KATHMANDU, Oct 22: The word ‘organic’ has become really popular among farmers, sellers and consumers in recent days. It has become a selling point for many sellers as it continues to charm people wanting to lead a healthier lifestyle. However, the production of organic food is costlier than commercially-produced food, limiting access to a larger portion of the population. And the ever looming problem of fair price remains stagnant in the market. This is where Safe Food Alliance Nepal (SFAN), a not for profit organization, comes in. It facilitates the production of safe food and also ensures the authenticity of any agricultural product.
Suhrid Chapagain, president at SFAN, said that the organization mentors farmers for the production of safe food. The organization currently has eight technical staffers who work closely with farmers for the production of safe food.
Not only does the company help farmers in safe food production,but also it boosts farmers’ pricing confidence by arranging fair prices for their products. “We have partnered with Asmita’s Creation which is a farmers and marketing entrepreneurs partnership to get the agricultural products out in the market,” he shared. His team consists of Asmita Rai and Prakash Rai who are active farmers with an understanding of what farmers need and he compliments as a marketing entrepreneur.
At a time when middlemen play a vital role in the price determination in the market, the organization assists farmers to evaluate the quality and price of their products. Chapagain as a graduate of mechanical engineering who also holds a Master's degree in Business Administration wanted to create an ecosystem that is fair to both farmers and consumers. “Farmers want fair prices for their products and consumers want authentic products,” he shared with Republica. “Most of the time agricultural products that are said to have been brought from a certain location are not actually from there.”
He said that consumers invest money thinking that the products are from the mentioned place but they are being cheated. “We as a team wanted to do justice to the consumers and also to farmers who are not getting the price they deserve,” he added.
It has been only a year and a half but SFAN already has 50 members comprising farmers, retailers and wholesalers, of which 70 percent are farmers. The organization ensures that the farmers engage in the safe food production as per the good agricultural practices (GAP) guidelines issued by the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control. The products eventually have to go through Rapid Bioassay of Pesticide Residue (RBPR) test before they are brought to the market. “Food after passing the test as per the GAP guideline are then provided with a logo which indicates that they are appropriate for consuming,” he told Republica. “It is being honest to the consumers and making farmers maintain their standards.”
The organization has been working with farmers from Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, Jumla, Mustang and Sindhuli.
Safe food is free of chemical risk, physical hazard and biological hazard and according to Chapagain, SFAN urges farmers to use organic practices while on the farm. SFAN continuously keeps tabs on the production of such food. Farmers fill in the log book and report the activities done on the farm weekly. “We are developing our own log book to get accurate information from the farmers,” Chapagain added. “Authenticity of any agricultural product sold in the market is our priority and we build credibility through our work.”
Along with the provincial and local authorities, many youths have liked the idea of fair pricing. Approximately 20,000 consumers around major cities of Nepal are linked with the safe food supply through SFAN’s five wholesale points. “40,000 kilograms of fruits and vegetables are traded on a daily basis,” he said.
According to Chapagain, the situation could improve if the organization could get involved with the farmers right from the production planning process and the government makes the campaign market oriented. He mentioned the need to add infrastructure and set up wholesale agencies for smooth supply of the products. “Rural municipalities and municipalities need to further focus on safe food production,” he added.