Food consumption is central to the discourse on sustainable consumption and production because of its impact on the environment, individual and public health, social cohesion, and the economy. In India, unsustainability is today clearly reflected in dependence on agrochemicals, industrialization and globalization, long food miles, increase in use of heavily processed products and the paradoxical lack of food security amidst an abundance of food. Led by civil society and with some support from the Government, there have been efforts to promote sustainable food systems, but these usually do not address the entire lifecycle of food beyond production.
Welthungerhilfe and its partners initiated the program on promoting sustainable local food systems for a better rural-urban connect in India which focuses on 7 cities in 6 states. The program aims to increase the demand for, and supply of “clean, green and fair” foods and acts as a switch to sustainable food consumption and production patterns.
The action under this initiative contributes to the establishment of sustainable local food systems by addressing entire food value chains which nurtures both pull and push factor to promote sustainable production and consumption. There are various initiatives in promoting ecological methods of production but that does not result, most of the times, in catering the market demand – as quality, regularity and quantity are certain values that the market is looking for which are difficult for small holder farmers as they operate in low scale of surplus. One major principle that the initiative follows is to ensure diversified diet at the producer’s family first – and only surplus is taken to the market. Formation of Community Enterprises / Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO) with 500~800 farmers ensure accumulation of surplus product to attain scale on one side and working as a layer between the market and the farmers on the other side. Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) certification ensures the quality of produce at the production end.
The initiative links up small entrepreneurs like food trucks, street food vendors and retail outlets with the FPOs. The retail outlets create scope for small holder products, maintain a transparent relation, more at a personal level.
At the third node, various food education and awareness programmes for different consumer groups increases the demand for ecological health foods, which in turn generates the ‘pull factor’ for sustainable food production and promotes greening of the food supply chains. This is done through various activities involving the farmers and retailer. Activities like food festivals, fairs, cooking demonstrations, farm visits and trainings on urban gardening, street play, testing food adulteration, nutrition education in school helps in creating demand as well as contributes to income of the farmers and small businesses.
Working with this multi-stakeholder approach across the life of food, had connected 500,000 consumers, 40 retail outlets and 5000 certified farmers in the states of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odhisha, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi with a special focus in the cities of Delhi, Jaipur, Udaipur, Kolkata, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar and Jamshedpur. Bhoomi Ka is currently planning to extend it in Bangladesh by linking Haor Area with nearby city and Dhaka.