The Fine Alternative
It took several years of hard work but finally it has paid off and Colombian farmers are thrilled. Our initiative gave way to the commitment by SWISSAID to sponsor a project that in its first stage of three years will benefit 2300 people of which 360 are direct beneficiaries of the Cardamom Project.
Cardamom Brings Hope To Colombian Farmers.
The SWISSAID federation has given the green light to the cooperative of Colombian farmers from Caramanta to begin growing cardamom in what will be at first 40 hectares of land in the south east region of Antioquia.
In september of 2011, SWISSAID officials visited the south-east Colombian area of Caramanta, to research and study the viability of the Cardamom farming as a potential project that would benefit the community and bring people out of poverty.
SWISSAID is one of Switzerland’s leading aid organizations, founded in 1948. They are involved in cooperative development projects in nine countries, influencing policy-makers on development in Switzerland, and informing people about the causes of poverty and underdevelopment. They have 122 staff worldwide, 31 of whom work in Switzerland.
Back in March, 2012 with the final commitment by SWISSAID the project got its green light. Each farmer was awarded with a grant for a minimum of 650 seedlings or “Kolinos” to get them started in Cardamom Farming. These grants to small farmers help pay for the investment in crop diversification until the first harvest.
Traditionally, the families in this area have made a living mainly from coffee cultivation. However, several years of steady decline in prices on the coffee market as well as disease and pests have made it unprofitable to cultivate the crop, even with the incentives of the Colombian Government.
“Cardamom will be another staple product in my farm. The good thing is that i don’t need to stop cultivating coffee.”
Cardamom in Caramanta grows next to coffee plants and under the shadow of trees, with no use of chemicals whatsoever making it the first step towards Organic Certification, the project guidelines mandate organic cultivation methods to be used exclusively.
“The most remarkable aspect about this project is the social impact that is generating” says one of the project precursors. Mr. Alonso Munera, who’s been in the Cardamom business for many years and foresees a remarkable future for Colombian Cardamom over the next decade.
A farmer participating in the project stands to make a net profit of around $4,000 per hectare.
However, in a region where 70 per cent of the population live below the poverty line, they are left with little flexibility for experiments and failures. “But things have worked out really well so far, thank goodness!” says farmer Iván Dario Rincón.
The project means big business, Cardamom being one of the priciest spices on the market only behind vanilla and saffron.
The market for Cardamom is expanding, not only in Asia, Africa and Europe but all over the world, Cardamom is becoming more of a household item and less of an ethnic spice these days. Here in New York you can find it in North American Pastries, in Cocktails, in Fusion style couisine, it’s the trendiest spice of 2012 according to Mc Cormic, one of the leading spices purveyors in the country. The various uses of cardamom are remarkable, no wonder in India is known as the Queen of Spices.
“What people most recognize about Colombian Cardamom is its freshness, its taste and aroma and the quality of the pod, that’s where we have to focus our efforts” says Jaime Munera, director of Merit Trade, the Colombian-American company that negotiated a supply contract for all of the Cardamom produced on the project, Merit Trade provides training seminars and support for the farmers and will also contribute half of the building costs for the processing plant, while the farmers and SWISSAID fund the rest. The processing plant will bring jobs to 180 land labourers and temporary work to many.
Merit Trade has been exporting Colombian Cardamom among other products from neighboring regions over the past few years.“Without the commitment and the contract from Merit Trade, the project simply could’ve not been approved, we are thankful to have everything in place to get the project rolling” says a member of the local farmer’s association who foresees a bright future for colombian farmers in the Cardamom business for years to come.
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The farmers need training, support and financial assistance for crop conversion. Thank you for your help!