Cloves were initially grown only in Indonesia, and the trade was tightly controlled by the Dutch. After the Dutch monopoly was broken, the spice was brought to other origins, including Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Commorros, and India.
The cloves sourced by our Well Earth program are of Sri Lankan origin. These cloves — which are the unripened flower buds of the tree Syzygium aromaticum — have some of the highest oil content we've ever seen.
We purchase the highest oil cloves in two grades — Hand Selected, which are the top quality whole cloves, and Grade 1, which are ground to produce a superior ground product.
They are grown by small scale, marginalized farmers — usually farming less than 1 hectare — who have organized in a self–governing cooperative. One of the ways we have helped our Well Earth partners in Sri Lanka is by helping to fund a training center where farmers learn methods of organic and sustainable agriculture.
A father of four, Mr. Wijethilaka owns just three-quarters of an acre, on which he grows cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, tea, pepper, lemongrass, fruit trees and a few other items -- all intercropped to create a huge amount of biodiversity. A hydroelectric project displaced his wife's family -- along with many others -- from the homes where they'd lived for several generations. The government offered the uprooted families small amounts of land on an abandoned tea estate; little compensation given the poor quality of the farmland. This land is the Wijethilaka family's livelihood.
Some eight years ago, Mr. Wijethilaka was nearly ready to give up farming as all he could produce was 6 kg of tea leaves per month. However, at that point he became a member of SOFA (Small Organic Farmers Association). With their help and guidance, he's increased his tea yields to nearly 45 kg per month and established a wealth of other commercial products on his farm. Being a member of the SOFA community has offered him the chance at above average prices (a living wage) along with access to Fair Trade social premiums to help invest in continued development of his farm and community. It has even allowed him to install a well on his property so that he no longer has to walk a half kilometer for his drinking water, as many of his neighbors do. Perhaps a 15 cent per kg Fair Trade premium doesn't sound like much, but small farmers here earn only about $900 per year. For them, a little is truly a lot.
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