FLO ID 19619
Fairtrade certified since 2009
Number of members 1628
Smallholders 1.6 hectares per farmer on average
Area under production 889 hectares Growing practices 100% organic
Coffee variety Robusta Parchment (meaning wet-processed), Robusta Cherry (dry-processed), Arabica (wet-processed) and Arabica Cherry (dry-processed)
Coffee quality Mild and low acidity, exotic full-bodied taste, fine aroma Harvest December – February
In 2008, recognizing the difficulties in farming communities, Manarcadu Social Service Society embarked on their Fairtrade project to help more than 1000 small-scale and poor farmers. Today, Manarcadu Social Service Society (MASS) is a 1st grade organization, located in the Kottayam and Idukki Districts in the state of Kerala. Kerala is a mountainous region; the Idukki and Kottayam Districts are home to many farmers and their families who are isolated from urban India with few communication and road links.
The cooperative began with a group of ambitious farmers who wanted to support their community to adapt to sustainable farming, increase market access and improve their livelihood. A network of 17 groups was set up by the Co-operative with the support of PLANTRICH who has knowledge in organic production and export. Since then, the cooperative has embraced the empowerment that organization brings: there is a bi-monthly newsletter ‘Jaivashree’ which gives a voice to the farming community, as well as monthly meetings and democratic decision-making. 20% of members are women.
The cooperative works with local NGOs and a government programme to promote organic farming in the region. They have worked hard to reduce waste, recycle, and implement energy-efficient projects. Farmers use biogas technology and ‘vermi-compost’ (worm composting) on their farms, which converts into bio-energy for household needs.
Coffee growing, processing and export
As well as Arabica and Robusta coffee, the members of MASS currently produce 12 other Fairtrade certified products: cocoa, cinnamon, black pepper, white pepper, vanilla, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric, coconut and pineapple. Producers farm in the deep jungle, in fertile soils, using traditional farming practices. Their coffees are grown under a two-tier shade canopy made up of a variety of trees.
The cooperative runs a ‘Plant Doctor’ service to help farmers, and an internal control system to mobilize organic and Fairtrade certification. The ‘Plant Doctor’ team provides systematic advice on organic farming and climate change to the entire farming community. The MASS Bio Centre in Santhigram, Idukki District, is an organic training centre which attracts many bio-tourists.
The cooperative works with the company Plantrich to find markets for its produce, and obtain the best prices for farmers.
Benefits of Fairtrade
Members of the MASS General Assembly meet to make decisions about how to invest the Fairtrade Premium.
Quality and productivity
MASS has invested the Fairtrade Premium in various projects to increase the quality and productivity of all their products, including crop rehabilitation, crop renovation and soil conservation.
Sustainability: organic farming
MASS have focussed on promoting organic farming in the region. They run awareness programmes which highlight the issues of using chemicals and pesticides. They have invested the Fairtrade Premium in a programme to supply organic manure and pesticides to increase productivity. The cooperative has also supported farmers with the costs of organic certification.
Coffee and cooperative infrastructure
As the cooperative has grown, they have invested the Fairtrade Premium in both coffee processing equipment and upgrading the regional networks. They have purchased vehicles, weighing equipment and a coffee huller. They have set up 15 farmer-driven collection and knowledge centres and implemented other energy-saving equipment to make their process as efficient as possible.
Social: Education and health
MASS have awarded full scholarships to gifted children. A proportion of the Fairtrade Premium also goes into a fund to help farmers pay for their children’s educational costs.
As most of the cooperative’s farmers live in highland areas which lack proper medical facilities, MASS provides a health insurance scheme for 600 farmers and runs ‘pop-up’ clinics
The cooperative invested Fairtrade Premiums in a project to construct small ponds on farmers’ land so they could conserve water.
The cooperative is investing the Fairtrade Premium in building capacity among women farmers. They hope to attract more female farmers to join the cooperative.
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