In 2016, Sikkim became India’s first fully organic state. The initiative, championed by Chief Minister Shri Pawan Chamling, first began in 2003 with the announcement of his intentions at the Legislative Assembly. Subsequently, The Department of Agriculture of Sikkim released a plan of action titled “Going for Organic Farming in Sikkim – A Concept Paper and Action Plan” in May 2003 with the following objectives:
- To promote Sikkim as an organic state
- Discourage the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides and gradually replace them with organic and biological alternatives.
- To create and develop basic infrastructure, and introduce statutory requirements to affect the actual organic farming process in the absence of national policy.
Some of their key developments include:
Bio-Villages: the first physical step toward the conversion was the adoption of the bio-village by the Department of Food Security and Agriculture Development in collaboration with Maple Orgtech Pvt. Ltd. Over 14,000 farmers in all four districts of Sikkim benefitted from the program which taught them important soil enrichment and plant-protection techniques. One of the methods taught was that of Bokashi: a Japanese method of creating fermented compost from crop waste. Further, they were taught various techniques and means to check and establish soil fertility.
Policy Changes: By 2006-7, the local government withdrew all subsidies on chemical fertilisers including those being offered for transport and handling to retailers. In 2016, they made the use of chemical pesticides a punishable offence: a fine of ten lac rupees and jail time of up to three months. The government of India Implemented the National Program of Organic Production (NPOP) which included an accreditation program for certificate bodies, norms for organic production, promotion of organic farming, etc.
Technological Advancements: The Sikkim State government conducted various demonstrations of the use of bio-fertilisers, pest management solutions, creation of compost units and vermi-culture pits, setting up of organic markets, etc. to name a few. A package of organic practices, put together with the help of intensive research, was developed for five major crops: ginger, turmeric, chilies, corn and mustard. Many post-harvest operations like threshing, processing, and packaging were mechanised.
Many reasons contributed to Sikkim’s decision to formally adopt organic farming. It had always maintained a somewhat traditional system of agriculture and its average chemical use was considerably lower than the national average. Their geographical advantages included carbon rich soil that made the transition easier. On an economic front, they were losing their market share abroad to organic counterparts and so needed to do something to revive their economy quickly.
One of the biggest challenges faced by the movement continues to be a lack of awareness and education. The government has made considerable efforts to educate people on the benefits of consuming organic produce, some of which can be seen in the form of posters and food festivals. However, the lure of imported vegetables that are brighter and bigger continue to eat into their market share. Timely supply of organic pesticides and bio-fertilisers have yet to be established. Proper facilities for storage and packaging are still lacking, as is connectivity and logistical support.
- North-eastern states can be organic food producers: Chamling, Shillong, 26th May, 2016, Business-Economy, News-IANS, Home, Business Standard. http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/north-eastern-states-can-be-organic-food-producers-chamling-116052601639_1.html
- Sikkim Organic Mission (Government of Sikkim). http://www.sikkimorganicmission.gov.in/about-us/india-in-global-organic-movement/
- Sikkim’s organic revolution at risk as local consumers fail to buy into project by Vidhi Doshi, Gangtok, 31st January 2017, Food Security, The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jan/31/sikkim-india-organic-revolution-at-risk-as-local-consumers-fail-to-buy-into-project