India has already enjoyed four decades of post-Green Revolution, with higher farm productivity stemming from the use of fertilizers and high-yielding seeds.
Out this has brought several problems in its wake, such as soil deterioration, environmental degradation, a decline in quality of food as well as several health hazards. The focus, of late, therefore has switched to organic farming methods so that the dangers and pitfalls of conventional farming, with its overreliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, can be avoided.
Leading the way on this front is the north-eastern state of Sikkim, which after setting the goal in 2003 of becoming a wholly organic farm produce State, is set to achieve its target by the end of this year under the dynamic leadership of the Chief Minister, Mr. Pawan Chamling. Already, 50,000 ha are under organic cultivation, with the remaining 6,000 ha. are under organic cultivation, with the remaining 6,000 ha. also set to turn organic by 2015.
100% Organic; Totally Poverty -Free
The decision to go wholly organic was based on the fact that farming in Sikkim has been traditionally organic. The Government was motivated not only in benefiting the 62,000 farming families in the state who own an average of 1.9 hectares of farmland, but also in maintaining the quality of the environment. The State government is not stopping with this. In two years, Chief Minister Chamling hopes to make Sikkim free from poverty as well. This would be a significant achievement in a country where poverty declines at a snail's pace. Chamling has chosen the path of sustainable development for his mountain state. Sikkim has opted to be green, clean and inclusive. The sectors of the economy that have been prioritized for growth are organic agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, ecotourism and hydro power.
In recognition of its sterling efforts, Sikkim has been awarded for being the best-performing state under the Horticulture Mission for NE and Himalayan States (HMNEH). This was made possible because of the special attention provided by the state government to horticulture development. The efforts to bring the state to the forefront by ensuring effective delivery of the HMNEH programme in convergence with other programmes of the Government of India such as Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Schemes (MNREGA), etc are noteworthy.
To ensure that the whole state goes organic by the end of this year, the government has laid down the following policies:
Standards and regulations
ORGANIC MISSION: WAY FORWARD
As already mentioned earlier, the decision to go wholly organic was taken in 2003. As a follow-up to this, the state government established the 'Sikkim State Organic Board' with the objective of making the state wholly organic by year 2015. In May 2003, the state government withdraw the subsidy provided on fertilizers. Two government farms at Nazitam (East Sikkim) and Melidara (South Sikkim) were converted to " 'Centre of Excellence for Organic farming' and necessary research and adaptive trials were started to work out an appropriate organic package of practices.
Development of Bio-Villages
The first physical step towards conversion of Sikkim's agriculture to organic was the adoption of a bio-village programme using EM technology. Starting from 2003-04 and going on till 2009-10, 396 villages were adopted as bio-villages by the Department of Food Security and Agriculture Development in collaboration, with Maple Orgtech Pvt.Ltd., Kolkata. About 14,000 farmers and 14,000 acres of land in all the four districts of Sikkim benefited under this programme.
Manure production infrastructure
Since 2005, intensive efforts have been undertaken to make agriculture in Sikkim self-sustaining and self-sufficient by effective utilization of all on-farm waste generated. Strategies have been drawn up to develop the necessary infrastructure for on-farm generation of vermicompost, enriched compost and liquid manure. Farmers have been supported for construction of on-farm Vermicompost production units and rural compost-cum-urine pits. Till 2008-09, 24,536 rural compost-cum-urine pits and 14487 vermicompost units were constructed in farmers' field. Eight vermiculture hatcheries were also established to ensure steady availability of live earthworms for vermicomposting.
Technology development through research
Rapid developments in organic farming necessitated the need for continuous flow of technology to meet day-to-day challenges. To address this, organic research in the state was started with the consultancy services of International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture (ICCOA) Bangalore, and FiBL, Switzerland, from the year 2010. Research experimentation has already started in Bermiok (South Sikkim) and the programme will continue for three years. A package of practices for organic system of cultivation will be developed for five major organic crops that have a huge market potential. These are crops ginger, turmeric, chillies, corn and mustard, In this regard, an MoU has been signed with ICCOA, Bangalore, for technology intervention with the development of an organic package of practices.
Organic seed production
To ensure availability of locally-adapted high-quality seeds, indigenous seed production technology is being promoted through the 'Seed Village Scheme'. As a result the quantity of locally-produced seed has increased from 297q in 2004-05 to 945q in 2008-09. The area under high-yielding varieties has also increased from 20,000 ha to more than 26,000 ha over the same period. An MoU has been signed with the National Seeds Corporation (NSC) and Zuari Seed Company to produce hybrid seeds of maize in the seed production farms of the State. Intensive efforts have been made to create adequate mechanization infrastructure for post-harvest operations such as threshing, processing, packaging, storage etc.
Subsequent to a feasibility study, an intervention programme was sanctioned by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, during 2007-08. This programme has benefited over 3000 farmers.