What makes a Storimarket producer or farmer different?
We set up Storimarket to offer customers an alternative to anonymous, unsustainable and unethical food. Instead, we wanted to work with producers and farmers who were putting people and the planet before profit. With a European-African team, aware of the African continent’s huge agricultural potential, it was natural we focused on Africa. However, we are also aware that the continent will only benefit if it is realised in an environmentally- and community-friendly way. That’s why we only work with farmers and producers who are doing things in a way that is good for the environment, good for communities and good for business. But what does this really mean?
Let’s start with the environment. Firstly, it’s about the land. A lot of agricultural produce we buy is grown in mono-culture - such as supermarket bananas. This is not good for the soil, can over-exploit water resources and can cause disease to spread. On the other hand, small farmers overwhelmingly practice poly-culture, which means they grow multiple different crops on the same land. For example Marta and her daughter, who work with The Epicurious Hedgehog in Tanzania, grow vanilla, bananas and coffee as well as raising cows. The poly-culture approach, as well as providing multiple income streams to the farmer, mimics the diversity of natural ecosystems, which reduces the number of pest, weed and disease outbreaks.
Secondly, it's about wildlife. Vast swathes of primary rain forest have been cleared to make way for agriculture. At best, this has robbed wildlife of their natural habitat. At worst, this may have led to species becoming extinct before we even knew of their existence. On the other hand, it is possible for farmers and wildlife not just to co-exist, but thrive. Take Asante Mama, who produce our delicious cacao beans. On their farm, on the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda, they devote a whole ten acres to natural forest and wildlife, including the Uganda’s national bird: the Crested Crane. They also operate a no-kill policy, even for snakes for which they provide gum boots to their farmers. Whilst this may be more difficult than driving the wildlife off the land - particularly when the monkeys swing through the trees at dusk to steal cacao pods - they believe that they should put the planet before profit.
Finally, it’s about respecting, not exploiting nor wasting, natural resources. Due to an unrealistic demand for perfection, a huge amount of food is cast aside before it even reaches supermarkets. Even more food is left to rot as farmers cannot find a market. Tei started her company Azuri Health to change that. Noticing the huge amount of mangoes that went to waste at the end of each season, she started drying and packaging them in Kenya. This not only reduces food waste, but improves incomes for the farmers with whom she works to produce her delicious dried mangoes. A win-win.
Next, good for communities. What does that mean?
Firstly, secure and decent income. The world needs farmers to be fairly rewarded for what they do. However, that’s not always the case. Many farmers, in both Europe and Africa, live in poverty. For example, in West Africa, having seen their cocoa-farming fathers toil with little noticeable improvement in their living conditions, sons are not following them into agriculture. This doesn’t have to be the case. Asante Mama was set up by Pamela after the Ugandan civil war to encourage and support people to adopt commercial farming in rural areas. By adopting a fair and long-term approach, Asante Mama’s farmers, such as Rose who grows cacao, are able to improve their lives - building a home for her and her family.
One of the major challenges for small farmers is cash flow and stable prices. When they are planting crops at the start of the season, when they need money, most of the cash from the last harvest has already been spent. Credit is expensive and risky, especially as climate change increases the probability of bad harvests. At harvest, when they have produce to sell, so does every other farmer, giving unscrupulous middle-men the opportunity to exploit them.
That’s why the long-term and fair relationships Storimarket producers have with small farmers are key. For example, Ten Senses work to improve the livelihoods of macadamia nut farmers in Kenya, by applying fair trade principles. Ten Senses now work with over one thousand farmers from Taita Hills, Meru and central regions in Kenya. By being there when farmers are planting, supporting them during the growing season and offering good prices on harvest, Ten Senses ensure farmers maximise their crop volumes, thereby earning more money, which they can use to improve their lives.
At Storimarket, when we say our products don’t just taste good, but do good - we really, really mean it. Good for the environment. Good for communities. And good for business. Storimarket provides a way for you to buy direct from these amazing producers and farmers who have embraced a better way to produce your food. We also bring you their amazing stories on our Facebook and Instagram pages. They don’t want your handouts, but your fair trade. By buying from them you are telling them your appreciate what they are doing for people and the planet, and sending a message against farmers and producers who are not doing the same.