Yishui Xingye Association, China
About the Yishui Xingye Association
The farmers of the Yishui Xingye Association live in the Chinese Province of Shandong at the lower section of the Yellow River, which flows into the Yellow Sea a few hundred kilometres further down. Out of the whole of China, this region is leading in the cultivation of peanuts. The farmers’ Cooperative Yishui Xingye contributes approximately 450 tons of peanuts per year to this top position.
Typically, a single farmer cultivates between 10 to 60 hectares of land with his family. In addition to peanuts, the key crops are maize, sweet potato, wheat and soyabeans.
For this purpose, the leased land is subdivided into small lots of land – comparable in size to a Swiss family garden. Some of these lots of land are located on a slope. If this is the case, the land is terraced with stonewalls in order to protect it against erosion from rainfall.
The partnership between the German company Naturkost Ernst Weber GmbH and the Chinese farmers‘ Cooperative has been in existence since 1997. In those days, the organic cultivation method of these small farmers was labelled with the Chinese national Green Food AA-Certification, which in China stands for a pesticide-free production.
Before the first container with organic peanuts, produced along EU-organic-standards, could set out for Switzerland, a considerable amount of pioneer work was required by Naturkost Ernst Weber GmbH. In order to establish contacts with high authorities – for example the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture – numerous on-site visits were required. Furthermore, on-going training on the subject of organic farming was needed for the organic certification of European standards. And finally, a mutual crash-course in intercultural competences turned out to be a crucial factor for a smooth and successful cooperation.
The peanut harvest takes place every year in September. During this period, all the villages which belong to the Yishui Xingye Association are visited and the yearly yield is bought from the farmers for cash. All peanuts are processed centrally; at present the processing plant is located in the South of the Province in the city of Linyi. This state-of-the-art factory processes exclusively organic raw material. The peanuts are sorted, washed, blanched, temporarily stored and finally packaged. From the factory the containers make their way by truck to the harbour of Qingdao and from there onwards to Europe by cargo ship.
In 2009 the cooperative obtained the FLO Fairtrade certification. The farmers come up with suggestions on which community projects they would like to appropriate these funds. After four years of experience with the fairtrade label, the feedback from the Cooperative can be said to be positive. Thanks to their affiliation to the Cooperation the farmers not only feel more independent but have also been able to improve their general economic situation. Between 2009 and 2013 the Cooperative had roughly 45‘000 USD of premiums for various projects at its disposal.
In 2014 it is planned to buy high-quality compost as well as organic-certified agricultural pesticides for the peanut plants. Furthermore, young trees will be planted on the locations on a slope in order to minimize soil erosion and hedges will be grown as a natural barrier against conventionally farmed areas of land. These improvements were possible mainly thanks to the fairtrade premiums.