Skip to content


Fairtrade on the road

Please enable JavaScript to make the most out of this website.

Showing posts tagged “india”

If they improve their growing, they can improve their income. I feel very proud when I see a farmer who has taken on my advice and is now doing well.

Sunny Babu is a plant doctor for Fairtrade farmers in India. Find out about his challenges and the big difference Fairtrade farmer members in MASS are making in their communities.

Read his full story here.

Getting Inventive in India


In “God’s own country” (that’s Kerala in southern India to you and me!) Suminter Organic Small Farmers consortium is quietly doing some interesting Fairtrade Premium projects. Liaison Officer Raju Ganapathy came back impressed from his recent visit.

Fairtrade certified since 2011, these small-scale organic farmers received 5.4 m INR (around 67,000 euros) in Fairtrade Premium in 2013-14, a handsome amount for a group of 250 members. Water harvesting structures, solar panels, drying net for spices, drying and grading equipment for cardamom, distribution of organic inputs are just some of their projects.

Read More

imageRaju 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.

Chetna Organic is going #insideout for Fashion Revolution Day. How about you?

Fashion Revolution Day on 24 April 2014 calls for change in the textile supply chain from our wardrobes all the way back to the cotton fields. It marks the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster which killed 1,133 people when the factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Fashion Revolution Day is making the challenge ‘Who Made Your Clothes?’  Fashion lovers can show their support for farmers and workers in the textile industry by wearing an item of clothing inside out to show off the label, photographing it and then sharing it on all social networks with the hashtag #insideout.

Having control over seed is the essence of Fairtrade. Fairtrade is not only about pricing. It is about farmers’ ownership over agriculture. Without seed there is no agriculture. The most basic human right is control over seed.

The Farmers’ Pride

Interview with Pravakar Meher, Project Director, Pratima

Pratima is about to become the second Fairtrade cotton producer organization in India to transition from contract production (whereby an exporter initially holds the Fairtrade certificate while farmers are organizing) to a full-fledged, farmer-owned small producer organization. Fairtrade International’s Reykia Fick caught up with Pravakar at the Textile Sustainability Conference in Istanbul.

“The most interesting part about Fairtrade for the farmers is leadership and ownership. It is a dream for them, owning their own organization and commanding all the responsibilities. This dream is about to come into effect.

“We’ve been three-and-a-half years in Fairtrade. Normally Fairtrade talks about a transformation from contract production to small producer organization in six years. We’ve done it in only three-and-a-half.

“It’s been great to be a part of Fairtrade. Producers are really enjoying being a part of it. We are setting an example for government to follow in our path. We are ensuring a minimum support price, which is so important but the government hasn’t yet been able to implement.

“Right now we have a kharif crop, which means it is rain-fed so we only have one cotton harvest in the year during the rainy season. Resources are very limited for the producers and many don’t have any other source of income.

“Now we are planning water projects, including plastic pipes that would give drip irrigation to the cotton fields. Then the farmers could have a second crop, and we could stop the migration of farmers away from the region.

“My message to consumers: Buy more Fairtrade so we can develop more!”

Past stories about Pratima: Football Fever for Fairtrade Farmers

Photo: Pravakar (center) with Dr. Shreekant S. Patil, Principle Scientist Cotton Breeding at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad (left) and Ram Prasad Sana of Chetna Organic (right) at the Textile Sustainability Conference.

Women, seeds and sustainability


Fairtrade International’s Reykia Fick met with the Fairtrade cotton cooperative Chetna Organic’s CEO, Arun Ambatipudi and Technical Head (Entomology), Ram Prasad Sana at the Textile Sustainability Conference in Istanbul. Photo by Vipul Kulkarni.

