This is a series of deliberations about the politics behind the popular market and the opportunities for successful organic agriculture markets as well as alternative markets
‘First entice by luring and then enslave’. This is the ideology of huge corporates. Companies like Monsanto swindle immense profit, operating by this method. With this condition, it is essential to establish an alternative market that will truly help the farmers. We have already seen some of the successful alternative markets.
At the alternative market, service of sales does not begin after the farm products reach the market. It begins from the time of crop production. It should give focus on all aspects including the inputs, method of cultivation and harvest.
There was a short series of articles in ‘Pasumai Vikatan’ about ‘Sittilingi Organic Farmers Association’, well appreciated and welcomed by the readers. Hundreds of organic farmers made history by integrating themselves starting from seeding through marketing cooperatively.
In this part, nearly 1000 acres of land has been converted to organic farming. More than 90% of the farmers in the association are only small farmers. They remain healthy by growing about 70% of their own food products such as minor millets, traditional rice varieties, vegetables and greens, and consuming them. Only the remaining surplus products are sold in the market after processing and value addition. This helps the farmers get a higher price for their products and also provides employment opportunities for the women. This is the best example for alternative market.
I carried out an analysis at Sittlingy. At that time, the farmers were not able to provide details about the yield measures. Only when closely watched I learnt that they never weighed their farm products. Whatever the volume of yield, they simply pack and tie them in bags and store them. Only those products that are sold to the markets were weighed. They never bothered about measuring the amount of their farm products. It was rare for them to visit the hospitals as they remained healthy by consuming organically grown healthy food items.
A similar kind of organization functioning successfully in the state of Andhra, is the association named ‘Timbaktu Collective’. It is functioning in the dry part of Anantpur district. This organization has turned hundreds of farmers who were suffering due to drought to a self-sufficient and self-reliance community. The cooperative association of the organization, ‘Dharani’ has been growing day by day. Last year it procured 357 tons of products from 550 farmers, worth of Rs 1.42 crores.
Working with an objective of ‘100% organic’, the organization, Dharani has 2103 members. It has been serving in the 60 villages of three panchayats in the Anantpur district. Dharani truly flourishes the local economy. Till now, it has provided Rs 6,01,600 for farmers and Rs 3,84,000 for women as incentives.
We should calculate how much income is gained from the local economy and what it is spent on. A survey was conducted by ‘Nalla keerai’ Jagan in one of the villages of Thiruvallur district. As per the survey conducted among 115 households, the first three places of key expenditures at the household level were occupied by chemical fertilizers and pesticides, English medicines and TASMAC alcohol respectively. The cost of these products is nearly 1 crore. It is needless to mention that some of the huge companies take the money out of these.
Let us consider organic farming. There is no need for anyone to depend on the market for inputs or for cultivation. The expenditure is also lesser. If the farm products are processed locally and value added, the livelihood of the people and also the health of the people due to non-poisonous food will be enhanced. Only because of the presence of all these factors ‘Hari Bhari Dokhri’ in Mumbai, ‘Organic Association’ in Belgaum, Sittlingy, Timbaktu have been functioning successfully.
The organization, ‘Thanal’ in Thiruvanantapuram, Kerala state, meant to work as a research and dissemination center for people’s problem, has been functioning as an organic market since 2003. With two women groups, some part-time farmers and ten consumers ‘Thanal’ started its own ‘Organic Bazaar’. There were no other organic shops in Thiruvanantapuram during that period. At the beginning, it functioned as a monthly market, open only during the second Saturday of every month.
Its market was then open weekly twice in 2007. Currently, it is working six days in a week. Further, there is a special market on the second Saturdays. It is considered as an important event in Thiruvanantapuram.
Thanal has been striving to create environment friendly alternative market, supplying high quality organic food products to the consumers, assuring the livelihoods of farmers, nurture better relationship between the producers and consumers, encouraging organic farming methods that help biodiversity and creating awareness among the consumers about it.
This Organic Bazar is the outcome of the efforts towards turning the small and micro farmers in the Venganur Panchayat, near Thiruvanantapuram, towards organic farming. There was a situation that the farmers who turned to organic farming had to sell their products in the usual market. Then efforts were taken to simplify their marketing process that evolved into an organic bazaar. Institute of Integrated Rural Development (IIRD) in Aurangabad provides guidance to Thanal. The increased concern towards non poisonous and safe food in the state of Kerala also paved way for the success of Thanal.
Vegetables and fruits have been sold through token system. Honey, pickles, chemical free cool drinks, chutney powder, chips, wood ground oil, rice cake flour have been sold. There are no polythene carry bags available. Those who are in need can buy cloth bags sold there. Oil, honey, pickles are sold in bottles.
The waste generated in the market is converted into compost and utilized. Further, there is biogas production too. Currently, Thanal has been managed by a six member team, including three women. At present, the organic bazaar of Thanal, which has turned into a producer-consumer cooperative society, serves with 300 farmers and 600 customers.
(To be continued)
People vie for organic products!
Thanal found that the farmers who had turned towards organic farming were forced to sell their products at the usual market, and there were no organic markets as well. This led the farmers getting discouraged to continue organic farming. At that time, one of the researchers of Thanal went to California.
Having witnessed the successful functioning of the organic markets in that place Thanal contemplated about the organic bazaar. Venganur, Vilappilsala, Balaramapuram, Vizzhignam, Kattakada, Neiyathingara, Aruvikkara and Thiruvanantapuram Corporation have been supplying organic vegetables to Thanal. Cereals, gram varieties and other products come from the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The situation is such that people race to buy vegetables and fruits, in particular. This has led to the token system where people queue for buying the farm products.
(This series of articles written in Tamil by Ananthu for Pasumai Vikatan magazine dt 25th Sept 2017 has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)