The rice harvest is complete!
Here's a Recap of This Year's BRI: All-Natural Longsheng Rice
As you might have noticed, this year's main Beautiful Reason Initiative was partnering with 10 families to grow All-natural Longsheng Rice. By paying them a 2x premium, they were encouraged to switch to friendly ways of farming, which means abandoning chemicals and using natural methods to promote the healthy development of the soil and crops.
Viori had previously partnered with one family to purchase natural rice and realized that having more farmers involved in natural growing would be a big step for the community and Viori itself.
First of all, most farmers worldwide rely on some form of chemicals in their farming practice. This global phenomenon started approximately 50-70 years ago and has become so widespread that even the most remote regions (like Longsheng) have made the switch to using chemicals.
And this switch is understandable from the perspective of the farmer. Using pesticides can increase yields and decrease the risks of poor crop outputs. Moreover, using chemicals can be less labor-intensive as it often requires less crop attending.
While making the switch to pesticides might have made sense at the time, the practice simply isn't a sustainable long-term solution. And because Viori is a company that stands for all-natural products and respect for sustainable practices, we believed this was a worthy challenge to tackle.
As always, the first step in any of our local work is understanding the situation and perspectives of the local community. Through understanding, we are able to provide better solutions when asked to do so.
Through our conversations with the community, we came to understand the three main reasons keeping most farmers in the region from dropping chemicals:
- their financial motivation for pursuing higher crops
- the extra labor required for growing in natural ways
- the risk of crop failure due to lack of chemicals used.
After understanding the challenges faced, Viori and the farmers had several more discussions on how best to address these issues.
Together, we developed a plan to address the two primary needs of the farmers:
- A fair rate at which they could sell their rice (2x markup was seen as appropriate), and
- A purchase guarantee that they'd still receive minimum compensation in case of crop failure (due to the increase of problematic insects, etc.).
Just in time for the start of the rice season, the project was officially underway. Of course, the following months would be new territory for the farmers, but the guarantee that Viori provided them, along with the support of several natural-farming mentors, made them well equipped to handle this uncertainty.
In the months that followed (May-Sep), the farmers encountered several new challenges. They saw a substantial increase in weeds, more pest insects, as well as less rain than usual. However, through collaboration and guidance from their mentors, they managed these challenges, resulting in a crop output that went far beyond what was expected.
To celebrate the successful growing season, Viori organized a two-day event with all the partnering families, the farming mentors, and our Social Responsibility team. Challenges and successes were shared, and future steps were discussed.
The event was open to anybody interested in this BRI project. To our great surprise, more farmers attended the event out of curiosity and interest in joining next year's project. This was great news, of course. Our partnering families had proven that farming without chemicals wasn't only possible, it actually produced good results. This, combined with receiving fair compensation, had made more farmers interested in joining.
With this year's BRI project complete, it is time to look forward.
We are working to ensure the rice from this year's harvest is stored properly in preparation for its processing and packaging.
What will happen with the rice?
Viori will be collecting part of the harvest to make fermented rice water for our products. Producing fermented rice water requires small batches of rice, which can be reused several times. This year, we will be purchasing more rice than in previous years to keep up with the growing popularity of our shampoo and conditioner bars.
Most of the rice will be sold locally to consumers interested in clean and fair products. There is increased demand for ethically sourced, sustainable products, and we want to support the Red Yao in reaching these consumers. After all, one of Viori's 'Social Responsibility Pillars' is Economic prosperity in Longsheng.
In addition to having Viori as a buying partner, a more diversified customer group must be established to achieve this goal. Therefore, as the natural growing program continues and expands with more farmers join us, building local sales channels will be an important focus for this Beautiful Reasons Initiative next year.
We'll have several months before the next rice-growing season starts and look forward to taking this project to the next level! Thanks for following this project, and please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions you have!