The covid-induced lockdown has clearly exposed the vulnerability of our highly centralised food system, all the way from production, transport, storage to distribution. While farm produce made for centralised markets is rotting in the fields, and godowns with grains are inaccessible, millions are starving across the country.
Contrast this with farmers-market communities across India where farmers grow a variety of crops in just enough quantities, and reach them to the consumers that they personally know, and are supported in return. Gurgaon Farmers Market is one of the more successful farmers markets in India.
Manas was invited to join a group of concerned citizens who co-founded GOFM five-and-half years ago. It is a weekly market that hadn’t missed operating even a single week in all these years until the lockdown. This initiative connects about 12-20 organic farmers around Gurgaon with over 500 families living in Gurgaon. With the lockdown, the market went online where customers could place order and have their baskets door-delivered.
The success of the market has been the enthusiasm among the volunteers to show up consistently and run the market, its having remained a profit-free and fully voluntary effort, its selling only plant-based food (largely for ecological reasons) besides others. GOFM has a charter that keeps the process transparent and unambiguous, which volunteers find easy to follow.
The farmers are mostly local, and not essentially small or marginal ones. Any authentic organic local farmer who is willing to sign up for the values of GOFM, becomes part of the market. The market has both farmers and aggregators (organic stores) set up stalls.
The pricing is not particularly high or low. The prices are determined by the farmers themselves and the market doesn’t interfere in the matter. When asked for help in pricing products, the volunteers merely facilitate the process.
Verification of the products being organic is done by volunteers and some enthusiastic customers, who take turns to visit the farms regularly and build a relationship with them. GOFM does not believe in or encourage organic certification, and works merely based on trust. There have been cases where farmers have cheated and had to be asked to leave. But in general the incentive to remain organic is so high that these cases are extremely rare.
Manas is happy to support anyone who would like to start their own farmers market or strengthen an existing one. He also co-manages an online group [email protected] of those already running farmers markets or interesting in starting one. He can be reached at [email protected]
This is the first of a series of webinars, Vikalp Varta, that the Vikalp Sangam process is hosting, beginning on 18 April 2020.
Recordings of the first 16 webinars are linked below:
Manas Arvind (Gurgaon Organic Farmers Market, Gurgaon)
Why are farmers markets, the markets of the future? What has it taken to initiate one and run it for five years? How can we partner with local farmers during covid times? How can we start new farmers’ markets post the covid crisis?
Satheesh, Chandramma, Narsamma, Mayuree, Narsamma (Deccan Development Society, Telengana)
Instead of being at the receiving end of relief packages, dalit and adivasi women in 75 villages in Telangana not only feed their families with nutritious food, but also distribute free millet porridge to workers, feed urban consumers, and contribute to the District Relief fund. How?
Ghatit Lakheru, Rajiben Vankar, Vinod Vankar, Arun Vankar, Champa Siju, Suresh Parbat, Ashok Vankar, Suresh Vankar (Khamir, Kachchh)
Young weavers of Kuchcch, Gujarat, have transformed their lives through education & entrepreneurship based on a combination of innovation and tradition. What inspired and motivated them? How have other actors helped? How do they envision their future? What do they think of the current crisis?
How did Kuthambakkam’s panchayat transform it socially and economically? How does the village manufacture its own disinfectant besides other things of daily use? In what ways are villagers organising themselves in the current COVID scenario? What opportunities are there to strengthen local economy and self-governance in the long run?
Meenakshi Gupta, Anshu Gupta (Goonj)
Now that millions of migrant workers have reached home to their villages, what lessons have we learnt as a society about the structure of our economy and its invisible forces? What can we learn from Goonj’s “Vaapsi Initiative” which has been restoring traditional rural livelihoods and supporting reverse migration? How can we take inspiration from their experience with material-exchange in moving towards a more money-free society?
How did the Kunariya village panchayat (Kachcch) facilitate collective health survey, budgeting, support for the vulnerable members and enable elders to teach children their special skills of embroidery, music, craft, cooking and traditional technologies as a response to the COVID-lockdown?
