The Sattvik Traditional Food Festival, a three-day fest, is one of Ahmedabad’s most popular food festivals. Launched in 2004, the yearly festival is held in December and brings forgotten traditional recipes, lesser-known grains, vegetables and minor millets from underdeveloped areas to the urban populace.
People anxiously wait for the winter, so that they soak in the unalloyed spirit of this food festival and gorge on vegetarian fare which is often not commonly found in the city!
The festival has been organised for the past 15 years by SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions) a voluntary development organisation.
“It has been our mission to popularise grains and foods that our grandmothers used to cook and eat. Additionally, we wish to provide a platform to popularise traditional recipes made from forgotten crop varieties and reconstitute the taste and nutritional value for the urban settlers with a vision to conserve and raise the demand for lesser-known crop varieties,” explains Ramesh Patel, secretary of SRISTI.
The Sattvik fest aims to popularise the use of unknown and uncultivated plants and vegetables which people do not use, due to sheer ignorance about their nutritional richness.
“We are trying to acquaint people with forgotten grains like Ragi and Samo which are nutritionally rich. Then, there are some grains which do not require much rainfall yet are rich in minerals. Kodri, for example, is quite good for diabetics,” says Mr Patel.
By organising the Sattvik food festival, SRISTI has also created a market for farmers engaged in organic farming. It lends support to these farmers by helping them sell their products directly to the urban consumers. The products range from grains, pulses, spices, vegetables, ghee, sesame oil, jaggery to even a variety of roots!
SRISTI also intends to broaden the platform for the farmers engaged in organic farming, when there is assured demand from the urban areas.
“If the demand grows from city dwellers, we can assure supply from the farmers who can plan to grow the organic crops and also expect fair prices for it. It can be a viable long-term business model,” informs Mr Patel.
Visitors to Sattvik are assured of purity of the products. SRISTI has a mechanism in place that goes into farm verification as regards the methods of irrigation and the manure used in growing the crops by the farmers registering for the annual Sattvik food event. Furthermore, only those farmers who haven’t used chemical fertilisers on their farms in the past three years, are followed are allowed to set up stalls. Also, committee members of SRISTI visit the farms at various stages to monitor the crop.
This year onwards, there will be no common salt or refined sugar in any of the food products sold at Sattvik. They will be replaced by rock salt (Himalayan salt) and brown sugar. Food will be cooked in only earthenware and some metal utensils.
What worries Mr Patel the most is that there is no organised market for the organic food products in our country.
Considering the cost of the bio-fertilisers and the procurement price, the prices of organic products are a little steep. However, Mr Patel feels that if the municipal bodies and the local authorities allow some space to market organic products in towns and cities, the markets for organic products could indeed grow.
What is essential is the elimination of middlemen between the farmers engaged in organic farming and the consumers as the middlemen, or the intermediaries, are intent on making a killing out of every deal. That way, SRISTI has ploughed a lonely furrow by linking farmers with the consumers.
With SRISTI’s efforts, Ahmedabad’s upwardly mobile citizens are beginning to purchase organic produce. If such initiatives are replicated in other cities, it could engineer better lifestyle changes.
(This article has been written by Kaushik Joshi)