Without Gemini Upatissa the members of the Thurusavia small farmers cooperative would have no rubber sheets to sell. For fifteen years Mr Upatissa has been running the small factory in which the rubber milk collected by the small holders is processed into sheets. It’s the sheets that are sold to customers who then produce items as varied as soles for sneakers or valves for soccer balls. Mr Upatissa gets a basic salary of Rs. 3000 (less than EUR 20) per month and a cut of the profit from the sheets sold, but there are months in which less rubber milk can be collected and tapping is impossible during the monsoon.

That’s why the Thurusavia rubber society provides a small two-room house for Mr Upatissa, his wife and two school-aged daughters to live in. It suited the family fine until termites turned up and right now anyone can see how the family lives: The termites have gnawed through the wood, leaving huge holes in the walls and rendering the whole construction unstable. The family owns no land and did not have the money to build a house, which left Mr Upatissa few options but to look for another job. Luckily just then two small orders came through that paid a Fair Trade premium of EUR 1200. The Thurusavia members decided immediately to build a new house for the Upatissa family: two rooms and a kitchen, a third room will follow as soon as the money is available.

It’s not just this attitude that distinguishes the Thurusavia small holders. At the end of last year they were nominated as Sri Lanka’s best small farmers’ association and received a cash prize. They have used the money to build a new drying chamber. The drying now takes just one day instead of five. With the added capacity the group is aiming to grow to one hundred or even 150 members. With the excellent rubber sheets they produce, their willingness to invest in order to grow their business in a sustainable way, ensuring quality while safeguarding the environment and their sense of responsibility and fairness dealing with the Upatissa family makes us, the Fair Rubber Association, proud to be their partners.