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Innovating Alternative Markets – 7-12 May, 2013 at Bangkok

“Greening” the organic grassroots – Small-scale farmers’ movements join hands

As an Asian contribution to the 40st anniversary of IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements), celebrated at the IFOAM Headquarters in Bonn, Germany, November 2012, the Thai Green Market Network and Suan Nguen Mee Ma social enterprise, in response to the “IFOAM birthday wishlist”, cordially facilitate together with partners a global meeting of the IFOAM PGS Committee at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. The meeting is arranged to coincide with a gathering of the newly formed URGENCI Asia group. URGENCI is the network of CSA (= Community Supported Agriculture) initiatives, the most direct approach to farmers’ – consumers’ partnerships. The aim of the International Forum on Innovating Alternative Markets, Bangkok, 7 – 12 May 2013, is to create markets for small-scale “organic” (or: “in transition to” organic) farmers by connecting them directly with mindful consumers, and their organizations. In order to bringing the food economy home. A special role is perceived for social enterprises who help facilitate building partnerships based on Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS). This effort revitalizes the grassroots origin of IFOAM which was founded in 1972 in Versailles, France, at the initiative of Nature et Progrès, the organization that at that time already promoted and practiced “PGS”, and does so until today.

Over the years IFOAM facilitated a remarkable growth of the organic food market all over the world. But this growth tends to be based on high-end markets and exports, marked by a price difference with industrial agri-business products that discourages many ordinary consumers.

Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) place the responsibility for quality support and control in the common hands of the diversity of stakeholders involved, in contrast to “third party” certification systems which incur high costs that cannot be met by small-scale farmers.

La Via Campesina, the International Peasants Movement, with millions of member-farmers all over the world, will participate in the meeting in order to join hands with the major organizations in the field of partnership building towards “alternative markets” that aim to constitute a new economy based on food security, food sovereignty, and sustainable development.

Please contact Rita Phetphudhong rita.innovationforum@gmail.com,
Thanapol Kheolamai thanapol@schoolforwellbeing.org or
Hans van Willenswaard hans@schoolforwellbeing.org for more information and registration for 2 or 4-day participation packages
 

Training prog for Ekoventure

Ekoventure, an NGO based in Puducherry, is organizing a training programme for its farmers, on PGS. This prog will be on 6th & 7th April, 2013 and Leo from Keystone will help facilitate it.

They have been promoting organic farming methods among farmers through demonstrations and promoting the use of Amritpani, Panchagavya, Effective Microorganism, Indigenous Microorganism, etc. among farmers.

Partnership with Indira Gandhi National Open University

IIRD recently collaborated with Indra Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and National Council of Rural Institutes (NCRI) to build capacity among rural youth for their employment and to get better incomes from their farms. With this collaboration, IIRD conducted 6 weeks training in two courses –
1. Organic Agriculture
2. Water Management
These courses were designed as an internship programme where the students are closely linked with farms for practical implementation of their skills. Thirty youth participated in these courses. The certificates for these courses were provided by the Indra Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). IGNOU is the top ranked open university in India and this partnership will make a difference to the rural youth as they gain skills that are required to build their villages and the environment.

Farmers market

PGS Promotion in the NE

Two PGS meets were held, one for the small tea growers and the other for small paddy, fruit and vegetable growers. Farm2Food Foundation, a local NGO in Guwahati being run by two young men, Samir Bordoloi and Gaurav Gogoi made the arrangements for holding the two meetings on the Directorate of Agriculture’s campus in Guwahati. Hostel accommodation was provided to farmers who had come to attend the meet. There were approximately 45 participants for the meet on each day, representing almost all the states in the northeast.

Dr. Claude Alvares of OFAI, Samraj from Keystone Foundation and Dr. Anjali Pathak were the resource for the meets. The fact that small farmers had showed up for the meets indicated that both farmers and consumers were becoming aware of organic produce. Some of the growers were default organic and wanted an organic certificate to validate their produce. Others wanted an organic certificate in the hopes that it would fetch them better prices and better markets.

Peggy Carswell of Fertile Ground had come with a number of small tea growers from upper Assam. Several growers had come from Bodoland. Peggy demonstrated a variant of amritapani to the growers. Peggy buys organic tea directly from the small producers and exports it.

In Guwahati, an organic grocery store called FARMERS’ MARKET has opened up in February 2013. Claude and Anjali visited the store and made useful suggestions to Anjan Thakuria, the owner.

Facilitation Councils for Assam and Nagaland are in the pipeline and once they are up and running, PGS groups will soon come up and be registered in the northeast. This is only the beginning as the northeast is a vast, untapped area that is eager to open up and connect to the rest of India. Only time will tell how deeply the organic movement and PGS certification can penetrate in the northeast.

– Anjali Pathak