Fair Trade Alliance of Kerala (FTAK)
Kerala is a small state in South India that lies on a narrow coastal plain between the Western Ghats mountain range and the Arabian Sea. It’s a beautiful agricultural region, one traditionally gripped by poverty and a system of indebtedness that turns regional farmers into virtual slaves of the rich markets in the West. At times, particularly in the early 21st century, farmers weren’t even earning enough to cover the cost of the goods they produced.
By forming a co-operative and joining an authentic fair trade system, FTAK farmers are now able to access fair trade markets, diversify their crops, manage market fluctuations, and improve their own food security needs. Today, the 4,500 members of FTAK produce a variety of crops for export, including coffee, ginger, pepper, coconuts, rice, and, our most recent favorite, cashews!
Kerala is the cashew capital of the world. According to our friends at Equal Exchange, 60–70 percent of Kerala’s cashew production is slated for the international markets. Now that the FTAK members have access to a fair trade system, cashews have once again become lucrative and today are FTAK’s most important export product.
FTAK farmers receive a minimum price, always above market, for all of their exports. The additional fair trade premium they receive is used to reinvest in their farms and social projects for their communities. Examples include a disaster management fund, community kitchens, bicycles for school children, drinking water programs; zero-interest loans, and financial assistance to help farmers with organic conversion. FTAK farmers have also used premiums to build processing facilities for cashews and spices, keeping more opportunity in the community.