“The eradication of hunger is not just an end in itself: It is a first step toward sustainable development and progress in general, for a hungry man is not a free man. He cannot focus on anything else but securing his next meal,” said Kofi Annan, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and former U.N. Secretary General.
In their contribution to add a significant change to Food Security, the DownTown Farmer's Market in Mauritius is taking an active role to produce organic food. Registered in November 2014, The DownTown Farmer’s Market specialises in the production and sales of organic flowers, fruits, honey and vegetables including aromatic herbs.
Despite being a professional in CV writing, with academic and professional qualifications, Mrs Deepa Mareena Googoolye-Ramchurn the co-founder and manager of DownTown Famer's Market left her prosperous permanent government job in Europe to come back to Mauritius to start a career in agriculture knowing it would entail hard work.
“Upon my return to Mauritius, I found that the problem when it comes to agriculture in Mauritius is that the youths are not willing to join the sector and our existing farmers are 50+. I also identified that currently, there is an abuse on usage of herbicides, pesticides and fungicides since there is no proper rules and regulations about the usage in the country. Futhermore, conventional farming produces are not tested prior hitting the market. The amount of people getting sick after eating these products is phenomenal. So, as I am very passionate about agriculture and health, I set my foot in organic and biofarming. With the support of my husband and team members, I co-founded my farming boutique which was officially launched on 14th October 2015,” said Mrs Googoolye-Ramchurn.
DownTown Famer's market was inaugurated by Ms Marjaana Sall, Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Mauritius and is supported by The European Union and the International Organization for Migration. The company has two cultivation sites, one in Solferino and one in Chamarel. DownTown Farmer's market offers various services and products. Some of the main products offered include Oregano, Fennel, Red Basil, Lemon Balm, Multi-Coloured Swiss Chard, and Italian Spinach. To promote its products, the company distribute free samples of specific aromatic herbs to clients for trial at three month intervals. Aromatic herbs recipes to cure certain diseases are also given to their customers upon request.
Even better, the company also offers free advice and coaching to youths and women who are willing to join farming as well as educates customers on the health benefits of the products. Mrs Googoolye-Ramchurn has been helping many women to start their own micro-biogardens at their residences. The company has also adopted the 'Say No to food waste' policy and hence all the unsold vegetables and fruits are given free of charge to the poor and needy in the vicinity of the farming boutique. Mrs Googoolye-Ramchurn further added that the company is working on the possibility of liaising with universities and offering free practice sessions to student pursuing Agricultural studies and thereafter offering participation certificates to them, in order to promote capacity building in the field of agriculture.
There were however two main challenges the businesswoman had to deal with. Firstly, organic farming is a manual job, which requires manpower to achieve set targets. Secondly, educating people about organic production, as according to her it is relatively hard to find people who are willing to join this field.
“The price of organic food is usually higher compare to conventional food. However, at our farming boutique, we sell our vegetables and fruits at the same price as conventional food. This is possible because we use mulching technology, intercrop and irrigate with natural water which minimises our cost of production. Our products are more nutritious, tastier and last longer on the shelves. They also look more attractive,” said the young entrepreneur. Recently Mrs Googoolye-Ramchurn was nominated for TOYP - The Outstanding Young Person of Mauritius 2017-JCI.
“I believe that bio-farming is the future of Africa and I am making a tangible impression on my customers’ lives, doing my job and creating a life for people that feels more natural. I am trying to clear the misconception that farming is only for uneducated people or people with little education," she stated.