As many of you will know, my recent Spice Discovery journey to Kerala coincided with one of the worst natural disasters in the state’s recorded history. In short, the rainfall which came down in the first 20 days of the month was the highest on record in 100 years. Over 1 million people were displaced from their homes, over 400 lost their lives, and the damage caused is being calculated in the billions of dollars. A short summary of the situation is on the video below.
I landed at Cochin airport just 12 hours before the airport was closed As I made my way up towards Idukki, where our partners and farmers are based, the rain fell torrentially, and we had to negotiate several land slides across the road: one of which occurred just in front of us. It took many hours to reach my guest house in Idukki, where I thankfully fell exhausted into bed.
The next morning our partner from the local Spice Farmers’ Cooperative told me they had had to close their facility until further notice. Only the main road was open, and this barely so. All the side roads to people’s homes & the farms were under water or had been washed away: unpassable. Many were stranded, and if any more rain were to fall, rescue operations would need to start. I had no choice but to evacuate.
Joey, a most kind and selfless man from the local cooperative drove me over 12 hours to Trivandrum airport where a couple of flights were operating to Delhi. It was a long and tiring journey, during which we witnessed helicopter rescues, boat rescues and dozens of ambulances. We took huge detours, forded lightly flooded roads and even helped to clear landslides
Of the farmer groups that we work with, the good news is that there have been no reported casualties. However, hundreds were severely affected: many who fled to relocation camps are now slowly returning to their homes to assess the damage. Thus far it has been reported that at least 20 of our farmers have lost their homes, and in total, 200 hectares of farmland has been destroyed to this 100 year storm.
These farmers are resilient, yet they live a mostly subsistence lifestyle. Very few have the resources to rebuild homes or to cope with the financial loss of an entire year’s crop. Our local Spice Farmers’ Cooperative are now visiting every farm to assess the damage and their needs in more detail. They are well organised, closely in touch with what’s happening on the ground and have the resources to respond effectively.
One of the things that I love about Spice Origin is that we have fostered connections between producer and consumer. Those of you that enjoy our produce have a direct connection to the farmers that put their hands in the soil and nurtured those plants; to the people who cleaned, dried, ground and steamed the turmeric to turn it into the golden nectar that forms the basis of our products. You may have watched videos of me squatting in fields talking to these farmers and understanding why they choose to farm organically and listen to their wise philosophies. It is thanks to these men and women that we have access to a high quality natural product that delights and enhances our wellbeing.
But, right now, they are struggling. Ben and I, are in constant communication with our local cooperative in Kerala and are assessing how best we can help. We will be in touch when our plans are solidified. In the meantime, I hope you will join us in sparing a thought for our extended families at this most difficult time.