The promoters of the Thrikkakara Cooperative Hospital, now the Thrikkakara Municipal Cooperative Hospital, took up the formation of a group to promote organic cultivation of food produces in the early days of the year 2000, a time when the concept of organic agriculture and safe-to-eat produces had not engaged public attention as is now.
The 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution of India, empowering the local administrative bodies to draw up their own development plans forms the immediate background of the formation of the Cooperative Hospital. The Amendments empowered the local administrative bodies and provided them the freedom to identify what they needed and to draw up development agenda based on local requirements and aspirations.
Consequently, the Cooperative Hospital was formed as part of the People’s Plan Movement introduced by the Kerala State Government during 1996-97. The Hospital was incorporated as part of the 1998- 1999 Plan of the Thrikkakara Grama Panchayat.
The Hospital was conceived as a people’s health movement and those behind the concept were well aware that a hospital and medical treatment alone did not achieve the goal of social health. A healthy society can be created only by ensuring the availability of safe drinking water, creating healthy life style, proper sanitation and waste management and safe food, meaning food that are free of pesticide residues.
The formation of the hospital and activities associated with it succeeded in creating a group of people committed to an alternative model of development ensuring conservation of natural resources, promotion of traditional economic activities, organic agriculture, ethnic healthcare systems and a healthy food style. The formation of the hospital and the crystallization of the ideas of a healthy society coincided with the sharply increased dependence of Kerala on food produces imported from outside the State. It may be recalled that the 1990s marked a sharp fall in food production in Kerala. The State’s food production deficit, be it rice, pulses, vegetables and fruits, stood around 80 per cent. The period was also marked by increased public awareness about the dangerous levels of pesticide residues in vegetables and produces available in the open market, the major portion of it being catered to be imports from outside. The media and social activists were able to clearly establish the fact that vegetables and fruits available in Kerala markets contained toxic residues.
The tinderbox-like situation in the food market paved the way for the group behind the Cooperative Hospital to get into serious discussions on promoting organic agriculture, creating a group of organic farmers and model farms. The year-long dialogues involved well-known traditional Ayurvedic treatment providers, those countering the bad effects of market economy, promoters of traditional craft and indigenous knowledge and progressive farmers against conventional agriculture using synthetic pesticide and other chemicals as well as farm scientists.
ORGANIC KERALA CHARITABLE TRUST was thus constituted in December 2006 with its operational area spread over the whole of Kerala centered in Kochi and initial focus on the five districts of Ernakulam, Thrissur, Alappuzha, Idukki and Pathanathitta.
Though the Trust was formed in December 2006, a festival called Organic Kerala Organic Fest was organized between June 20 and 24, 2006, at the Ernakulam Town Hall. Major local administrative bodies in and around Ernakulam were involved in the exhibition. Nearly 30 organizations from within and outside the Kerala participated in the four-day exhibition and workshops on organic agriculture. The workshop was conducted in association with IndoCert, a third-party certification agency.
June 2006 also saw the establishment of the Organic Bazaar in the city of Kochi to sell and to introduce organic produces and to disseminate the concept of organic agriculture. The organic festival, formation of the Trust and other activities helped speed up the spread of the activities of the group.