Every year, Biofach India comes around and though some of the PGS Council members are there, visiting or holding fort at the IFOAM booth, this year was special as the PGS Organic Council got an opportunity to participate in the Biofach itself.
Getting everybody organized to come to the fair required a fair bit of logistical coordination as each one of the organizations and their products being displayed were varied. The organizations who put up their products were Umang, Timbaktu Collective, Deccan Development Society, Institute for Integrated Rural Development and Last Forest Enterprises. Green Foundation, one of the other members was holding fort at its own booth.
The response to the booth space was phenomenal – people streamed in all the time and there was an estimated average of 300-400 people, everyday who stopped and enquired – there was interest from 3rd party certifiers and consumers wondering how this peer review system by farmers themselves, made sense. As part of the package, we had taken along the new issue of the newsletter – in its 5th year, a new brochure and huge standees which attracted attention with their equal attention to farmers, markets and consumers. These standees were put up in a public area with the newsletter and brochure being available to all.
Even more interesting at the Biofach India was a whole session that was dedicated to alternative certification mechanisms – this session was chaired by Dr. AK Yadav, former Director of National Center for Organic Farming, India and presentations by Ashish Gupta from PGSOC/OFAI, Jennifer Chang on the Hansalim Coop in Korea and Dr. Zhou Zejiang on the efforts in China.
The webpage for the “International Forum on Innovating Alternative Markets Towards Food Security and Food Sovereignty” is ready and you can have a look at – http://www.schoolforwellbeing.org/content?id=79
The Gandhian Study Center, Thodupuzha had been requesting for a PGS awareness creation workshop for the farmers of Idukki District. On the 19th of March, Samraj conducted a session on PGS certification to GREEN FARMERS NABARD CLUB of Melkavu Mattom at Gandian Study Center meeting hall. The meeting was attended by nine farmers from the Club along with 20 farmers from Idukki District who have been attending a training program conducted by the Central Coconut Board. The workshop started with two organic farmers from Thodupuzha town explaining their experiences and their success with organic farming. This was followed by a brief introduction by Mr. Siby who is coordinating the organic farming efforts by Gandhian Study Center.
In a two hour session, the modalities of PGS certification mechanism, how to apply and procedure for maintaining records were explained in detail. Due to a high level of literacy in Kerala, the farmers did not express any difficulty in maintaining records and were willing to go through the procedures and maintain necessary records. The concept was new and there were a lot of questions regarding how to use this certificate and where they could sell their produce. As Idukki is a high rainfall area with diverse crops, the farmers have a natural advantage in producing and marketing their produce, locally. A major part of the discussion focussed on farmers expressing their concern of pesticides in food, especially vegetables. They also expressed their concern on the high dependency of vegetable supplies from neighboring Tamil Nadu state.
The farmers wanted to visit Keystone Foundation for an exposure and the trip was tentatively scheduled for the last week of April 2013. On the 20th of March, there was a meeting held at the State Bank of Travancore, Melkavu Mattom branch with the Manager of the bank and the office bearers of the Green Farmers Nabard Club, in which the implementation of PGS certification and marketing support to be provided by the bank through its customer base was discussed. State Bank of Travancore, Melkavu Mattom is assisting the organic farmers with loans and financial assistance for buying farm tools and equipments. The next steps like setting up of Facilitation Council and forming Local Groups will be taken up during the first week of April 2013.