This is a series of deliberations about the politics behind popular market and the opportunities for successful organic agriculture markets as well as alternative markets.
We went to meet a farmer in the region of Belgaum in Karnataka district. When I visited the place, the monsoon of the year had started. Therefore it was green all along the way. There were cultivation activities all over the place. The farmers of the land mostly used cattle to plough the land.
With this pleasant ambience, we were proceeding to meet a woman farmer, named Laxmi Lokur living in the village, Belavadi. Laxmi was working in a bag sewing industry in Mumbai. She returned to her village to take care of her sick father and eventually started organic cultivation in their 22 acres of land.
When we enquired about the way to her farm, people on the road exclaimed ‘oh the lady who has been doing organic farming using many buffaloes’ and showed us the route. She seemed to be very popular in that region. That is only because of her organic farming efforts. She is one of the pioneers of organic farming in the region.
At the beginning she started organic farming in 1 acre and then extended it up to 22 acres. She started her own cultivation after having completed a diploma in agriculture in a college in Belgaum. She entered into the profession having determined to do only organic cultivation from the beginning. As she has been following only the traditional methods of organic cultivation she remains as a perfect role model in terms of economically viable and sustainable and self reliant farming. Initially she reared buffaloes and sold their milk to have a secondary income. She gathered their dung, prepared vermicompost and sold it. This is the way she gradually expanded her farm.
Laxmi followed the ancestral method of assessing the volume of rain based on the way the crows build their nests. Based on that measure she plans her cultivation successfully. Her experience says that if the crows build their nests well inside the branches of a tree there will be more rain and it will be lesser if the nests are built well outside at the periphery of the branches. She follows all types of agriculture techniques like intercropping, mixed cropping and trap cropping. She cultivates long term crops like neem, lemon and, teak and climber variety of vegetables, tubers, greens, onions, garlic, paddy, wheat and cotton. She uses only the micro-fertilizers, E.M and, Jeevamirtham as farm inputs.
In spite of her relentless commitment to organic farming, the primary reason for her success is that she sells her product directly. When we enquired about how she sells her product, she said, “The important market for my produce is Dharwad. Besides, the products reach up to Belgaum, Bengaluru and Managaluru.
I carry my agriculture products in my vehicle and I directly sell them. I go twice a week for selling. I have permanent customers in those places. They compete with each other to buy my products. That is a market created by my own effort.
I carry good quality products to them and decide the pricing. That’s why I have economically grown”. Further, she took us to the city of Dharwad.
There is a famous Agriculture University in Dharwad. That is the city which is a key market for Laxmi. The agriculture officers in the city are also the customers of Laxmi. Besides, she also sells her organic products at the All India Radio office, weekly once.
Before she had reached the place the customers were waiting for her. Those customers hurriedly buy the organic green and vegetable products brought by her. Laxmi finished her sales within a short while. An interesting incident happened preceding her sales. There was a noise of commotion from the nearby office, a few raising their voice. When enquired about it, we learnt that the people from other side of the office affectionately chided her ‘to sell her products at their premises first’.
Farmers can become self reliant only when they transform into sellers themselves like Laxmi Lokur. And for that it is essential to cultivate good quality products.
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(To be continued)
Is Organic Certificate essential?
When we started Restore in Chennai, getting Organic (Natural) certification was very expensive. We should walk past these kinds of institutional complications. Because whether a product is organic or not is founded on the way it is produced than on the certificate. It is dependent on the method rather than the regulations. It’s dependent on the farmer and not on the cultivated product. We confronted the issue of organic certification at Restore on the premise of this understanding. We followed the method of gaining people’s trust as a priority and this was successful while implementing.
That does not mean we have not used the method of testing whether the products are truly organic and verify each farmer is committed and sincere to that cause. We made several efforts like making surprise visit to their farms and check the products of their organic status then and there. But what is important is the relationship that we built on trust. At times, there are farmers who contact us by mobile phone saying honestly, “The crop has wilted. We don’t know what to do organically. So, we sprayed chemicals. Therefore we cannot supply our products to Restore, this time”. Of course, there are fraudsters, here too, as found in other parts of our society. If we come across such a kind of farmers or agriculture groups we get rid of them from our contact.
It incurs heavy expenditure for the farmers if they wish to gain organic certification from an institution. Further, it’s profitable for the institution only when there is more number of farmers. Therefore, it is doubtful whether all the institutions that certify organic certification function honestly. Mostly, any certification is needed for exporting.
Based on that need it has been growing. Therefore, instead of relying on the third party institutions, we should bring forth the solutions that are conducive to the local environment and that are dependent on the farmers. That is why Participatory Guarantee System (PGC) is gaining shape in India as it is structured in such a way to exercise self discipline and supervise the program by the participating farmers. Further, most of the important organic farming organizations and associations support this method as well.
(This series of articles written in Tamil by Ananthu has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)