Another speaker Deborah talked about food sovereignty and said the organization has taken the idea of food security even further through the wide variety of foods grown on the farms. It was great to see so many women taking an active role in the day.
Fair Trade Alliance Kerala is a small farmer organization created to enable farmers to access the global market and improve their income through Fairtrade. It now has over 4500 members, growing coffee and many other products including cocoa, cashew nuts, coconuts and tropical spices.
Find out more on FTAK’s Facebook page.