An initiative to make people aware of safe food and to know from where the food is coming from.
Human lifestyles leading to degradation and pollution of air, soil and our water-bodies around us is well-known but not many might know that its effects have now reached the food we consume. Lifestyle diseases – hypertension, diabetes, heart- disease and cancer – have become commonplace in urban India and it is increasingly clear that one of the root causes is the food we consume. However the urban life speed does not allow us stop back nor provide the time to review the causes leave aside think about any cures.
The gravity of the issue at hand led to the coagulation of some similar-thinking individuals; a number of experts in and around Pune working in the fields of agriculture, health, nutrition and sustainability, converged into a citizen movement working towards creating awareness about Safe-Food and building a network of stakeholders. Annadata – Safe Food Movement is a citizen-driven, expert-led voluntary movement born to common man’s restlessness about the toxicity in our daily food.
What is safe food
Food which is non-toxic and nutritious for the body is safe food. It should be chemical free, adulteration free, Genetically Modified free and even excessive processing free. So organic, naturally grown food is safe food; a farm produce which ensures the safety of the farmers, their farm animals as well as retains the equilibrium in the soil and ecosystem. Different types of safe food available are as below –
- Tribal food – Tribal food is grown in remote interior areas by tribal farmers who are unaware of chemicals and modern farming. The tribals grow for themselves and their surplus if any, is sold.
- Natural Farming – (Fukuoka or Zero Budget method)- Herein the farmers use all naturally available resources within their own farm to grow food e.g. cowdung for manure and neem leaves as pesticides, thus not investing / dependent on market for growth of their foodcrop.
- Organic – Use of organically certified, safe fertilisers & pesticides to grow food. Organic certification is provided to farms growing with this method. Now other more diverse methods such as permaculture, biodynamic farming are being used by farmers too.
Annadata Organic Food Festival is being arranged at the Bhimthadi Jatra between 22 and 25 December 2017 at the Agriculture College Grounds as the kickoff event of the Annadata Safe Food Movement. Safe Food Pune Volunteers are creating a knowledge pavilion where people will be able to understand the concept of safe food and reflect on their lifestyles leading to the grim realities of significant and unmonitored amounts of toxins reaching people through the food being consumed.
Know your Farmer and Consumer
One significant gap in the agriculture supply chain currently all over the world is that consumers simply don’t know who their farmer(s) is/are and how the food they eat everyday is produced. The farmer(s) also do(es) not know the people consuming their produce. Farmers and consumers generally have different expectations from food. In light of the distressing agrarian crisis, the regular farmer aims to grow maximum highest-paying crop/grain to get maximum revenue possible through whatever means (often putting chemicals and sometimes even adulteration in food). The average consumer on the other hand generally intends to pay as little as possible and get the best looking farm produce including unseasonal crops. Often adulteration and impurities are added during the supply chain between farmer and consumer too to ensure the food lasts long or that it looks bright. Consumers are also not sure whether chemical free food is truly chemical free and/or being used as a way to extract additional price from them. The movement hopes to break this dysfunctional system.
Annadata Safe Food Movement has chosen 45 farmers/groups from across Maharashtra; representing 350+ farmers engaged in chemical-free, GMO-free, toxic-free farm practices. The fresh, natural and traditional farm-produce – vegetables, grains, millets and other items will be offered to the visitors for direct purchase. The dialog between the producer and consumer will be useful to forge a family-farmer concept where buyer groups can build long-lasting relationships. Urban consumers could visit their family-farmers and their family-farms could, reciprocally, cultivate the produce demanded by such buyer groups. As Devinder Sharma, a leading agricultural policy expert says “As we used to have the concept of a family doctor in the days gone by, we need to have the concept of a family farmer. Farmers whom the consumers know, meet and procure crops from on a regular basis and are almost an extended part of the family”
Amongst the farmers participating at the movement include Kalsubai group, Akole
Kalsubai in the Sahyadri ranges is known as the highest mountain peak in the state of Maharashtra. Geograpical limitations mean that water cannot be arrested by dams, nor stored. The farming here is entirely dependent on the usually heavy rainfall in the monsoon season. Rice is their prime crop. Alongside rice, they traditionally harvested millets like ragi, varai, saava, bhaduli and red-gram, black-lentil and kadwe-wal. However, over the last decade the farming scene witnessed drastic changes most of which are not conducive to the local community and their traditional farm-system. Agriculture has turned increasingly market-centric. Amidst all this, Saurabh Pratishthan’s Nature Club of Akole took a bold step.
Under the peak of Kalsubai, at the feet of the mountain, a village has been tribal-farming for generations. Over the last 7-8 years, hybrid variety of rice started getting planted. This rice crop has an apparently high yield but chemical fertilisers are mandatory to be included on it. The visible high yield prompted many to go for it in spite of the incumbent switch to use of toxic chemicals. Every terrace started getting tilled for this rice. The other grain and millet crops were left no room to be planted. Gradually these crops weaned off so much that even their seeds became unavailable. Sava, ragi, rala, bhadli the most nutritious of millets and cereals completely vanished from farms. Varai – the barnyard millet, however, continued to be planted on farm edges, especially on slopes where planting rice is impossible. Rice and varai harvests somehow managed to sustain the livelihoods of farmers, but in the market-centric farm-system the unprocessed varieties of millet and rice generated more profits for the traders than the toiling farmers. When this gap was understood, a varai processing machine was procured from outside Maharashtra and grain got processed on the farm to make it more desirable to direct buyers. This yielded better incomes to farmers. Consumption of varai in farmer households also brought in better health for their families.
The consumers also took a liking for the Kalsubai bhagar (varai) and demanded for their tasty traditional rice. The traditional grain’s demand was more for than the available production. Farmers sensed buyer sentiment and decided to plant traditional crops as well as chose to go non-toxic. Jeevamrut, organic manure began to be preferred. A sizable difference soon materialised. There is a definite hope that 100% organic farming will be achieved in the coming three years and will inspire other regions.
The Kalsubai women farmer groups have also set up multiple varai processing units. Kalsubai ragi noodles and ragi papad have gained popularity. Women contribute largely to the important farm decisions. The men and women have worked hard to procure seeds of the traditional grain and cereal crops from the surrounding areas.
This story is still being written. But it is certainly a step towards a sustainable living; realised from a sustainable farm. It’s the guarantee of a healthy environment. The foundation of an independent self-supported farm-system is being laid by using a naturally preserved seed; instead of bought out seed.
Says Dr Pankaj Patil from Pune “I am a customer of ONEST organic food and vegetables. I have been treating a European female patient of 68 years through Panchakarma treatment. As part of the treatment, I was providing her diet from my home kitchen. In 3 weeks of diet; cooked with organic products and all fruits and veggies, I got a very good success in treating her and she also felt very positive about the positive change in her health. Eat green and live green!.”
Beyond the food festival
Annadata Safe Food Festival is rapidly growing as an ongoing movement. It continues to build networks across communities, spread awareness and support farmer-groups about the undoubted importance of toxic-free food and grains helping the urban consumer with verified sources of safe-food. The citizen response to the Safe Food Pune Movement has been encouraging and growing. It has led to formation of a dedicated group of volunteers and farming-experts who are leading the movement. It hopes to be able to support other such groups on a pan-India basis too. It would also be launching an Android-based mobile app called Annadata covering safe-food information and will be used to develop the network.