Nov. 10, 2012
-- Bangalore, November 10, 2012: International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture (ICCOA) is a networking and interface organization owned by the stakeholders and based in Bangalore, India. It undertakes government sponsored projects in several states to convert farmers from chemical to organic agriculture. The process encompasses three stages: Organic adoption wherein the farmers are trained in principles of organic agriculture. The second stage comprises of getting the farmers land certified as “organic”. The third and final stage is to create market linkages for the produce grown in the project areas. The market linkages initiative is undertaken to ensure sustainability of the farmers even after the completion of the project. In the first stage organic clusters of interested farmers are created. Subsequently they are trained in the principles of organic farming. In the second stage ICCOA gets the land under the project area certified by accredited certification bodies. While under the third farmers are trained on harvest planning, grading, labeling and packing in the process of making the produce market ready.
In the process of creating marketing linkages hurdles were a plenty, says Manoj Kumar Menon, Executive Director ICCOA. “We took up this challenge and started a pilot project sometime back for ‘Organic vegetables production’ in villages of the three taluks of Bangalore Rural – Chickballapur, Doddaballapur and Devanahalli. The challenge begins from the time Farmer decides to go “Organic”, as in the initial periods of “in conversion” the farmers’ produce cannot be marketed as “Certified Organic”. Without the certification, the consumer doesn’t accept the crop as “Organic”. This is a delicate transformation as there is a likelihood of drop in yields during the initial phase, and farmers need to be supported with better prices”.
ICCOA adopts the process of deploying trained field staff in organic practices to communicate the benefits of Organic Agriculture to the farmers. So far it has been successful and has enrolled 120 farmers to cover 150 hectares under vegetable cultivation in these three villages. Thus, the organic vegetables are collected and graded into A, B and C. While grades A & B are meant for the retail chains with ICCOA labeling. While grade C is taken to the nearby markets and sold as conventional vegetables. The label of ICCOA was created with the leverage of consumers’ fear around quality of food, keeping e the core theme safety, ‘Healthy’, and ‘Chemical-
free’ and ‘Tasty’. The label also declares the source of the produce.