Susthayi Krishi Poribar is an organization that promotes the production and marketing of organically-farmed products. This organization conducted a meet for all entities working on organic farming in the Sunderbans area. The meet took place on 7th May at the Shibnath Sastri hall (Jaynagar). In this meet, the founder president of Mukti, Mr. Sankar Halder, spoke on behalf of Mukti. This article presents the contents of his talk.
Recently, Mukti has received membership of the Economic and Social Development Council of the United Nations. Using this platform, Mukti wants to advocate on the issue of climate change in the Sundarbans and other regions at the UN. Mukti will appoint eight permanent members and seven temporary members will be nominated every year to organize this work. Therefore, if members wish to advocate on climate change at the international level, Mukti can provide access to the UN platform for them.
The Sundarbans are facing a new challenge – the gradual increase in the salinity of water and soil. The primary reasons behind this are the use of chemical fertilizers in shrimp farming and the release of wastewater into the river. In addition to this, salinity is also increasing due to rising sea levels, compounded by the obstruction of natural drainage systems due to human activity. This causes saltwater to be trapped inland for an extended period, exacerbating the salinity.
In the context of Mukti’s organic farming initiatives, the reality of increased salinity needs to be considered, and climate-resilient organic farming is the need of the day. Another challenge faced by Mukti in promoting organic farming is with marketing. When Mukti started working on organic farming in 2009, farmers were unable to reach the right customers, as organic and non-organic produce were pooled together in local markets. Mukti is considering various measures, such as building designated spaces for organic produce in local markets to address this issue.
In the field of organic vegetable marketing, Mukti is facing a very unequal battle against multinational giants like TATA, Reliance, and Ambani, who have recognized the growth in demand for organic crops and created channels in the field of organic vegetable marketing. Mukti must take a promotional strategy to sell the vegetables produced by our farmers collectively. Mukti’s vision is that organic produce should not just be for those with disposable income in urban areas. Instead, it should be accessible to rural, lower middle class, and the middleclass customers. Mukti should adopt branding policies and education initiatives that will serve this goal.
At the same time, Mukti would not disregard the customer base who can afford to buy organic produce at higher prices as lifestyle items. This customer base should be engaged to provide profits, which can be then channel led back to farmers. Mukti has already implemented this model. Organic production started at Mukti in 2009, with various schemes which helped the organic farmers sustain themselves for another ten years. Then Mukti implemented “Mukti Fresh,” which became profitable within two years. For the past three years, Mukti has been spending the dividend from Mukti Fresh on organic farming. The Mukti SAM project made up of organic farmers is now a self-sustaining project.
Mukti should think about providing the health benefits of organic produce to the rural underprivileged population. A possible means would be to create designated spaces, overseen by a supervisor, exclusively for organic products in village markets.