What’s unique about the initiative?
Sahaja Aaharam is an Independent Farmer Produce Company promoted by the Center for Sustainable Agriculture. It is dedicated to connecting and creating awareness among farmers and consumers through producer co-operatives. They aim to ensure maximum financial and economic benefit to the farmers, to provide nutritional food choices to the consumers and to bring ecological benefits to the environment.
Most outstanding results
The not-for-profit Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), which works with farmers, formed Sahaja Aharam in 2014 as the bridge between food growers and consumers. It’s a federation of over a dozen cooperatives to create a small farmers’ organic brand and store: Sahaja Aharam, which means Natural Food in the Telugu language. This is an organic brand evolving out of the collectivization of small and marginal farmers to create a local food system that aspires to be sustainable and chemical-free.
CSA handholds producer collectives, builds capacities and provides important services, and connects them to markets and end-consumers. They also hold awareness programmes and events for urban consumers to educate them about their food systems.
Sahaja Aharam has decentralised systems: aggregation, primary processing, secondary value addition at local village or cluster-level hubs that are cost-effective and manageable. Sahaja does not allow its perishables to go waste. Through solar food dryers, they convert the waste or unsold greens into dried vegetables to extend their shelf life and sell in a different way to buyers.
Each of the Sahaja cooperatives is unique, non-replicable and scalable; the structures and designs of the organization are adaptable to different conditions.
Sahaja Aharam is a model of community-managed local food systems. They succeeded in tapping markets at a time when the Indian government was opening up food retail to multinational corporations.
One of the participating cooperatives, the Gayathri Mahila Rythula Mutually-aided Cooperative Society is a caste- and age-diverse community of 250 women farmer members that produces and sells organic food to consumers in the city. The strength of the collective lies in standing together, learning together, and sharing the journey together. They also distribute free seeds to anybody within the village. Most members of the group are marginal farmers who have over the years managed to win their most important title: a land title. More than merely producing and selling the organic products, the collective has brought about a fundamental change in the way people view women farmers and farming.
Quote from the evaluation committee
“This initiative makes clear the interconnections between social, ecological and economic challenges in the agrarian world. Taking something seemingly simple like connecting producers and consumers, the core of a multifaceted strategy for food system change has been developed.”
– Zoe Brent
To know more, read this in-depth article. Also, you can scroll down to download the application form filled by this initiative to take part in the Transformative Cities award.