The original intent of colonial conquest of the Indian subcontinent was a desire for domination of the spice trade. 400ish years later, as a young woman born and raised in postcolonial Mumbai, working at the intersection of food and culture, I was slowly discovering that not much about that system had changed. Farmers made no money, spices changed hands upwards of 10 times before reaching the consumer, and the final spice on your shelf was usually an old, dusty shadow of what it once was.
So in 2016, I booked a one way ticket home to Mumbai and signed myself up for 7 months of highly unpaid market research, 40+ farm visits, endless un-answered phone calls, a squishy motorbike ride through rice paddy, and one life-changing meeting with the good folks at the Indian Institute of Spices Research.
A lot of processing of doubts and fears later, 23 year old Sana founded Diaspora Co. in the fall of 2017 with just one spice - Pragati Turmeric - sourced from an equally young and idealistic farm partner, our now dear friend Mr. Prabhu Kasaraneni. But from our very first day, the big, audacious dream was to grow a radically new, decidedly delicious and truly equitable spice trade, to push a broken system into an equal exchange, and to have a lot of fun doing it.
Today, we source 30 single origin spices from 150 farms across India and Sri Lanka. We're proud to pay our farm partners an average of 6x above the commodity price. In a system where fair trade is a mere 15% premium, we pay what we believe to be a living wage, an investment in the kind of leadership and land stewardship that will build climate resilience and more delicious food systems.
Being in this community is about connecting deeply with the culture and heritage of the regions that we source from, and about learning as we go. Complicating and deepening what "Made in South Asia" means, and how we tell our own stories of freedom, struggle, and diaspora through food.
With love & in community,
Sana Javeri Kadri