Yishui Xingye, China
The farmers of the Yishui Xingye Association live in the Chinese province of Shandong on the lower reaches of the Yellow River, which flows into the Yellow Sea a few hundred kilometers away. This province ranks first in China when it comes to the cultivation of nuts. The Yishui Xingye farmers' cooperative contributes about 450 tons of peanuts annually.
Typically, a single farmer and his family cultivate between 10 and 60 hectares. In addition to peanuts, corn, sweet potato, wheat and soybeans are the most important crops. The leased land is divided into small plots, which are comparable in size to Swiss allotments. Some of the plots are located on slopes. Stone walls are used to terrace the cultivated areas and protect them from erosion.
The partnership between the German Naturkost Ernst Weber GmbH and the Chinese farmers' cooperative has existed since 1997. At that time, the organic cultivation methods of these small farmers were awarded the national Green Food AA certification, which in China stands for pesticide-free production. However, before the first container with organic peanuts according to the EU organic standard arrived in Switzerland, "Naturkost Ernst Weber GmbH" had to do some pioneering work. Several on-site visits were necessary to establish contact with high authorities, such as the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture.
In addition, the EU organic certification required further training on the subject of organic farming, and a mutual crash course in intercultural competence was needed before cooperation could run smoothly.
The peanut harvest takes place every year in September. During this time, the villages belonging to the Yishui Xingye Association are visited and the annual harvest is bought from the farmers for cash. All peanuts are processed centrally. The processing factory is now located in the south of the province in Linyi. The factory is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and processes only organically produced raw materials. The peanut kernels are sorted, cleaned, blanched, temporarily stored and packed there. From the factory, the containers are transported by truck to the port of Qingdao and from there on to Europe by ship..
In 2009, the cooperative also received FLO Fairtrade certification. Thanks to the membership, the farmers feel more independent and have been able to improve their economic situation.