Manarcadu Social Service Society (MASS) is a co-operative with a membership of 837 small farmers who it helps and supports with all their farming needs.
About Manarcadu Social Service Society
MASS was formed when a group of ambitious farmers came together in 2001 with the objective of helping the farming community adapt to sustainable agriculture practices and thereby create a better livelihood and a better environment.
Today MASS is a strong community of organic and Fairtrade farmers, with 17 cluster groups that consist of 25 to 50 members each. These groups meet once a month to discuss their prospects and requirements including Fairtrade Premium projects. Decisions of the cluster groups are approved by the elected Board of Directors. The co-operative brings out a bi-monthly newsletter Jaivashree which gives a voice to the farming community.
Of the 837 small and marginal farmers, 144 are women and tribal farmers from Kottayam and Idukki Districts in the state of Kerala. The women farmers also hold leadership roles at the co-operative. Members’ farms are located at high altitudes in the high ranges of Kerala where there are few proper roads or communication facilities. Farmers recycle bio-waste and use biogas plants and vermicompost (composting with worms) in their fields, converting bio-energy for their household needs.
Empowering the community
MASS believes in improving the lives of farmers by training them in sustainable farming practices and equipping them for newer markets and even contributing to their health and family needs.
Fairtrade and Organic Certification
The co-operative conforms to Fairtrade and Organic Standards which enable it to receive premium prices for its range of certified products.
MASS Fairtrade and organic product range:
- Black Pepper ,Whole and Ground
- Cardamom, Whole and Ground
- Clove Buds
- Bird’s Eye Chillies
- Ginger, Sliced and Ground
- Turmeric, Finger and Ground
- Cinnamon, Bark and Ground
- Robusta Coffee Cherry and Parchment
- Arabica Coffee Cherry and Parchment
- Cocoa Beans
- Dried Coconut, Virgin Coconut oil & Coconut water
Benefits of Fairtrade
Fairtrade Premium projects include crop rehabilitation, crop renovation and soil conservation. 150,000 cocoa seedlings, 100,000 spice saplings and cover crops have been planted on hilly terrain to conserve the soil. Farmers also practice construction of small ponds on their land to conserve water. MASS promotes improved infrastructure for processing (cocoa fermentation boxes, solar tunnel dryer for spices, coffee huller) and storage. It has invested $11,000 so far in quality improvements.
MASS provides a health insurance scheme for 600 farmers, the majority from hilly areas that lack proper medical facilities, which reimburses their medical bills. $7,000 of the Fairtrade Premium fund is used for scholarships and to help farmers pay for their children’s education costs.
A cocoa fermentation unit has been established at Manathore, Kottayam District, with a capacity of 10 tonnes of cocoa beans per day. It provides employment for 10 workers including three women.
$2,700 has been invested in training the farmer groups in plant protection methods. A lack of suitable inputs is the main challenge facing MASS, therefore the co-operative has invested $18,500 in supplying organic manure and organic pesticides to increase productivity. Women farmers receive training in cultivation methods as well as harvesting of coffee, cocoa and spices, including selective plucking. A ‘Plant Doctor’ team provides systematic advice on organic farming and climate change to the entire farming community. The MASS Bio Centre at Santhigram, Idukki District is a unique place to organic farmers and attracts many bio tourists.