“Having control over seed is the essence of Fairtrade. Fairtrade is not only about pricing. It is about farmers’ ownership over agriculture. Without seed there is no agriculture. The most basic human right is control over seed.”
So says Arun Ambatipudi of Chetna Organic when we meet at the global Textile Sustainability Conference in Istanbul last week. Everyone from hip clothing brands to factory owners to scientists have come together to discuss how to make the clothing we wear in harmony with nature.
But perhaps no organization present embodies this vision of sustainability more than Fairtrade and organic certified cotton cooperative Chetna Organic. For Chetna Organic, Fairtrade is just the beginning.
Chetna is at the heart of the fight to preserve non-GM cotton in India. More than 90% of all cotton in India is genetically modified. And much of the remaining cotton is hybrid and thus does not produce seeds that can be replanted. This means farmers are stuck buying their cotton seeds year after year.
“Seed is the most vital input. Almost 50% of farmer’s expenditure in cotton goes towards buying seeds. There are even times where the seed companies create artificial seed shortages to drive up prices,” Arun explains.
Chetna has partnered with international and local government research institutes for their participatory seed multiplication and seed conservation programmes. The scientists are identifying and developing natural varieties of cottonseed suitable for the local growing conditions and organic agriculture. Chetna is training their member farmers to save cotton seeds to plant for the next season.
The focus on seed is much more than a vague philosophical notion of sustainability. It is a lifeline for farmers. According to Chetna’s Ram Prasad Sana:
“When the cost of cultivation is high, farmers are not able to get their investment back and the result is suicide or migration. Low cost cultivation is vital for farmers, and this means organic and sustainable methods of cultivation.”
Control over seed is furthermore bound together with control for women.
“Women have always been the custodians who have protected seed. This has steadily disappeared. We are now working to revive and preserve this practice through developing women seed guardians. When women become seed guardians, it means women have a greater say.

“As men usually make the decisions, we are lobbying in favor of female control over farming. With the Fairtrade-supported interventions in place, we are now witnessing their husbands slowly starting to support them.”
“Our interest in Fairtrade is to move towards being women-centric, how women can also have more control within cooperative structures though it requires investing substantial time,” says Arun.
Arun tells me that along with seed saving, one of Chetna’s goals is “reduction in drudgery for women”. Women now spend a lot of their time on menial, laborious tasks. For example, a woman can spend three to four hours each day just carrying water.
“If we can ensure faster access to water for women, then women can use that time more productively in educating their children, managing local enterprises, etc. The cost of women carrying water is extremely high on India’s GDP.”
Chetna is working to provide appropriate tools for farm women – pushcarts so women don’t have to carry heavy loads, lighter and better quality gardening tools that don’t need to be sharpened as often.
“Women usually squat to weed with sickles, so we came up with the idea of promoting a weeding tool which resembles a golf stick. Women can just swing it back and forth from a standing position. It is much faster for them and doesn’t hurt their back.”
Arun concludes: “We know that the situation won’t change overnight. But we are seeing successes, of women seed guardians gaining respect and decision power.”

Find out more about Chetna Organic’s seed guardian programme here.

Read a past blog post about Chetna Organic’s Premium projects here.

Photo of Fairtrade cotton farmer members of Chetna Organic

Advantage Fairtrade!

Raju Ganapathy is a Fairtrade Liaison Officer in India. In his work, he provides training and guidance to Fairtrade farmers and workers to help them enter Fairtrade and become successful. Raju writes about a recent training below.


Normally when I talk about advantages of Fairtrade with farmers I highlight key aspects like the Fairtrade Minimum Price and the Fairtrade Premium. But to my surprise at a recent meeting, I learned that the benefit list can grow to double digits when explained by farmer leaders.

It happened on 21st August at a meeting with farmer leaders from groups affiliated with the Fairtrade producer association Wayanad. FTPA Wayanad has been a certified producer of Robusta coffee since 2010 and has a total farmer membership of 2,140. However their performance in supplying Fairtrade coffee has been below par and this concern led us to organize a meeting with leaders to review and explain the vision-mission of FTPA Wayanad.

The producer organization is at a crossroad and one of the roads is the FTPA way – to continue working together to succeed. Whether each group of farmers really wants to travel this road had to be answered. This was the question posed. I invited them to share their perspective and the following list of benefits emerged:

  1. Collective action makes things possible that individual action cannot. For example, local area development.
  2. Collective negotiating is possible in the market place.
  3. Brand development for our product is possible.
  4. Adding value to our product is possible.
  5. Diverse set of products can be brought under the scope of FTPA.
  6. New technology can be brought to the farmers.
  7. Sustainable market arrangements can be secured.
  8. Measures for improving soil and crop can be undertaken through FTPA.
  9. Younger generation can be attracted back to farming through the programs of FTPA (a very telling point since younger generation is finding farming as a profession unattractive).
  10. Secure future of farmers through FTPA.
  11. Bring in capital investment on processing, etc.

