KARACHI: Karachi Farmers' Market has expanded and now, apart from its regular Sunday event at Haque Academy, will be held every Wednesday at the Alliance Française de Karachi in Clifton.
One of the six founders of the market, Muzzamil Niazi, told The Express Tribune that the team wanted to practice sustainable agricultural produce. "Our idea was to go green and clean up the food supply chain."
Another member, Maheen Zia, delved into the history of the Karachi Farmers' Market and credited the idea to Qasim Tareen, who kick-started the Islamabad's Farmers' Market about three years ago. "In 2015, he forwarded this idea to help grow it in Karachi to our mutual friend and another core member of the group, Laila Jamil. She said that the market was an opportunity for us to grow our own produce and put the kitchen garden produce up for sale!" Zia explained. Other members of the team include Tareen, Tofiq Pasha and Sarah Nasiruddin.
On August 30, 2015, the first Karachi Farmers' Market took place at The Lyceum, where it continued to be held bi-monthly every alternate Sunday, said Zia. By February 2016, the last month that the market was held at The Lyceum, it had become a weekly activity. The market is now held every Sunday at Haque Academy.
But now the market has expanded to a bi-weekly event; every Sunday at Haque Academy and every Wednesday at Alliance Française.
"We are a business model with a social impact and we want to create a structure where we can provide organically fresh and sustainable products. We believe that as long as it saves you a big hospital bill later, organic produce is worth it," said Zia.
"We're holding the market on Wednesday as well to attract a crowd that can come on a week day, like young mothers in between dropping and picking their kids from school," she explained.
Zia strongly believes in quality, transparency and sustainability. "We are consistently following the Safa Guidelines set by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, leading to a more effective farmers' market," she said.
"It's clean food with no meddling by the middle-men in this business. We frown upon them and want producing gardeners to answer questions to the consumers themselves," explained Niazi.
He said he is currently in talks to bring in freshwater fish from Markha Canal.
This Wednesday the market at Alliance Française comprised 11 stalls. Tangeloes was selling rose saffron honey syrup, dried apricots, honey oats and seeds. Dumloti by Laila Jamil was selling vegetables in abundance. Daali was selling whole grain flour, whole wheat flour, diabetic diet flour and honey from Mianwali and Beri- honey from the Simly Dam, Islamabad. There were also Kara cheese products at the event, as well as pickles from Food Garden.
"Winter is the time to see more vendors around coming in to sell their products and fresh produce. Summertime sees a dip in customers, because most people are out of the country and only a few vendors bring in their stuff to sell," disclosed Nasiruddin.
If this market succeeds, the team plans to open another location in Mohammad Ali Society, where people from PECHS and Nursery can easily come by, explained Niazi. "With 22 flourishing towns in Karachi, we should be able to spring up 22 farmers' markets in these towns and even hit the low income areas," shared Zia.
She is also eyeing Lahore as a possible site for the farmers' market.
"We really want to encourage the barter exchange system amongst one another and a sense of community to prevail amongst all," she added.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2017.