Safe Harvest Private Limited was born out of the simple idea that consumers would be willing to pay a modest premium for widely available, guaranteed safe food produced by India's poorest farmers, thereby creating a win-win situation for both consumers and producers.
There is a growing awareness in India about the serious negative consequences of chemical pesticide use. The Green Revolution of the mid-1960s was built on the idea of raising agricultural productivity through intensive use of pesticides and other chemicals. Widespread use of such chemicals has led to large-scale pollution of soil and water resources, with consequences for human health. There is growing evidence, for example, that in parts of the Punjab, pesticide-induced cancer is on the rise.
Despite increasing awareness about the health implications of pesticide contamination in our foods, safe food is hard to come by. Certified organic food is produced by a small number of farmers, and is often priced at a considerable premium with limited availability in boutique shops catering to a small clientele.
On the other hand, many small and marginal farmers in India, especially in rainfed tracts, do not use chemical pesticides as they are too expensive or are not required within their ecological context. Such ?default organic? farmers rarely obtain a premium on their produce as they are unorganized, have poor access to markets, and have not managed to have their produce certified as pesticide- free.
As a value proposition, SHPL promises affordable availability of pesticide-free produce in mainstream retail outlets along with sustainable and profitable agriculture for India?s poorest farmers. The NPM group has developed a strong and transparent Collective Guarantee System whereby farmer groups collectively tae responsibility and vouch for their own produce as being free of pesticides. The ZERO Pesticide label is the proof this guarantee
Consumers: Safe Harvest offers consumers a range of affordable, healthy and pesticide-free foods. Unlike organic foods that cater to a niche market, pesticide-free food can potentially have a wider appeal and cater to many more consumers.
Farmers: By reducing cultivation costs through use of low-cost NPM technologies and ensuring a better price for pesticide-free food, SHPL has been able to raise income levels of small and marginal farmers by 15-20%. NPM agriculture also minimizes their financial risk and reduces debt by introducing them to sustainable agricultural practices.
Environment: By promoting pesticide free agriculture, SHPL offers solutions the serious problem of chemical pollution of the environment. By reducing pesticide residues in the environment, SHPL safeguards the health of soil, water, plants, animals and human beings.
The times ahead are interesting as well as challenging. SHPL is working towards on a multi-pronged path to fulfill its promise as well as potential. At the market level, we are trying to increase the availability of our products in major stores across cities. We are working towards different mediums of sales so that safe food does not remain niche category in India.
Simultaneously we are working towards expanding the basket of available products, so that the consumers are able to make a complete switch, until poisonous food becomes a history. By improving the logistics and as an effect of increasing turnover, we hope to rationalize the logistics costs and bring down prices even further.
At the backward level, we are working towards increasing the partnership base as well as including more farmers under NPM program areas to meet the increasing demand of NPM products. We hope to make NPM the de facto base standard for the food industry by 2020..
Rangu Rao is a Member of the Central Employment Guarantee Council and is also a Member of the Program Advisory Group constituted by the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India for overseeing the rollout of the new MGNREGA guidelines. He was a Member of the Steering Committee on Rural Livelihoods and Rural Governance for the 12th Five Year Plan and also the Chairperson of the Working Group on MGNREGA. He is a co-founder of the Samaj Pragati Sahayog (SPS), and over the past 25 years has built it into one of India's largest grassroots initiatives, spread over millions of acres of land of central India, in and around Bagli in the Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh. Inspired from the ideas of Baba Amte, who rejected charity and successfully empowered even the most challenged, Rangu believes that location-specific watershed development combined with low-cost, low-risk agriculture, nature-based livelihoods and women-led microfinance, can dramatically raise rural incomes, providing an enduring panacea to India’s suicide-ridden drylands.
Neju George Abraham has over 15 years of experience working with the grassroots producers and building social businesses working across financing, production and marketing supply chains. As the head of Industree Foundation, part of the hybrid social enterprise Mother Earth he led business efforts in 11 states by creating bottom of the pyramid enterprises servicing over 22000 families in the traditional creative industries space. During this time Industree won several accolades including the Peer Grant Award for Non-Profits at Dasra Social Impact Cohort (2011), the India Development Market Place 2011 Competition of the World Bank for empowering Producer Owned Business enterprises and the Jubilant Bhartia-World Economic Forum Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2011. He was instrumental in setting up the Global Natural Fibre Forum an initiative of the Commonwealth Secretariat UK with membership from 53 countries in 5 continents promoting the interests of small producers in the natural fibre industry.
Gadam Pavan Kumar
K.H.T. Timme Gouda