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:

 

General policy 

  • Sikkim is doing an in-depth integrated assessment of its general agricultural policies, programmes and plans to understand how these effect the competitiveness and conditions of the organic sector.
  • The objectives for the development of the organic sector have been clarified for all stakeholders, like farmers, government personnel and all those involved in the development of plans and programmes.
  • An action plan for the organic sector has been developed, based on an analysis of the state of the sector, participatory consultations, needs assessment and proper sequencing of action. The action plan will set measurable targets for the organic sector to help agencies and stakeholders focus their efforts.
  • The Government is also actively creating awareness about organic agriculture at all levels.
  • Data about organic production and markets will be collected over the years, analysed and made available to the organic sector and all stakeholders.

Production 

  • Director support measures will be extended to farmers by providing various inputs such as rural compost pits, vermicompost, biofertilizers etc.
  • Organic extension services will be established with a view to training the staff. The farm and the farmer would be the focal point in the newly developed organic extension structure through a participatory approach. The Sikkim government has already set up three livelihood schools, the first of their kind in the country at Tadong (East District), Bermiok (South District) and Daramdin (West District) to create trained local manpower for the organic sector.
  • Traditional knowledge of the pest control treatments etc. will be surveyed and disseminated through the extension service.
  • Recycling of agriculture and food waste into organic manure will be promoted.
  • The government has already established a biofertilizer unit at Majitar in East Sikkim with an annual installed capacity of 150 tonnes. More units will be set up in the government sector and local educated unemployed will be encouraged to set up such units in the private sector.
  • Seed production and testing will be oriented towards organic production. Local seeds will be produced in an organic environment.
  • Animal feed production units will be set up so that all animal feed is organic and all manure so prepared from cattle dung also organic.
  • Policies for the genetically modified organism (GMOs) will aim to ensure that GMO seeds are not distributed or used in any way that causes contamination of seeds.

 

Standards and regulations 

  • The government will assist in certification services.
  • Producers will be supported to comply with standards, certification procedures and regulations. Special consideration will be given for certification of small holders.
  • A training programme for farmer groups to set up an internal control system will be fully supported.
  • The government while regulating this sector will develop the regulations in close consultation with all concerned and ensure that the rules framed serve enabling, function.

Markets 

  • Public procurement of organic products will be encouraged, including featuring organic food in important public events.
  • Consumer education and awareness will be actively promoted.
  • A common market and logo by the name of 'Sikkim Organic' will be established and promoted to help increase the sales of organic produce.
  • Domestic market development strategies will include measures for both the supply and demand side, including the role of exports.
  • A farmers organization for marketing, joint distribution and storage will be formed, strengthened and supported.
  • A market information system will be established.
  • Export promotion activities will be supported, recognizing the special nature of organic markets. Organic experts will be encouraged to join forces to promote to promote and market their products.

 

Other initiatives

  • Organic agriculture will be integrated into the curriculum for primary and secondary schools. Specialized institutions involved in training for organic agriculture will be supported.  Higher education facilities for organic agriculture will be developed.
  • Special research programmes will be established for organic research and the sector will be involved in priority setting. Research and Development (R&D) in organic agriculture  will be participatory and will build on and integrate traditional knowledge. It will be based on the needs of the producers.
  • The government and the private sector will participate in International fora such as the Codex Alimentarius, IFOAM and ITF.
  • Regional cooperation in marketing, standards, conformity assessment and R&D will be promoted.

 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.

Salient achievements

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.



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