Small and Marginal Tribal Farmers Mutually Aided Cooperative Society (SAMTFMACS), Araku Valley, Vishakhapatnam district, Andhra Pradesh was formed as an entity (thanks to the Naandi foundation) to allow farmers in the region of Araku Valley to take full control of crop production, harvest, processing, and sale. The members of SAMTFMACS are farmers with small landholdings. On an average each farmer owns around 1 acre (0.40 ha) of land.
The organization has over 11,000 members throughout nearly 600 villages, and is has become India’s only Fairtrade and Organic certified Arabica supplier as well as producing much of its coffee (around 13,000 Hectares) under Bio-Dynamic conditions.
Naandi Foundation came to the then Maoist conflict zone of Araku region in 1999 armed just with a mission of improving the quality and dignity of life, for what was then a marginalised and exploited community. What inspired Naandi were the values of caring and sharing of the tribal community, and our partnership grew out of these values. With patience and hard work, this partnership co-created a global brand of coffee ever mindful of the most important pillars of our success – the farmers, and the ecology of Araku. Thus was created our unique PQR code: Profit for farmers, Quality produce for consumers, and Regenerative agriculture whereby soil and crops get better and better year after year. What one discovers in a cup of Araku coffee is this alchemical partnership between Naandi, the farmers, and the soil, that has given us the gourmet taste of Araku.
These values sparked a coffee revolution among the farmers due to our sustainable and regenerative agricultural approach. Coffee, traditionally grown as a cash crop, had unfortunately become a tool for middle-men and money lenders in Araku for decades to ensure that farmers remain in debt and poverty. However, Naandi was successful in breaking this parasitic dependency by restoring decision-making and power back in the hands of the farmer families. Along with the farming community, Naandi developed what is now the world’s largest fairtrade, organic, coffee cooperative called SAMTFMACS (Small and Marginal Tribal Farmers Mutually Aided Cooperative Society) with 11,814 farmers as on date. A state-of-the-art Coffee Processing Unit (CPU) was set up in Araku, fully equipped with latest machinery such as the Columbian made Penagos coffee pulper. Naandi, in association with Araku Originals Private Limited (AOPL), our for-profit social enterprise, is also the first in the country to receive global accreditation as a Speciality Coffee Association (SCA) Premier Training Campus offering courses on green coffee, barista skills, brewing, and roasting, along with authorized SCA trainers.
For reviving the degraded soils of Araku, Naandi has designed a unique Organic+ agriculture model which uses proprietary bio-inoculants to regenerate the soil and plant health. We incorporate these biological methods to restore the soil microbiome so that the coffee bushes are able to access the rich minerality of the soil, and add increasing complexity to their coffee cupping profiles. Currently working in as many as 568 villages across 7 mandals, we have been skilling farmers in our Organic+ agriculture methodology with fortnightly farmer field schools. Since 2010, we have successfully skilled and trained farmers in farm sanitation and maintenance activities under our Organic+ methodology. To recognise them, we celebrate the farmers of Araku with our annual farmer harvest festival called the ‘Gems of Araku’, where an independent expert jury assesses and identifies the most consistent and highest performing farmers. Over 4000 farmer families join us in these celebrations in March every year.
What sets Araku Coffee apart is the detailed terroir application using GPS mapping of each and every plot. This terroir classification is based on plot exposition, slope, soil type, shade, elevation, etc. – all of which affects the final taste profile of the coffee. For over 16 years, we have trained the farmers of Araku to identify the worth of their coffee by integrating their keen agri-knowledge with global coffee experts’ inputs, to refine this now globally acclaimed brand: Araku Coffee – organically certified, traceable, and sustainably grown with
shared value. At Naandi we have successfully built this global brand on our 3T philosophy – transparency, trust and traceability. The most evident result of promoting healthy, sustainable organic+ practices on farms for the past decade has been the high Cup of Excellence scores Araku Coffee has attained over the years. In 2018, Araku Coffee won the prestigious Gold Medal for the ‘Best Coffee Pod’ in the Prix Epicures OR 2018 Award in Paris, France.
As our interventions in coffee cultivation began showing visible improvement in the health of coffee farms of the region, farmers of Araku expressed enthusiasm to restore their forests lost over time. Because of this, we piloted a massive reforestation programme by partnering with the Paris based carbon offset group (Livelihoods Fund) and Indian industrial giant (Mahindra and Mahindra) to reforest thousands of acres of Araku with as many as 28 varieties of indigenous fruit and forest trees. In 2020 alone, we have planted 1.3 million fruit and forest trees in 242 villages despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Apart from this we have also been supplying farmers with new varieties of coffee seedlings. Since 2010, we have raised and supplied farmers with over 4.8 million coffee seedlings, out of which 1 million were supplied in 2020. With 26 million new coffee and fruit and timber tree resources, Araku is well on its way to ecological healing, and social and economic well-being for its people. We call this transformation – “Arakunomics”.