The Organic and Fair Trade Rice Project supports small rice farmers in India and Thailand in improving their livelihoods through organic farming practices and access to markets via a direct long-term partnership with Reismuehle Nutrex and Coop Switzerland.
Project NameFair and Good – for People and Planet
Project Phase2011 to 2025
Thematic focusWASH & Water Governance
Private Sector Development
Many smallholder rice farmers in Northern India and North-eastern Thailand increasingly struggle for their livelihoods. Caused by global warming they are increasingly confronted with droughts or floods that affect their crops. Moreover, low market prices and high costs for agricultural inputs result in low net revenues. As a consequence, numerous smallholders are highly indebted. In addition, the unsustainable farming practices pose a serious threat to local ecosystems, water resources and biodiversity.
Organic production and fair trade of traditional basmati and jasmine rice varieties enables smallholder farmers to improve their livelihoods while safeguarding the environment. In 2011, Coop Switzerland in collaboration with Helvetas launched an innovative project to support 4’500 family farms in India and Thailand to convert to organic farming and to sell their produce at fair trade conditions. Today, ecologically produced rice from these areas can be found in the shelves of Coop. In 2022 the Coop Sustainability Fund agreed to a new project looking beyond the actual rice value chains addressing two salient issues: 1) Which interventions are required to assure that farmers producing rice can make a decent living from it? This is called a “living income”. 2) Which interventions are required to assure a long-term production of rice in times of a changing climate and a loss of biodiversity? The approach chosen is called a “landscape approach”, which helps to identify and implement measures for the benefit of the entire eco-system and the people living in it.
This is a project of the Reismuehle Nutrex, a division of Coop, in close collaboration with local partners, producer organizations and companies in India and Thailand. Helvetas advises this project thematically. The involvement of the private sector ensures that the value chains continue once the project is over. The innovative project set-up creates a win-win-win situation for farmers, businesses and the environment. Consumers get an attractive product with proven positive impact at production level.
Sustained yields, lower production costs and higher product prices ensure that farmers who participate in the project earn significantly higher net incomes than before and comparable conventional farmers. The project engages to assure full traceability of the product from farm to fork. The calculation of “Living Income Reference Prices” provides the basis to discuss about fair incomes even beyond the fairtrade premiums. Based on an extensive landscape assessment the project identifies in a participatory manner interventions to improve people’s resilience to climate change, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and preserve biodiversity. Among the financing mechanisms explored are carbon payments such as already introduced through a Biogas project that Helvetas implemented in collaboration with Coop, WWF and myclimate.