23 November 2005

Fruits Of The Himalaya

Fruits Of The Himalaya Fruits of the Himalaya is a new Fair Trade business based in the Indian Himalaya. Fair Trade is an ethical system of trading intended to protect the rights of small producers by ensuring they receive a fair share of the profits from the entire product chain.

Sonia Kundu runs this organization and in her own words:

Just a few things; it is important to let people know that this is not an NGO. It is not a charity. It will (hopefully!) be a self sustaining business. The idea is to help people who are able to work by teaching them better business practices and giving them better access to markets as well as paying them premium prices in return for providing a grade A quality product (I give the training on how to achieve this).

Whilst charity has a very real place in society for orphans or victims of abuse or of natural disasters, in other cases it can have a negative effect. Where people are able to work, offering them a step up through business gives them a better sense of diginity and does not take away their pride.

In the initial set up phase, however, I have hit some problems. Mainly that there was a massive flood in July - a cloudburst over the source of the Palachan river which has carried so much debris down the river bed that it has practically buried the river!

This has meant that much of the drying technology will have to be redesigned. There is no electricity in that region and I had been planning to povide all of the processing unit's electrical needs with a pico hydro unit. But with very little water now, that may not be possible. Electricity is required because the products I am working with all come during the monsoon which is obviously very humid. Simple solar drying technologies will not be adequate.

I am trying to design a CHEAP (and therefore replicable at village level) technology for drying in extremely humid conditions without electricity.

This also has to be incorporated into requirements for organic and HACCP certification which is necessary for the export markets in which I have orders. The drying unit is constructed as a polyhouse with seperate sections for grading and drying. It must be like this so that the inside can be completely washed down twice a day.

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