India Growing Organic - Its presence in BioFach
It also provides a platform to build and strengthen existing partnerships with a range of organisations and governmental bodies. Though most small-scale organic farmers from developing countries would not have the opportunity to visit such an event as BioFach, it is clear that such an event has great potential to benefit them indirectly.
Some Indian family farmers have been able to attend BioFach this year to represent themselves and their counterparts, promoting and campaigning to raise awareness of their interests. However, for many who cannot attend, BioFach provides an ideal platform for organisations to represent their interests and campaign on their behalf to ministers and decision makers. One issue being raised this year at BioFach is that, despite a ready market, many farmers in India (as in other countries) cannot export a wide range of crops under the current state control systems.
making the transition from a vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle
Many of the hundreds of exhibitors at BioFach as well as those attending the event as trade visitors, are intermediaries, looking to find new markets for the hundreds or thousands of farmers whose products they are selling. Many of them have a specific focus on improving livelihoods for the farmers. This includes Sresta Natural Bioproducts Pvt. Ltd, one of India ’s largest organic food company, and promoters of India ’s largest organic brand: “24 Letter Mantra”.
Many of the attendees not only have an organic but also a fair trade focus. Young entrepreneurs at BioFach included Himanshu Vyas, Director of Rapid Organic, an organisation ensuring that through their success, farmers in Rajashtan also benefit. Growing organic spices, vegetables and medicinal herbs can help them gain from the phenomenal rise in the demand for these products worldwide. He attended with one of his working partners, Dilip Dhaker, Managing Director of Biocert. Together they work in partnership with a trading company, TIADCo to train farmers to make the converstion to organic.
The business encompasses small villages and rural areas of India. They believe the key to success is in ensuring that farmers receive support in achieving and maintaining optimum outputs, and that their voices are heard and taken into consideration. Yogesh Joshi, a farmer from Rajasthan who sells the food he grows through Rapid Organic, also attended the event. He spoke of how he had gained through being involved in this organisation, receiving life insurance, training and organic seeds from the organisation, and said this has had a positive impact on local farmers lives’ with better prices for their products. Now they have much lower input costs and better yields.
As well as increasing opportunities for farmers, Makesh Gupta and the Morarka Rural Research Centre promote the benefits of farmers working together to directly improve their own livlihoods. He explained at BioFach how so many small-scale farmers have benefited by becoming organic, “making the transition from a vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle.” With the increasing realisation of the long-term effects which chemical agriculture is having on health and the environment, as well as the constantly rising prices of inputs required for farmers, there is no doubt that the adoption of organic farming is the way forward for many in India.
Several states in India are presently undergoing the transition process to become “fully organic” or are promoting organic farming vigorously. Many states are promoting collaborative efforts, but recognise the challenges farmers face when working in collaboration with their counterparts, such as traceability of products, quality standardisation and transport to markets. Providing training and support ensures that farmers are empowered to find solutions to these issues, helping them be competitive in the market.
In the state of Sikkim, nestled in the Indian Himalayas, farm sizes are only one hectare on average, and the use of fertilizers has been banned for over 5 years. The state has 76,000 hectares of farmland, and it is estimated that by 2015 it will have fully become organic. The area has already started to reap the benefit of improved health and increased crop production. Last year farmers who were growing organically fared much better through the severe drought that affected so many of India’s farmers. Even the schools are involved, with organic growing being an essential part of the curriculum.
The state departments are actively promoting organic agriculture through a number of high profile schemes. Visitors to BioFach learnt how the success of organic agriculture in Sikkim is linked to the provision of training courses in good agricultural techniques such as mixed cropping and ensuring land is not left fallow, and also ensuring that farmers are able to market their products without the involvement of intermediaries.
BioFach 2011 clearly demonstrates how, through the active participation of the producers, many are reaping the benefits of organic agriculture, leading to improved livelihoods and health.
Text: Wendy Horsman