The 50 Million Meals Campaign is trying to create a fair trade distribution system for the Kampot pepper to support Cambodian farmers and local food banks in North America.
In the 1980s, the Cambodian Genocide took two million lives, including many pepper farmers. Consequently, crop yield dropped significantly. The annual production of Kampot pepper plummeted from 3,000 tons in 1960 to two tons in 2000, according to Joseph MacLean, founder of 50 Million Meals in his Kickstarter campaign video.
Over the last two decades farmers have started to recover, but the pandemic is creating major setbacks. According to MacLean, there were almost no international sales of Kampot pepper in the first few months of the outbreak.
“[The farmers] are sitting on about 90 tons of pepper that they need to get to market or more farmers will abandon the business or potentially lose their farms,” MacLean tells FoodTank.
MacLean started the 50 Million Meals Campaign to help Kampot pepper farmers recover from the genocide. “[Pepper farmers] are rebuilding, but [they] need fair trade access to Western markets,” says MacLean.
The Campaign is working with a collective of 400 small, organic pepper farmers in Southern Cambodia to develop a community-based, fair trade distribution system for the Kampot pepper.
MacLean says that the system, which pays farmers a fair price for their pepper, has the potential to greatly improve small farmers’ livelihoods.
MacLean also hopes that the Campaign can support his own community in North America. He explains that a portion of the revenue from pepper sales will go toward the province’s local food banks. During the pandemic, 50 Million Meals is also donating 50 percent of their revenue to local food charities.
MacLean says that the collaboration between the fair trade distribution system and local food banks has great potential. He estimates,“if one-tenth of one percent of pepper consumers chose Kampot pepper as their tabletop choice we can meet our goal of providing fifty million meals a year [to North Americans].”
To create awareness about the Campaign, MacLean is working with Buy Social Canada, a platform to promote social purchasing in Canada. He is also launching a celebrity endorsement program.
“Once our story gets out and we achieve significant market reach, we can secure a steady flow of Kampot Pepper and even grow the capacity of the small landholders.”
Photo courtesy Sonja Punz on Unsplash.com