Living organically in Karachi

  • 25 Jan - 31 Jan, 2020
  • Alina Qamar
  • Feature

What does it mean to live an organic lifestyle? When we talk about it, we think of many diverse aspects which affect our lives and are the best for both; our health and the health of the environment. When we make the best choices for ourselves, the impact of our conscious choices extends to the planet. Besides protecting the environment, an organic lifestyle instills values that include respect and mindfulness to give back to nature.

A glance at the stats tell us that, Karachi, once again, ranked the fifth least liveable city with a huge contributing factor being pollution and ill-health of the environment. The city is in dire need of an organic revolution: an indefinite ban of single-use plastic, an efficient recycling system, waste reduction and management education are essentials to begin with. Organically driven choices have long been the need of the hour but Karachi has been slow to evolve; nonetheless organic produce businesses ventures have sprung up, albeit, on a small scale. MAG surveyed these businesses and gets their two cents. Tag along as we connect with them.

The Soul Food Company

The Soul Food Company is a small family-owned business that grows and sources foods and natural beauty products of the best quality at affordable rates. To the company, organic means products that are free from artificial preservatives, chemicals or fertilisers.

It is no secret that in Karachi environmentally-friendly shopping is an afterthought. I pose the question: what kind of response have you received by catering to this city? “The response has been great but there is still a long way to go. Only a small segment of the Pakistani population is mindful of the kinds of ingredients they use and consume daily. With the rise of cancer, PCOS and other related health illnesses, it’s imperative to adopt healthier options.” With the neglect of the larger population in a city of 20 million, it must be rather difficult to sustain a venture that caters to a very small percentage. “As a company it is our responsibility to promote and encourage people to adopt a healthier lifestyle and provide products that make organic food affordable for all. We believe that eating healthy is a duty that everyone owes to themselves.”

N'eco's Natural Store & Café

The brainchild of restaurant industry veteran Nilofer Saeed opened doors of N‘eco’s Natural Store & Café on April 22, 2010 (Earth Day), in a quiet neighbourhood in Karachi’s Bukhari Commercial area. N‘eco’s has three facets – a café with an open kitchen, a gourmet deli-cum-bakery and a shop stocked with a wide range of organic, natural, herbal/ homeopathic and social enterprise products made both in-house and by other local businesses. N'eco's aims to bring its customers everything they need to live an authentically natural and clean life, under one roof. For N‘eco’s, the organic label is exactly what it means; genuinely organic. And the store and café only uses organic when and where possible. It is wholly committed to being completely natural.

“N‘eco’s is turning 10 years old this April. When we began our journey, only organic farms such as Sungold existed. There was very little awareness about the concept of natural and organic foods, and we put a great deal of effort into educating our customers and the community of people in Karachi wanting to eat healthier. This was done in our cafes and through social media. The market since then has grown immensely and many have tried to tap into the market. While there is no organic food revolution as yet, a great number of people are now seeking it out,” said a representative of the store and café on how the city is slowly learning environmentally friendly habits.

Kashan Foods

Kashan Foods is a health selling store which aims to re-create a chemical-free food world. To the company, the organic label means that the ingredients used in the products are grown without using chemical fertilisers, pesticides or any chemicals. The business has three divisions, Beauty Division, Vinegars & Infused Vinegars Division and Syrups Division.

Upon asking if the consumer response has been welcoming towards their business, the company said, “Yes, there has been a good response but high price and being unsure on organic quality are the two factors keeping a check on demand.”

Kashan Foods believes that although there is an increasing demand for organic foods worldwide, but it may take a little more time for the Pakistanis to realise the importance and benefits of organic foods. They also believe that a certification from an accrediting agency would help increase the confidence of the users.

Empress Market

A major marketplace located in the busy Saddar Town which traces its origin to the British Raj era, Empress Market is considered to be the home of organic production. Commodities sold in the market range from freshly grown and preservatives free condiments, fruits, vegetables and meat to even stationery material, textiles and pets.

I asked one of the retailers in the market selling organic, handpicked condiments regarding the difference between an organic spice and a packaged spice. He answered, “The most basic difference is the expiry date. Our product’s expiry date never extends for more than a month and a half since they are preservatives and chemicals free. On the other hand, companies add artificial preservatives to prevent the spices against decay and excessive consumption of artificial preservatives can weaken heart tissues.”