Read about what we are currently doing in our beloved Cambodia
After two hours of an exhausting journey on the motorbike at noon in 38 degrees we reach the farm of our farmer Tav Bora. It’s one of the 203 farms we support. We’re greeted with warm arms and wide smiles. “Look, the whole family is smiling and has beautiful teeth!” I notice right away, because it’s not commonplace in Cambodia, quite the opposite.
Healthcare - dental even more so - is extremely expensive. For us, it’s a sign that our work is meaningful. Just so you understand - health care in Cambodia is expensive, and that’s why we try to encourage most of our farmers to invest the money from fair trade sales in 3 areas - health care, school fees for children and farm cultivation.
But now for the smile.
Our colleagues Ales, Tom and Lukas have come to Kampot farms for the first time. They made their own decision and bought their tickets because they wanted to experience Cambodia for themselves. They are a bit shy in front of the farmers, I teach them how to bow and greet properly.
Farmer Tav Bora is as cheerful as ever and prepares coconuts and fruits from her garden for us. Her husband, daddy and 3 other daughters help her. “We are doing well,” she says. “I have 6 children - 3 daughters and 3 sons - all at university, just imagine! I’m most proud of my daughter, she wants to be a doctor, look, she goes to school on Saturdays,” pointing to her daughter who is dressed in more festive clothes.
We sit and talk. Our two Cambodian colleagues Ajaa and Nicky - the heart of the project - who the farmers know very well are there supporting us and translating the whole time. Young people who themselves come from the streets and are now helping us with the most beautiful project.
This year has been terribly difficult and the war in Ukraine and its effects on many levels have affected our project, we agree with Tav Bora. She understands the situation well and that we are doing our best and confirms to us that just as she could always rely on us, we can rely on her.
She simply doesn’t want to work with anyone else. “You are the only ones who pay us official fair trade prices and the only ones who have always cared and been interested in us. There are others now who would like to buy our pepper, but we will eventually sell them only what is left over,” she says, describing the situation.
This is extremely important for us because we feel that the support for the project is also coming from the farms. We talk for about an hour about what is bothering them. My colleagues run around the farm and see the beautifully grown pepper trees for the first time.
They get involved in collecting the green peppercorns with the young women farmers who are on shift. “I can’t believe it, I never realized that ball by ball could be so much handwork!” laments my colleague Tomáš, who has only been working for a few minutes.
Back at the house my colleague Aleš is playing “Memory” with the girls and explaining to them what animals we have here. The girls are excited and keep the pexeso cards. They taste our homemade dried apples and plums and completely forget about the time. My colleague Lukas is lost on the farm and excitedly runs between the pepper fields and the animals. They’ll love it. The sunset slowly comes and we all gather to leave.
Klara’s fingers are black from picking up fresh green pepper, ”it’s like picking walnuts back home!” she laughs. Lukáš wants to adopt a dog, Tomáš takes a bite of fresh green peppercorns, David and Aaja take notes from their sessions with the farmers so that there is always room for improvement. We get on our bikes, sweaty and dirty, and leave at sunset for the two-hour ride back to town.
We are tired but full of euphoria. Full of enthusiasm and love for the project, which when you see on the ground itself, fills you with great happiness and love. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a .pepper..field graphic designer, event manager, or taking care of customers on the e-shop.
You then pass on that goodness in the details - to our customers - who know that the real and truly fair project with Kampot pepper is called .pepper..field :)