The list was so telling, it rejuvenated all those present and made the group resolve that they would strive to fulfill the demand from the buyer the coming season. FTPA leadership decided to take this message to all the clusters by mid- September so that all farmer members can understand the value of FTPA membership and make their participation in FTPA and Fairtrade meaningful.

The real cost of cheap tea



According to an interview with Tesco boss Philip Clark this weekend, this may be the start of the end of the era of cheap food – with a recognition that to keep farmers farming, and wanting to sell to the UK, we may have to start paying higher prices for our food. We should see that as good – not bad - news, says Barbara Crowther, Director of Policy & Public Affairs.

Read More

“What’s the most important change you’d like to see in your region?” I asked the cotton farmers of ‘Pratibha - Vasudha Jaivik Krishi Kalyan Samiti’. “We wish our children could get better education and communicate in English one day,” they replied.  So I trained them on Fairtrade Premium project planning, using a school project as an example. 

That session is now three years back. Since then, these cotton farmers have come a long way.  They saved their Fairtrade Premium and set up “Vasudha Vidya Vihar”: their own school to impart quality education to poor children from farming community.  After starting in 2010 with very basic infrastructure and just a small number of children, the school now imparts quality education at a reasonable fee to 425 students from very remote villages of Karhi, Khargone district in Central India.  The school now generates enough revenue to meet its operational expenses.

“So, what is the plan now?” I asked during our latest review meeting.  ‘We want to develop this school up to degree college level” the farmers answered.  “And what if your kids decide not to work on the farms when they are highly educated?” I ask, slightly provocatively.  “They would become better farmers and apply new techniques on farms once they are educated’, is the confident reply. 

The farmers are concerned that they might not have enough funds to realize this vision in the short term, due to falling Fairtrade cotton sales in their region. Nevertheless, their commitment and determination to make it happen is plain to see.

Anup Singh is a Fairtrade liaison officer in the North of India.

Many cotton farmers around the world are benefitting from Fairtrade, but struggling to get enough sales to drive bigger change in their communities. We are working on a new model for Fairtrade cotton, which will lead to allow more companies to engage with us and mean more sales for farmers. More news on this later this year!

Seed to Cup: Coffee Training in India

imageDemonstrating leaf rot

Did you know that coffee is the second most important product after tea for Asian Fairtrade producers? Several Indian producers sold Fairtrade Robusta coffee for the first time in 2012. Now they are keen to offer quality coffee in 2013 too. At the Asia Pacific Coffee Forum for Fairtrade producers held last year in Indonesia, Indian producers identified training on coffee production and quality as one of the priority needs. This follow-up training session was one small but very significant move to help achieve that.

More than 40 farmers from three Fairtrade coffee co-ops met at a coffee research station in Wayanad District, Kerala to get trained by the Coffee Board Scientists on the theme “Seed to Cup.” 

Over the course of the day, various scientists gave farmers all kinds of information and tips. Mr Prakasan revealed that productivity in Kerala is below the national average and just half of the potential. Dr Suresh Kumar explained how simple interventions like timely pruning, grafting techniques and irrigation can vastly improve yields. Dr Vijayalakshmi talked of pests and diseases and informed the farmers of simple steps to ward them off. Mr George talked about post-harvesting techniques and highlighted how bad practices in drying and storage influence coffee quality. Outturn of coffee, some bad practices like excessive pruning, requirement of shade etc were also covered during the discussion.

Every farmer took something different out of the session. Annakutty liked the information provided on pests and diseases, while Sudha emphasized the relevance of grafting techniques to the farmers. George was particularly keen to organize a training for his farmers on post harvest techniques. Vineesh hoped that this training is only a beginning and talked of a more frequent training from the coffee board. All the farmers groups were keen to take up the offer to get their soil tested by the coffee board, and to receive their recommendations for nutrient application.

The organic farmers pointed out some shortcomings like lack of suitable information for mixed cropping systems and not enough stress on organic farming research. There is always room for improvement!


As the aroma of South Indian filter coffee filled the air, a drizzle brought the curtain down on the program. Meanwhile, I mentally started scheduling more coffee trainings in 2013 to benefit more farmers….

