Roots of Peace SHADE farmers in Vietnam have had an excellent harvest this year, producing much higher yields and higher quality pepper than the positive estimations had predicted. Most SHADE farmers in Quang Tri have on average around 200 pepper trees in their orchards, with each producing between one and two kilograms of dried pepper. With pepper prices exceeding the 10 dollar mark this year – a 30% jump on last year – this means that most of our farmers will receive an average income of around $2000 for their pepper crop – a significant amount in rural Vietnam, where the average total rural income per capita is around $850.

This income couldn’t have come at a better time, as many pepper farmers had experienced severe shortfalls in last year’s crop due to damaging storms that hit the area in late 2013 and adversely affected their yields last year.

Harvesting pepper is a process that usually involves the entire family; this is the time of the year when the long bamboo ladders come out, propped precariously against pepper poles that farmers climb with satchels around their shoulders, ready to be filled with vibrant green peppercorns. For farmers that have waited a bit longer for harvest, these peppercorns are often a burgundy or deep red color, indicating their additional ripeness.

Some farmers agree to sell their entire crop to a single buyer who then pays the farmer for their labor to pick the pepper. Others harvest themselves and then sell to processors independently. Once a farmer’s batch has been collected, it is normally taken to a processing center where the peppercorns are removed from their spikes, sorted according to color, washed and then dried in the sun. The dried peppercorns are then either cleaned of debris by hand or sent to small or large scale cleaning centers where the pepper is packaged into 100-pound sacks and sold to exporters or local buyers.

The 2015 harvest is especially noteworthy for Roots of Peace as it marks the first time that we will be purchasing a significant amount of the finest quality pepper from our farmers to be sold internationally by ROP Spice. Profit will be re-channeled into the project, with the aim of turning our endeavor to improve the farming techniques, incomes and livelihoods of farmers in Vietnam into a self-sustaining enterprise that can keep on expanding for years to come.