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Back to basic 'n' organic



Jaiva is not just about putting together organic food products under one roof. It has other products too. — Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.

IF YOU'RE one of those who loves scouring around for organically grown rice, wheat, and tomatoes and scream `hai hai' against anything chemically produced, head for Jaiva.

Of course, you step in and feel a bit disappointed perhaps; because there are just three shelves of products line the walls of the little store on Hospital Road.

But one must accept that the store is still nascent and grappling with a whole lot of issues. At least it's a first step. And as the storeowner says, more shelves made of lantana wood handcrafted by tribal people from B.R. Hills are on its way.

Jaiva is not just about putting together organic food products under one roof. It has alternative reading material, clothes woven from organically grown cotton, indigenous paintings and art work, dolls and toys made by tribal people and more.

So while it's hip to go organic, many also believe it's genuinely healthy with the motto being `Worms on my vegetables are OK, not toxic fertilisers'.

Switching to organic

Sugatha, a 35-year-old freelance set designer, is the one behind this venture. She hates all cola companies and having visited and interacted with farmers in Kerala, she decided to do something. "Most of these farmers don't know how to market their products. A number of farmers, especially in Kerala's Pulpalli area in Wayanad, are making a switch to organic farming. With Jaiva I thought I could make a beginning with flushing out chemical fertilisers used indiscriminately in growing food. I found friends here who were willing to support my venture," she says. Jaiva is a Sanskrit word that translates as `natural form of life'.

The store, just over a month old, stocks organically grown white rice, unpolished brown rice, grains, pulses, turmeric, pepper powder, spices, flavoured and plain coffees, honey, corn flour, and wheat flour.

Aromatherapy candles with natural oils are up for sale and bee wax candles will soon be on the shelves. Food products processed from organically grown material also share space on these shelves. So you have low-fat peanut butter, lime pickle with medicinal value, guava jelly, and fruit juices. Vegetables are available only on weekends. You can find cauliflower with labels that say they have come from the farms of Vittal Mallya Scientific Research Foundation.

But how do we know all this is really organic? Sugatha says most of the products at the store have been certified by the Swedish IMO, the Japanese JASS, and other such recognised agencies. Others are pending certification, but Jaiva will direct you to the farms should you want to check out the place of origin.

"The supply chain is falling into place only now, and we should be fully-stocked up by January-end. I started the store on the spur of the moment, and we didn't realise that these limited products would not be available at that particular time as farmers had sold out their entire stock," admits Sugatha. "And we are promoting local varieties, not hybrids."

Of course, some products are priced high because the initial yield after the switch to organic is very low. Transportation costs are high and certification is an expensive process, Sugatha explains. Organic wheat flour, for instance, is priced double that of the regular one, at Rs. 38 a kilo. Red rice is priced at Rs. 30 a kilo.

Farmers from around Bangalore, Kanakapura Road, Hennur Road, Hunsur, H.D. Kote, Mysore, and parts of Kerala and Andhra Pradesh have been roped in and are being trained in organic farming. Communities like Navadarshanam, NGOs and groups like Pipal Tree and Vistaar who work with farmers, are also part of the effort. Vermicomposting, use of natural dung, neem, jaggery-and-fish mixtures for pest control are some of the things taught. Jaiva is planning to expand its scope and organise farm visits for people curious about organic farming. It planning nature camps for kids and a library of issue-based `alternative' books.

Jaiva is at 8, Hospital Road (parallel to Infantry Road), next to Subway, Bangalore 560 001. It is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on all days except Tuesday, which is a holiday. Phone: 94484-70353.

BHUMIKA K.

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