In the articles below, you can read the stories of two families which work in the Fair Trade projects set up by Verstegen Spices & Sauces. A family that grows vanilla in a small village in India and another family that cultivates nutmeg in an old village in the vicinity of Ambon, Indonesia. Two totally different countries and families, but both involving one aim: to offer better prospects for these two families and, at the same time, get more control over the quality of the raw materials
The story behind Nutmeg
Abdul Rajab Asawala is a young farmer, 39 years of age. He is married to Djainap Ollong (34) and they live together with their four children in the old village of Hila near Ambon, Indonesia. The oldest is 19 and has completed the SMP (comparable to lower general secondary education). Unfortunately, he is unemployed at the moment. The second child is 17 and goes to the SMP. Their third child is 11 and attends the SD (primary school). The youngest is two and is still cared for lovingly by its mother.
A couple of years ago, Rajab bought a piece of land in the Uku Telu neighbourhood in the old village of Hila and has since built a house there. Rajab has 100 nutmeg trees of his own and, on top of that, has rented another 40. All in all, it does not usually mean a lot of work for him; due to the size and shape of the trees, relatively few weeds grow underneath them. He only has to keep checking if there are any fruits ready for picking. The real work does not start for him until a lot of fruits are ripe for picking. Then, he spends a lot of time in his garden and he has built a walang there, a rest house where his family also eats and shelters. He has planted a large number of young trees, which will not be producing their first fruits until 6 or 7 years from now. After 10 years, they yield the most fruit. Nutmeg trees live for over 50 years.
Rajab is a hard worker. He also has a kebon, an allotment, where he grows various vegetables for his personal use and where there are also a number of clove trees, banana trees, coconut palms and cocoa bushes. At home, he also sells cigarettes, petroleum for lighting and he keeps a number of chickens, the chicks of which he sells. In addition, he has bought a number of large tarpaulins, which he hires out when there is a party somewhere. Besides all of this, he still find time for his big hobby, fishing.
Abdul is very pleased that a nutmeg company has now also been established in the village. He is eager to take his nutmeg and mace there because he knows that Verstegen is a loyal customer that pays a good price. On top of this, it saves him time because otherwise he would have to go all the way to Ambon to sell his nuts, which also costs extra money. When asked if he knows why it is so important for the nuts to be clean and properly dry, he nods his head in confirmation. He has already been told a lot about the quality of nutmeg.
The new enterprise presents plenty of opportunities for his family. For the future, Abdul mainly hopes that things will work out well for his family
The story behind vanilla
In India, to the south of Goa, in the state of Karnataka and near the town of Sirsi, lies the village of Hulgol. Past the village runs the river Shalmala, which makes this a highly fertile environment with a perfect tropical climate for the growth of various spices. In this village, Verstegen’s beautifully scented vanilla is produced and packed.
Rajesh is 34 years old and married to Madhura, with whom he has a four year-old daughter named Neha. She goes to the village school, like all children in this part of India. In this part of India, as much as 80% of the population can read and write, more than the average in India. Rajesh’s biggest wish is a peaceful life together with his wife and little daughter. Working on the land with the beautiful organic vanilla contributes to this of course. Verstegen pays a higher price than the market value and, together with Verstegen investments are made to improve the quality all the time.
The vanilla comes from an orchid that only flowers for one day; the flower then has to be pollinated by hand within 12 hours. After about 9 months, the green vanilla bean can be harvested, after which it is processed for 3 months until it has turned into a fragrant black bean. Every plant ultimately yields 1 to 1.5 kg of vanilla per year. Rajesh is an important farmer in the village. He himself has no less than 16,000 vanilla plants around his house. In addition, he has agreements with other villagers who are united in a cooperative, all working 100% organically.
He also processes vanilla for them, and then he packs it especially for Verstegen in individual vacuum packs to retain the special scent and flavour until it reaches your kitchen.
The story of Jomy
Jomy George is al sinds 25 jaar met volle overtuiging biologisch boer. Sinds 20 jaar heeft hij een mooi stuk grond van twee hectare vlakbij zijn woonplaats Kanakkary. Dit is een dorp een uur rijden van Cochin in de staat Kerala, in het zuiden van India.
Op zijn stuk grond staan veel gewassen door elkaar. Hiermee voorkom je immers dat er ongedierte en ziektes opkomen, de planten beschermen elkaar en je hoeft geen pesticide te gebruiken. Zo heeft Jomy kruidnagel, nootmuskaat, peper, vanille, gember, banaan en kokosnoot staan. De bladeren van de bananenplant en de vezels van de kokosnoot worden gebruikt om op het land zelf compost te maken in een grote bak. Op het land werken, behalve hij zelf, twee vrouwen uit het dorp. Ze verzorgen de planten maar zullen niet snel schoffelen; juist een bedekte bodem maakt dat de vruchtbare grond niet wegspoelt en de grond niet snel uitdroogt, waardoor hij minder hoeft te irrigeren. De twee vrouwen verdienen 200 rupees per dag, dat is maar liefst 50 % meer dan het minimum loon in deze staat. Jomy laat vol trots een grote termietenhoop zien. Termieten komen alleen als de bodem schoon is, ze hebben bovendien weer een functie in het luchtig houden van de grond.
Jomy (43 jaar) is getrouwd met Bessy en hij heeft drie kinderen, George van 16, Ann Mary van 11 en de jongste, Jomon, is 8. Natuurlijk gaan ze naar school, zoals als overigens de meeste kinderen in dit deel van India. Jomy is naast zijn werk als boer ook actief in het maatschappelijk werk, hij geeft voorlichting over de gevaren van het gebruik van alcohol en tabak.