FTAK is a small farmers’ organisation located in South India that grows coffee and many other products including cashew nuts and tropical spices.
Formed in 2006, FTAK is a farmer-led movement whose members are located in four hilly districts of the Western Ghats of Kerala. Cashew growers are mainly in Kasargod and Kannur regions and spice growers mainly in Kozhikode and Wayanad.
FTAK was created to enable farmers to access the global market and improve their income through Fairtrade. Farmers in Kerala face many challenges including food security, the appropriation of rural land, the effects of pests and disease on their livelihoods, destruction of crops by wildlife, and the unwillingness of the younger generation to continue with agriculture. But the major challenges are the falling prices of commodities and the growing indebtedness of farmers which has led to a spate of farmer suicides.
Background and structure
FTAK actively promotes organic farming for its economic and environmental benefits, with all members now in conversion to certified organic production. FTAK also acts on behalf of its members to access government-aided programmes such as crop insurance, provision of organic inputs and farmer training.
FTAK and 11 producer co-operatives in Malawi, Nicaragua and Bolivia jointly own a 44% share in UK-based Fairtrade nut company Liberation Foods. Ownership of the company means they have an active role in its governance and more power within their supply chain.
FTAK is implementing programmes to help the least economically developed groups among its members. By acknowledging the central role women play in farming and promoting homestead farming, women gain control over their families’ food, and the wide variety of food grown on small farms greatly increases their families’ food security.
Production and sales
FTAK now has over 4,500 members, around 10% of them women. Crops are grown on 5,800ha, with an average farm size of 1.47ha.
Coconuts are the largest product by volume (3,934 tonnes) followed by cashew nuts (1,124 tonnes) and coffee (514 tonnes), while smaller volumes of spices such as turmeric (66 tonnes) and cinnamon (500kg) are produced.
Farmers deliver their products to local depots where they are purchased by FTAK’s partner organisation Elements Homestead Products. They are then transported to processing units and processed into green coffee, coconut oil and nut oil etc and packed ready for export.
FTAK was Fairtrade certified in 2006 for a wide range of products: cocoa, coffee, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, mace, black and white pepper, cardamom, turmeric, cashew nuts, and coconuts. FTAK receives at least the Fairtrade Minimum Price from Elements for sales of these products. It is also paid the Fairtrade Premium, an additional sum to invest in business or social projects selected by FTAK’s members.
Fairtrade Premium projects
A large part of the Fairtrade Premium is invested in converting farms to organic production so that farmers can benefit from higher prices and access premium markets. It is also used to help farmers meet organic certification costs.
The premium has been invested in solar powered electric fencing to protect farms on the edge of forests from the local elephants. The fences provide a mild shock to deter the animals and prevent the destruction of their crops.
FTAK has invested the premium in a disaster management fund. This is very important, especially for the farmers on the hillsides. At monsoon time there are landslides which can wreak havoc. Government aid is often delayed and inadequate and the farmers need immediate assistance, especially when they are left homeless and their crops destroyed.
FTAK also uses the premium to make cash payments to members and has invested in the construction of new office premises.