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WhatsApp is Empowering Kerala's Small Farmers to Bring You Organic Delights; Here’ How

Farmers' collectives and WhatsApp groups in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, are setting up weekly farmers' markets where small farmers can sell their produce and homemade products. These markets help farmers earn an income, reduce food waste, and provide consumers with fresh, locally-grown produce.

Shivangi Rai
Women Vendor selling produce at the Saturday market by Haritham Organic Group
Women Vendor selling produce at the Saturday market by Haritham Organic Group

Padmaja Gladis eagerly looks forward to Saturdays because that is the day when she gets to sell her homegrown vegetables, leafy greens, eggs, coconut oil, coconuts, and mushrooms at the farmers' market near Avukkulam Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, a few kilometres from Powdikonam junction.

Padmaja is just one of the many vendors who sell their products at this market, which is organised by Haritham Organic Group, a farmers’ collective. Sathidevi is another homemaker who sells homegrown produce at a farmers' market. She sells curry leaves, banana flower, banana stem, mangoes, and homemade pickle at the farmers’ market held on Saturdays and Sundays by Haritha Group, another farmers’ group, at Cheruvaykkal near Sreekaryam junction.

Jyothis Kumar, a seasoned farmer, sells homegrown yields including spices, at the Sunday market at Orthodox Student Centre. Indira Nair turns up every week at the Saturday market at Gandhi Bhavan with vegetables from her kitchen garden, along with homemade snacks and desserts. These farmers' markets offer a wide variety of products, including seasonal fruits such as jackfruit and mangoes, milk, eggs, curd, spices, oil, diverse varieties of chillies and amaranthus, and greens such as spinach, lettuce, mint, and pandan leaves.

Padmaja, who has been growing vegetables at home, used to face the problem of excess produce going to waste or being distributed in the neighbourhood for free. However, the Saturday sale now helps her earn an income, and she is overwhelmed by the response she has received from customers.

Social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook have played a significant role in the launch and success of these farmers' markets. The Saturday market at Gandhi Bhavan, which had gone during the pandemic, was born out of a WhatsApp group of kitchen gardeners.

It is presently run by Farm Journalists’ Forum with the support of Gandhi Smaraka Nidhi and Ananthapuri Jaiva Padana Kalari. The weekly market at Orthodox Student Centre is an initiative of the WhatsApp group of the Thiruvananthapuram chapter of Krishi Bhoomi, a Facebook group of farmers. The group has 200 members, 150 of whom are active farmers. Apart from vegetables and fruits, homemade snacks, desserts, masalas, and pickles are also sold at some counters from 10 am onwards. In all these markets, the rates are fixed after taking the rates in the local market into account.

The markets have become a popular destination for customers who want to buy fresh, organic produce directly from the farmers who grow them. The markets also offer an opportunity for farmers to earn a fair price for their products while eliminating the middlemen who often exploit them. This Sunday will be the 200th edition of the market at Aramkallu, which is run by Samabhavana Residents’ Association.

The market sees over a dozen farmers selling yield every week. Customers can place orders in advance, and those who book in advance are given preference over those who haven’t. The sale commences at 7.30 am and ends within two hours. In conclusion, these farmers' markets are not only a source of fresh, organic produce for customers but also provide an opportunity for farmers to earn a fair price for their products. The markets have become an essential part of the local economy, and social media has played a significant role in their success.

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