Raju Ganapathy is a Fairtrade liaison officer in India, supporting farmers to join and benefit from Fairtrade.

Progress is incredibly slow at the UN climate talks right now. Smallholder farmers don’t have time to wait - they have to act now to secure their livelihoods. Tomy Mathew of Fair Trade Alliance Kerala in India explains how Fairtrade helps farmers to deal with climate change.

Fairtrade farmers in Kerala are growing a diverse array of spices, coffee and coconuts all on the same small farm, ensuring that they are more resilient to the effects of the changing climate.

Sweet Success and Sugary too!!
Raju Ganapathy, a Fairtrade Liaison officer, reports on a sweet Fairtrade success story in India.

I came to Dharwar, a small city, overnight from Bangalore, the buzzling capital of Karnataka. For the first time I conducted a group training on Fairtrade for the representatives of seven sugar producer organizations.

Fairtrade sugar is pretty new to India. These seven producers got inspired to join Fairtrade through the Khadrolli Primary Agriculture Credit Cooperative Sangha, the first Indian sugar producer to gain Fairtrade certification, back in 2010. They were already organic certified, giving them a stepping stone to progress to Fairtrade.  In addition, their trader and exporter, Pure Life has provided them with good organizational assistance.

In 2011 Khadrolli cooperative received an amazing Fairtrade Premium of 110,000 Euros from the sale of 2318 MT of sugar. No wonder the farmers extolled the virtues of the program when I asked them about their views on Fairtrade.

Bhartesh Patil was clear that “Fairtrade certification, by providing premium, strongly supports our organic intervention.” Kandu added that “Fairtrade certification provides an opportunity to create a brand name for both the Pure Life and the sugar producers on the international market.”

The next day I was able to visit Khadrolli society to see first-hand how they have used their Premium. They showed me the tractor they have purchased, along with the chaff cutter machine, which will help them to turn harvest waste into organic compost.

The society has also supplied farmers with a kit of state of the art bio-fertilizers. One of the farmers, Irappa, enthusiastically listed the benefits : wider girth, taller crop and greener sugarcane. Two other farmers, Subhash and Hammanavar, reported that this organic manure completely substitutes any chemical fertilizers, savings cost, labor and time. As I was leaving I asked Mr Gambol their manager to track sugar content in the coming harvest to see if it also increased as a result. I wound up my trip happier that Fairtrade had brought some tangible positive results to this farming community.

Success at Last for Indian Grape Growers

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” ― Winston Churchill

Such is the case with Fairtrade grapes from India … a fruit of one Fairtrade importer’s persistent efforts. 

Fruit importer Univeg has been trying to launch Fairtrade grapes in the UK since 2007, but it has been quite a long journey. First they had to find suitable producers. Then they had to ensure the whole supply chain was Fairtrade certified. Not to mention quality issues, and the extremely short shelf-life grapes have. 

Over in India, one of the Fairtrade cooperatives I support was also having problems. Agrocel Pure and Fair Fruits and Nuts Growers Association (APFGA) was hardly selling any of their Fairtrade raisins, making it unviable for them to remain certified.  As a last resort, a few of the farmers decided to produce Fairtrade grapes. Could this be the supply Univeg was looking for?

There were still failures to overcome: APFGA’s first Fairtrade grape crop in 2011 was too poor quality to be exported. But they didn’t give up. Thanks to support from Univeg and another Fairtrade buyer, Euro Fruits, APFGA farmers tried again in 2012 … and have been successful. The first batch of grapes hit UK supermarket shelves a few months ago, and were praised for their top-quality.

APFGA has already started reaping the fruits of this success.  From their Fairtrade Premium they have purchased raisin packing materials collectively and managed to bargain 20% savings on this purchase for their members.  APFGA members are all smiles on their new prospects.

“It is like a new life to our cooperative. Now we can persuade our other farmers to also allocate part of their crop for Fairtrade table grapes and part for Fairtrade raisins, and continue to be a part of the Fairtrade system,” says an excited Prakash Sangave, APFGA member and Fairtrade table grapes grower.

Contibuted by Anup Singh, a Fairtrade liaison officer in India. If you’d like to source Fairtrade table grapes from India, contact him here.

There are over 50 Fairtrade liaison officers worldwide.  Learn more about their work on our website.

More posts...

Back to top of page