Sri Lanka has been through over 400 years of colonization. Primary forests were cut down to make way for plantations. 30 years of war have left the people yearning for a peaceful, just society. In Colombo – a tropical city full of concrete, traffic, and people – a small ray of hope is beginning to shine from out of the smog. GENOA member, Trudy Juriansz, reports about the Good Market, and another initiative that, although still small has the effect of creating hope for Nature and the people of Sri Lanka.
The Good Market was initiated by a local organization, Sevalanka, in December 2012, and through a collaborative effort it has been coordinated by vendors and volunteers. People from different sectors of the community came together to create an alternative physical and psychological space in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. The concept is to create a space where natural, healthy and organic products can be sourced. Farmers, producer groups, and social enterprises throughout the country have developed products that are good for people, good for planet, good for you. The Good Market is a weekly initiative that highlights unique stories and products.
Products and services offered at the Good Market have an environmental and social focus. For example, there are products made by people who are differently abled, rural farmers who send their produce, and fair trade products. It is also a space where people can express their entrepreneurial skills, such as cards made from recycled paper by a woman who also offers space to work with children the whole day teaching crafts. Another woman offers a kids nature program, which is evolving to include education for parents as a means to build their understanding of the importance of nature as the classroom. Another individual has built up a successful business crafting artisanal cheeses made from sustainably sourced milk. The latest additions are two educational stalls, which will focus on consumer awareness, environmental conservation and sustainability. The education focused stalls are gaining momentum after a group of 20 Sri Lankans attended a week-long training at the Consumer Association of Penang (CAP) in Malaysia.
One vendor, the Alternatives, is a collective of five product lines that promote concepts, initiatives and ways of living by selling ethical and ecological products. Examples of the products featured every week: are natural crystal deodorants, eco positive feminine hygiene products, locally grown organic Stevia (natural sweetener), and certified “beyond organic” forest garden products. Other vendors, such as Dunhinda promote traditional and natural Sri Lanka foods, whereas another vendor such as Selyn, sells fair trade certified handloom products.
The market is catalyzing something different in Sri Lanka by creating an outlet for consumers and producers to meet directly, share stories and be part of a small but growing movement towards healthy, conscious living. People are not just buying natural and organic products, but also becoming engaged in dialogues over social, economic and environmental issues, which may not be discussed otherwise. It is hoped that with this consciousness, the demand for organic and natural products will increase, which in turn encourages producer groups to evolve and support more farmers to grow organic. The market is also bringing people from different economic classes together, providing a balanced and equal space for all to be, and work in.
In an attempt to provide certified organic goods at an affordable price through an equitable and participatory system, Good Market organizers have initiated the development of a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS). The Good Market PGS aims to incentivize organic production for the local market by having a low-cost (virtually free for the farmers groups), and participatory system of evaluation for organic cultivation methods. The system is participatory because it gives consumers the opportunity to visit producers and evaluate them based on established criteria and norms.
It has been nine months since the market began, and it now plays host to an eclectic collection of organic produce, natural food items, local handicrafts and arts, live music, kids events, and environmental education. The Good Market is a curated market, which means there is a Committee that reviews all applications and ensures that all vendors meet Good Market standards and a balance of product types is maintained. Additionally, the establishment of a PGS system will allow vendors, who currently claim to practice chemical-free cultivation methods, a process to guarantee their methods to their customers.
by Trudy Juriansz, [email protected]