Small farmers in India may toil, but the hard work is no guarantee of a good price for the produce. Organic farmers have more to lose because of how labour intensive and time consuming the process is.
In 2013, a group of people in Mangaluru started an agricultural collective called Savayava Krishika Grahaka Balaga to address the difficulties of such farmers and the growing demand for organic food, the New Indian Express reported.
Tired of eating vegetables and fruits doused in chemicals, the collective was on the look-out for farmers who did not use fertilizers or ‘poison-free’ food, as they say. They were able to identify farmers from Mangaluru, Kalaburagi and Mandya.
“After three visits, including two unannounced visits to a farmer, if the forum president Addoor Krishna Rao and secretary Sameera Rao are satisfied that the produce is organically grown, they invite the farmer to sell the produce in their mart open on all Sundays except on first Sunday,” says organising secretary of the collective Ratnakar Kulai to the New Indian Express.
This community supported agriculture (CSA) collective, a grassroots organisation involved in promoting local, organic farming in Mangaluru, acts as a bridge between farmers and consumers. The collective is able to give farmers a better reach and help increase the variety of produce too.
“We do not insist on certification by agencies. Such certification procedures and voluminous paper work will be a huge burden on the farmers. So, the forum visits farms of 20 farmers twice a year, to ensure they are producing food without chemicals,” explains Rao.
Farmers are able to sell fruits and vegetables directly to consumers at the Sunday mart, but an order for grains has to be made in advance. Consumers are encouraged to place certain bulk orders on whatsapp and ask or post any suspicious usage of chemicals on two WhatsApp groups. Paying in advance helps a farmer plan for the season, purchase new seeds and repair equipment.
At the Sunday mart, open from 7.30 am to 1.30 pm, vegetables, fruits and greens are sold by farmers. Ramanna, a vegetable farmer from Mundaje in Belthangady taluk, has never missed a Sunday mart for the past three years, even if it meant that he had to leave home at 4.30 am (to reach market on time at 7.30 am). “Due to Balaga’s Sunday mart, my financial condition has improved,” says Ramanna said to the NIE.