In recent years, the word ‘organic’ has become the talk of the town, but what exactly are organic products? And, more importantly, why consume them? Organic products are those made without adding chemicals during production and processing. They re-emerged in the 1960s as a response to the excessive pollution produced by conventional agriculture and livestock farming due to the disproportionate use of chemical manures and fertilizers.
Food from organic farming is considered to be healthier because it is chemical-free and has been shown to have a higher nutritional content and to be more flavoursome. Simply put: it is more natural. According to a study carried out by the Andalucian Department of Fish and Agriculture, over 80% of those polled knew about organic products, although only 9% admitted that they usually consumed them. A higher percentage (44%), however, ate them occasionally, but almost 50% of those polled said they had problems finding organic products in their usual shopping places.
Where can we find these products? There are several monthly Organic Farmers’ Markets in the province, but Málaga city doesn’t have one yet. The President of the Enviornmental Department of Málaga County Council, Miguel Estéban, told us that “there are definitely negotiations between agrarian organizations and Málaga City Council” for the possible introduction of an organic market in Huelín, in the West of the city. Negotiations started more than a year ago and at the moment they seem to be on hold, although Miguel Esteban assured us that “it is clearly something that the producers want”, suggesting therefore, that the ball is firmly in Málaga city council’s court. They did, however, recently provide the Plaza de la Marina for the third provincial organic food fair that took place in October, but this was only a one-off weekend fair. In view of the current situation in Málaga, two initiatives that have grown from consumer demand for people looking for more self-sufficiency and better access to organic produce.
La Breva is an Association of Producers and Consumers of Organic Products which was started in 1995. At present, there are about 50 active members (although more than 600 people have been involved at one time or another), who pay a half-yearly membership fee of 20€. Members can the order the products they want on a weekly basis, which they collect from the premises of the association, in c/ Salesianos, during opening times. Extra products can be also bought direct from the premises, although in these cases prices are higher. Over the past few years, despite growing awareness of the organic movement, there hasn’t been an increase in membership, so the association is looking at some ways of marketing their services through leaflets and creating a more dynamic web presence (www.labrevamalaga.blogspot.com) to attract younger members. “The more, the merrier”, says Juan Pérez, member of La Breva.
Another initiative that has grown from La Breva, ‘La Red Autogestionada’ (the ‘Self-sufficiency network’) was launched in November 2008 and aims to achieve self sufficiency in organic products using a system of self management to reduce to a minimum the presence of a middleman between producer and consumer. The 23 members who currently take part in La Red order the products they want from a list of products that is updated every week. These are then collected on Tuesdays from 6pm to 8pm in a space provided by CGT (Confederación General de Trabajadores) in c/ Madre de Dios, 23. Members also have to take part in the running of the organisation and help with the weekly chores such as making the orders, collecting the produce from the producers based in and around Guadalhorce and Axarquia. There is no member’s fee or a compulsory minimum order. In addition, some of the member of this network are also involved in AMAP (Association for the Maintenance of Peasant Farming), which operates a system of collective vegetable gardens. The land is leased from a farmer who takes care of the plot and the final produce is distributed between the group. This means that the farmer and the consumers share “the risks of sowing”, as Raúl Palma and Mayka Ruiz, both members of La Red Autogestionada, explained.
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