Shubhada Deshmukh, Satish Gogulwar (Amhi Amchaya Arogayasathi)
How have adivasi communities become self-reliant through food security, forest-based livelihoods, water conservation, organic agriculture and homesteading? How have they reclaimed their holistic approach to health through traditional eating and healing practices, and responded effectively to the pandemic?
Members of Jalstrot Sneh Samvardhan Samiti (Water Sources Augmentation Committee), Nirman Sathi Sangathan (Migrants’ Association), Bhuj Saher Sheri Pheria Sangathan (Bhuj City Street Vendors’ Association) , Bhuj Saher Pashu Ucherak Maldhari Sangathan (Bhuj City Cattle Rearers’ Association), Hunnarshala, ACT, Sahjeevan, Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan, and SETU Abhiyan
What can we learn from the Homes in the City program in Bhuj, to decentralize, feminize, ecologize and revitalize urban planning and governance? What learning does it hold in terms of planning for street vendors, migrant workers, city pastoralists, poorer sections and women and other marginalized sections in the wake of COVID? How do we make our cities inclusive, just and sustainable?
Arun, Poornima, Akila, Paripoornam, Karthik, Harish, Pachaiyappan (Marudam Farm School)
How can we integrate local knowledge systems and their practitioners (farmers and artisans) in our learning processes? How can communities become more resilient by contextualising education to land, nature, local culture and history? Why is spending time in nature important? Why does education need to engage the whole body through crafts, movement and music?
Anisha, Vibhuti, Shashank (Youth Alliance)
How do we bring together self work and systemic work for the healing of humanity? Drawing from our rich lineage, how can young people connect with their swadharma and yugadharma? How do we connect with our humanness as we transition to a post-industrialism world? How are the youth making sense of and responding to today’s crisis, and building the way forward?
Stan Thekaekara, Anil Misquith (Just Change, ACCORD)
From bonded labourers to tea plantation owners, creating a strong collective (AMS), starting a community hospital and school, and contributing to the Just Change Producer Company (connecting producers, consumers, investors) … it’s been a 35-year long march towards self-reliance for the adivasis of Gudalur.
Diken (Swaraj Jail University)
The Swaraj Jail University in Udaipur is a space for the learner-inmates to connect to their deeper life purpose and passion. It has dedicated centres for music, yoga, meditation, multimedia design, hair styling and art, besides a studio for recording music and a natural farm. A Sufi music band has been on an incredible journey of discovering healing and joy in their lives. Inmates are discovering themselves as learners, teachers, artists and healers.
Akole, Seno (North East Network)
Through their work in Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland, the 25-year old NORTH EAST NETWORK has been strengthening local governance, taking care of Nature and creating sustainable livelihoods. Through the pandemic period, NEN has continued to engage youth in relief work, build livelihoods under women’s leadership and create a food secure environment. (Read a story specially commissioned for Vikalp Sangam, in Hindi, on this work आत्मनिर्भरता की मिसाल है पहाड़ी खेती)
Gijs, Anjali (Pondicherry Food System)
In Pondicherry, a group of citizens hosted by the French Institute Pondicherry (IFP) has come together to localise the food system, by supporting community gardens and urban farming as well as connecting retailers and restaurants with ecological farmer networks. A farmer’s market, an alternative currency to enable more local flows of value and information and connecting with similar initiatives across the world are all on the cards.
Karthik (Participatory Guarantee Systems Organic Council)
PGS is a collectivized trust-based system which has been transforming the organic certification scene in India by moving the power to certify from centralized institutions to small farmers. Participatory Guarantee Systems Organic Council (PGSOC) works in collaboration with farmer organizations, civil society organizations, government and consumer networks to promote a healthy local organic economy.
Malika (MAATI Sanghathan) and other women from the community
The COVID crisis has only strengthened the resolve of the MAATI Sanghatan in Uttarakhand to reclaim the natural commons and strengthen the local economy. How has MAATI helped women overcome many forms of violence, gain economic empowerment and food security? How does their ‘Jungli School’ help the young learn about and value their local culture and environment?
First Published on a Blog by Vikalp Sangam in Response to pandemic due to Corona virus