Pesticides and chemical inputs have been widely used in agriculture for decades in a bid to improve crop production. But over the years, questions and concerns have been raised about the safety of such crops and their impact on the human health and environment, prompting consumers and farmers to look for alternatives that are clean, environment-friendly and sustainable.
Health conscious consumers, particularly among the expanding middle class in India, are turning to food that is chemical free and safe. While the demand for safe food is high, the supply remains insufficient and irregular. Organic retailers in cities and towns are unable to get diverse and quality produce that can cater to the Indian palate.
The project ‘Promoting sustainable local food systems for a better rural-urban connect in India’ aims to improve people’s access to food that is clean, safe and nutritious. To achieve its goal, the initiative seeks to:
- Interlink various stakeholders within food system such as consumers, farmers, wholesalers, food vendors and policy makers towards ensuring availability of safe and healthy food
- Raise awareness among various consumer groups including school children, residents’ welfare associations, patient groups, hospitals, medical associations and hospitality industry about safe food systems, healthy diet and about farmers, particularly smallholders, who produce the food
- Collaborate with Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) to provide farmers direct access to market and to ensure fair prices for their organic produce
- Support existing organic food wholesalers/SMEs in increasing their consumer outreach and link them to FPOs
- Promote low-cost quality assurance systems such as PGS that certify producers and provide a credible guarantee to consumers buying organic food so that information is transparently available to all stakeholders in the value chain
Following activities are being undertaken as part of the project that’s been initially launched in Delhi, Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, Jamshedpur and Ranchi:
- Introducing the concept of sustainable local foods and agriculture to school children through cooking and food tasting sessions, educational farm visits and growing organic food gardens in schools
- Organizing fairs, festivals and exhibitions to promote safe agricultural and forest products and ensure farmers‘ participation there and support local retailers through linkages with producers and consumers
- Creating a web portal, carrying details of farmers, their products and location. The site will serve as a platform for various stakeholders such as farmers, processors, retailers and street vendors to promote their initiatives and interact with consumers and producers. The portal will also feature traditional food recipes and provide information on nutrition and sustainable farming practices