Pranay Khatiwara

Organic Farming in the recent past have emerged as one of the most popular methods of farming world over. The consciousness about this noble technique of cultivation came about after the world realized that the harmful impacts of climate change and global warming are seriously challenging our existence.

World over, Organic Farming is accepted as the most sustainable method of growing food that we eat. It not only is the way forward to sustain our land, water and air from the harmful impacts of chemical fertilizers but also is the technique to ensure healthy food for human well being.

INTER SCHOOL SCHOLASTIC COMPETITION AT TAREYTHANG, EAST SIKKIM

Sikkim under the leadership of our Chief Minister decided to go organic in 2003. The Government decided to completely ban the use of chemical fertilizers and other such inputs and focused on the use of organic manure and other organic inputs for farming. The idea conceived by the government bore fruits on 18th January 2016, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi officially declared Sikkim to be the first fully organic state in the country. The recognition is the result of the visionary leadership of our Chief Minister, who passionately pursued the noble idea of organic farming and successfully recognized Sikkim in the world. Our Chief Minister has aptly termed organic farming as the “life and earth saving profession”.

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File Photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi alongwith Governor Sriniwas Patil and Chief Minister Pawan Chamling visiting an organic festival at Gangtok. 

For Sikkim as a state and to all of us here, the tag of being the first fully organic farming state comes with a huge responsibility of being able to sustain the distinct honor. The world is now looking towards Sikkim to learn from us and to take our idea of organic farming, forward.

Also, there is a huge market potential for our organic produces world over as the demand for organic food produces, grown without the use of chemical fertilisers and other harmful inputs, is rising manifold.  In this backdrop, it is time that we try reaping the benefits of being the pace setters of organic farming.

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Chief Minister Chamling and others visiting an organic display.

It is time that we reconnect with our roots, it is time that we get back to our ancestral profession of farming and start tilling gold out of our farms. The idea behind Sikkim going organic is clear that our Chief Minister wanted us to produce healthy food for ourselves and also wanted to get our state recognised world over, as a producer of organic food. He not just wanted us to be healthy by consuming organic food but also wanted us to be wealthy by selling our organic produces in the market world over. His passionate advocacy of this noble method of farming has earned our state numerous laurels both within and outside India.

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The Chief Minister’s recent announcement of banning the import of vegetables from outside the state from 31st March 2018 is a welcome decision as it comes as an opportunity for our farmers to reap benefits of being the proud organic farmers of the country’s first fully organic farming state. They can now have a ready market for their produces in the state itself without any fear of competition from the chemically produced vegetables brought from outside the state. It also comes with a challenge for the farming community in the state of being able to successfully meet the post-ban demand for organic vegetables in the state.  Moreover, with no supply of chemically produced vegetables from outside the state, the people here will consume only the organic vegetables from within the state and will be assured of a chemical free and healthy life.

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ORGANIC MARKET IN GANGTOK

The next step for the government to take up would be to get geographical indication (GI) tag for our organic produces. GI tag for our organic produces like the recognition of Darjeeling Tea and the Rasogollas of Bengal can go a long way in keeping intact our tag of being organic.

There are a few challenges that have emerged regarding organic farming in the state. Firstly, animals from the wild have increasingly started to trespass into our farms. They not only destroy crops but also at times attack humans. An early solution to this can certainly go a long way as many households in rural Sikkim have given up on cultivating their fields due to wild animals.

Secondly, the cost of farming has immensely increased, the major rise in cost is on account of ploughing the fields. The cost of ploughing the field with a pair of bullock is not less than Rs. 700 per day and for a sharecropper or a small land holding farmer who cannot afford to pay it on cash, it comes as a 2-3 days of labour to pay back (parma tirnu). May be the use of robotics and other technical advancements can be the possible solution to this but efforts should be made that these advancements are provided at subsidized and farmer friendly rates.

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Organic vegetables for Sale.

Thirdly, farming is a risky affair. Chances of crop failure is always existent as nobody can predict on weather and other such factors. Our farmers need to be assured of support in case of crop failure. A well thought out crop insurance policy in line with the well thought out mission of organic farming needs to be in place to take care of our organic farmers.

To conclude, our Chief Minister thought of organic farming as a possible solution to the ill impacts of global warming and climate change. Sikkim’s recognition of being the first fully organic state has created a huge market potential for our produces. Now its time that we take our leader’s vision forward and take up organic farming and be assured of a healthy and wealthy Sikkim.

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Pranay Khatiwara is the Co-Founder of Wandering Souls of Sikkim.

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