Pepper has been traded at least since Roman times – at one time being worth its weight in gold – and today it accounts for about 35% of the total world trade in spices. Pepper was a key spice driving the explorations for spice routes that opened passages to India and, in that quest, led to the colonization of the Americas.
Our Well Earth program sources black pepper from two countries – India and Sri Lanka. Indian pepper is highly prized for being very uniform in size and complex in flavor. Sri Lankan pepper has generally smaller peppercorns, and they are more varied in size. The flavor of the Sri Lankan pepper is less complex and somewhat hotter.
Both our Indian and Sri Lankan pepper comes from small, marginalized farmers who have organized in self-governing cooperatives. The size of their farms averages less than 1 hectare. The farmers in both countries practice poly–cropping, often growing more than a dozen crops on their small plots of land – often several cash crops along with vegetables for home consumption.
We have provided money to train our pepper farmers in a variety of sustainable practices, such as organic farming methods, composting, vermiculture, record keeping and pest management. We funded the training of more than 900 farmers in India and a Sri Lankan training center serving several thousand farmers.
Joseph Devasia and his wife are proud of what they have been able to accomplish on their 2.8 hectares of hilly, jungle-like land. The Devasia's small, but diverse farm is one of Frontier's sources for organic black pepper. But as we hike around his farm, Mr. Devasia points out other crops he is growing — vanilla, coffee, cloves, nutmeg, cocoa, coconut, ginger and turmeric, as well as vegetables to feed his family. He is fortunate enough to have two cows so he can collect and use their manure in his small biogas unit that provides fuel for cooking the family's meals.
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