Subscription-Based Organic Produce in Chennai, India

Sarah Murali
Posted October 6, 2015 from United States

Door 2 Door Organics is starting a subscription-based home delivery service of local organic produce in Chennai. The group "Nalla Keerai" ("Good Greens") has been operating a similar program in the area for a few years. This seems similar to "Community Supported Agriculture" (CSA) system that has become popular in many parts of the world. This article in The Hindu newspaper shares more details.

In the U.S., Community Supported Agriculture has been praised for the support it provides to small farmers. Farmers are typically paid in full for subscriptions at the start of the season, when they most need funds for planting and start up. Subscribers then share the risk with farmers that there could be crop failures. When bad weather hits or pests arrive, farmers are protected from devastating financial loss, and able to stay in business for another season.At the same time, CSA's have been criticized for often being inaccessible to lower income individuals and families.

I'd love to know the thoughts of the community on this concept. Could it work in your area? Would it benefit small farmers? Is it accessible to average citizens, or only those in the upper income levels?

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Nusrat Ara
Oct 09, 2015
Oct 09, 2015

Dear Sarah,

That is a topic I have been much pondering about recently. You know after I started giving my baby solids I am appaled by the choices I have. Everything that is available is laced with pesticides, insecticides, fungicides and much more. There are zero options of organic produce here. People use these poisons even in their kitchen gardens.

Sarah Murali
Oct 09, 2015
Oct 09, 2015

Hi Nusrat,

I think your situation and concern is shared by so many people. It is a difficult situation. Farmers are often in a difficult economic situation. When they see a tool that they think will help them be more productive, it's hard to argue that they shouldn't use it! The problem is, the negative effects are often initially unseen, though in a short time they become extremely problematic -- especially for the farmer! The farmers are exposed to even more of these chemicals than the people consuming their produce. Many do not use proper safety equipment, leading to extreme health risks (including cancers). In the long term, their crops will also suffer. Pesticides, for example, create an imbalance in the ecosystem, and after killing off all the insects in a crop (beneficial and harmful), it is the harmful insects that often return in greatest numbers, without the beneficial insects to keep their populations in balance. This creates a cycle in which the farmer is now dependent on the pesticide. Fertilizers and herbicides often function in the same way. We need to provide access to other mechanisms that farmers can use to increase their productivity, but without harming ecosystems or human health.

You touched on an especially important point about the safety of these chemicals for children. The "safe" levels of these chemicals (as determined by companies and governments), are generally set for adults. They do not usually consider the smaller still-developing bodies of children. It's very frustrating and concerning for parents like you, who want another option and aren't able to find one.

When there are no other options, it can be helpful to wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating, and, when possible, to peel them. But what about a more systemic solution that will benefit consumers, farmers and the environment? Do you think an idea like the one being tried in Chennai could ever work in your area?

Great to hear your thoughts on this, Nusrat! I appreciate your comments.

All the best, Sarah