Pakistan along with the rest of the world is slowly turning to healthier food and lifestyle choices. As information regarding unhealthy choices is verified by scientists, with each passing day, people are looking to make dramatic change their lifestyle. While there are numerous options for those who want to live healthy globally, in Pakistan the choices are limited. This is where the Khalis Food Market truly stands out as one of the few avenues promoting organic produce and consequently a healthier lifestyle in Pakistan.
Khalis Food Market first started off in April 2013 with approximately 1000 attendees and in April 2015. The number grew six fold with the total 6000 people attending at the latest event which goes to validate the interest of the Pakistani market in all things organic. So far, there have been a total of 12 farmer’s markets in the short span of two years and the interest continues to grow.
While Khalis Food Market is primarily focused on food, there areother products also available at the market which fall into the realm of healthy living. Rizwan Naeem, the man behind the Khalis, Pakistan’s first farmer’s market, spoke to us about the available items at the Market.
He told us that the available products have been segregated into perishables (fruits and vegetables), poultry, dairy, grains, value added natural items, homemade foods and baking, healthy cooked foods through small and exclusive restaurants. Some of the most popular items have been achaars (pickles), chutneys, herbs, seasonal fruits, seafood, sushi, cheese and fresh juices/concentrates.
The trend first came around in Pakistan a few years ago. According to Rizwan, “There is a very strange direction that our food industry is taking, what is natural is maintained poorly and the high end dining trend is moving towards processed foods and fast foods. Khalis was a concept that brings back what defined food in Pakistan. In April 2013 before the concept took shape the idea was to tackle the above mentioned and create an awareness campaign where healthy becomes a wide spread concept. Khalis Food Market is the culmination of that. There is one thing that needs to be noted, which is ORGANIC. The word is technical and simply a word as well. As a word Organic is used to describe anything that could crumble back to earth… and technically it is a system of growth where artificial ingredients are taken out of consumables.”
Rizwan mentions that Khalis Food Market is not just a concept and is rather a strong step that we are taking towards living a healthy lifestyle. He said, “We have to understand the impact of additives and preservatives on our bodies and Khalis tries to provide alternative solutions to commercially produced unhealthy foods. The frequency of the market and the connect that I am able to create through Khalis between producers and buyers is a strong way to bridge the healthy options’ gap that exists in the society.”
What is important to see is that farmer’s markets such as this are more than anything else, working to build bridges between buyers and sellers. In Pakistan, organic items are not created on a mass scale and so marketing and selling products like this becomes quiet the hassle. Fauzia Rehman, of Persian Treats has been a long time participant of different farmer’s markets where she offers a wide range of organically produced Persian cuisine. In her experience regarding the bridging of gaps between buyers and sellers, she said, “Absolutely – markets like this help bridge the gap. I started off my brand Persian Treats with Khalis Food Market and I am here because of it. This is where the journey began. Also, Rizwan is excellent and he helps anyone and everyone and does a fantastic job of handling the Market“.
But skeptics also exist. You will find many people who are of the opinion that ‘organic’ living simply is a passing fashion so to speak and is not here to stay for long. But Rizwan disagrees. According to him, “the fact that Khalis Food Market has drawn in so many farmers and producers is a sign that the organics’ lifestyle already existed in a small manner. Since Khalis Food Market has started, other people have taken initiative in Islamabad and Lahore to do similar, so it must have a viable growth. I think that the market and concepts’ growth shows its growing popularity and erosion seems less likely with every market that happens.”
However, bringing organics in Pakistan was not without its challenges as it was a completely private initiative with ‘very less or no capital’. Organizing was perhaps the biggest challenge for Rizwan. He says, “Other than that, the vendors, attendees and locations we have used have been very friendly and helpful. Of course when we use a Government area, there are bureaucratic hurdles… but nothing that cannot be overcome. In fact, just for this, I would like to thank Ramzan Sheikh of Royal Palm for all his support till now”
While the Khalis Food Market is off for the summer, the next one is due in Monsoon. Khalis Food Market has also recently announced that they are also going to be popping up in Karachi by the end of this year. Stay tuned to their updates on their Facebook page! In the mean time, if you would like to be a part of this Market, you can always reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Furthermore, the criteria for the Market must be met which means all things organic and categorized in one of the above mentioned segments. Happy healthy living!