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Bhoomi Ka - Transforming Food Systems in India

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To make a healthier and more sustainable future a reality for everyone, our food systems must preserve the liveability of our planet. This is why we must produce and choose food free of fertilizers, and pesticides, while guaranteeing food security and the nutritional needs of the population. Initiatives like the EU SWITCH-Asia Bhoomi Ka network work towards this vision.

EU SWITCH-Asia Bhoomi Ka
Farmers - Copyright: Arijit Sen, Welthungerhilfe

Bhoomi Ka’s mission is ambitious: transform food systems in India. The network provides support to small local producers assisting them in the cultivation of chemical-free food, favouring biodiversity and reducing the environmental impact of the crop.

We never use chemical fertilizers. Instead, we use biofertilizers, which provide essential nutrients and energy to plants. Chemical fertilizers detroy our soil. It is true that in the first years we obtain more vegetables, but it does not ensure the continuity of production
- A Bhoomi Ka farmer

This project managed by the European Union, is supported by various international organisations that recognise the need for clean, green, and fair food practices in the Indian subcontinent, as the German NGO Welthungerhilfe, the Indo-Global Social Service Society (IGSSS), and the Voluntary Association of Agricultural General Development Health and Reconstruction Alliance (VAAGDHARA). 

Agroecological fruits and vegetables tend to be more expensive and not everyone knows their value. To make sure small producers get a fair price for their work, Bhoomi Ka is working with farmers to create a transparent and fair market access mechanism, bringing together stakeholders in the food value chain, as farmers, traders, street vendors and consumers. 

Farmer Karamveer at his farm in Jind
Farmer Karamveer at his farm in Jind - Copyright: Arijit Sen | Bhoomi Ka
Organic Farmer and retailer Sarla Mann her husband sharing experience at 'Our Food Bowl Fair' 2021
Organic farmer Sarla Mann (on the right) at 'Our Organic Food Bowl Fair' 2021 - Copyright: Arijit Sen | Bhoomi Ka

Among its activities, the Bhoomi Ka network offers fairs, webinars, exhibitions, workshops and awareness sessions for schools and the general public, on topics such as clean, green and fair eating habits, sustainable living, urban gardening and cooking. 

Among others, the network operates in the Jind district located in Haryana, which is home to a large rural population engaged in agricultural activities.

Here, farming communities from the Igrah village realised that life could be improved only by working in tandem with nature. Heavy use of pesticides not only did not prevent repeated pest attacks, but also were causing adverse health effects, thus some progressive farmers decided to shift towards the principles of sustainable agriculture. 

With increased awareness and positive outcomes from the new practices, more farmers switched to organic agriculture, but several challenges remained. There were serious doubts about establishing regular access to markets and sustainable income for farmers. The existing supply chain structure was functioning around dependency on chemicals, from cultivation to food storage. Farmers were also unfamiliar with processes for obtaining organic certification.

Bhoomi Ka efforts in the Igrah village led to the formation of a Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO) called Jind Organics. Farmers were trained on Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) certification was a priority. PGS certification is a traceability and quality assurance link between farmers and consumers. 

Among the activities promoted by Bhoomi Ka, a series of capacity building sessions were organized involving experts on price determination, market linkages, packaging, labelling, business development and book-keeping to facilitate smooth operations of Jind Organics.

A fair under the theme ‘Our Organic Food Bowl’ was also organized in March 2021 at Jind, bringing together farmers, retailers, consumers, educators. As a result, participating farmers received various purchase orders, allowing Jind Organics to start regularly catering to households in Delhi. Farmers are getting a fair price for their products and are hopeful that their products will increasingly reach more households. 

Original article published by SWITCH-Asia.