Fruit trees irrigated by glacial melt water from the Karakorum and Himalayan Mountains produce the delicious apricots grown by Mountain Fruits Growers Association in northern Pakistan.
While the uniquely bright and tangy “hunza” apricot produced in this region is a delicacy around the world, the living and working conditions in this region are extremely harsh and many of the farmers live in poverty. Very hot summers and cold winters are combined with poor infrastructure to make life extremely difficult for the farmers and their families.
Mountain Fruits is a fair trade company that was started in 2000. It has helped farmers to take advantage of the apricot glut season, during which more fruits are produced than can be consumed or sold at the time of harvest. Mountain Fruits trains farmers of this region to use solar energy to dry and process the fruit and trains them to improve their agricultural and organic techniques in order to improve production.
Mountain Fruits Growers Association, whose direct employees are all women, facilitates pre-financing credit to farmers for the production of apricots and other fruits and provides them with access to fair trade buyers. The Association also trains farmers in best farming and post-harvest practices and has two facilities where fruits and nuts are graded and processed.
The more than 6,000 farmers who are members of the Mountain Fruits Growers Association vote each year on how their fair trade premium will be spent. In recent years, this money has been used to provide school books and other materials to local schools, to pay for school fees for children who cannot afford them, to improve irrigation systems, to purchase sewing machines and to build a new playground, water tanks, and a generator.
Before Fair Trade, farmers used to dry the apricots for local consumption...The women had to sell the apricots to local traders at any price since they had no other option, there was no other market. But now they are exporting and benefiting from an attractive price. And the money they are getting, they are investing it, especially in sending their daughters to school.”
-ROSHAN GHAZI, Mountain Fruits Growers Association