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Sikkim, the Indian state becomes the first to farm 100% organic

The Himalayan state of Sikkim has become India’s first fully certified organic state by implementing organic practices in around 75,000 hectares of agricultural land.

The government decided to make Sikkim a certified organic state thirteen years ago. Around 75,000 hectares of agricultural land were gradually converted. Organic practices and principles were applied according to the National Programme for Organic Production’s guidelines, says Sikkim Organic Mission’s executive director, Doctor Anbalagan.

modi visit sikkim
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the state of Sikkim in January, announcing its achievement of reaching 100% organic agriculture © Narendra Modi/Flickr

Foundational measures

Although the state has traditionally not been an excessive consumer of pesticides (using 8 to 12 kilos of chemical fertilizers per hectare compared to the national average of 90), getting the whole state to turn organic was a tremendous task. Steps like banning the sale of chemical inputs and strict penalty measures for non-compliance were put in place. Even more crucially, the government bore the cost of having the land certified as organic by accredited agencies for the first three years.

 

The Sikkim Organic Mission, backed by government funding, supported this initiative by providing seeds and manure, training farmers in organic methods and even sending them outside the state for advanced training. The government initiated further infrastructural measures such as building bio fertilizer units, seed processing units and soil testing labs – enabling the organic cycle to bloom. Farmers have also been facilitated in receiving loans as well as as being provided counseling support by the agricultural department. Startups like Organic Sikkim have also helped farmers find markets for their produce, eliminating middlemen and resulting in higher profits.

 

Even India’s budget for 2016-17 introduced various measures to increase crop yields and boost organic farming. These include increasing the area of land to be brought under organic farming to half a million acres and launching a scheme to push sales of organic produce in both domestic and export markets.

 

Benefits

Farmers in Sikkim earn 20 percent more than they did beforehand because of the premium nature of their produce. In addition, tourists are flocking to enjoy the healthy crops and the younger generation is becoming evermore entrepreneurial. Business is flowing in from all over the country and internationally.

 

In the long term, it is thought that organic farming will lead to agricultural subsistence. It will also aid in biodiversity conservation, environmental protection, improving soil health and boosting the tourism industry.

 

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The Himalayan mountains in Sikkim © Sudipto Sarkar/Flickr

A one-stop solution to India’s agricultural problems

Although the demand for organic food is currently limited to a small section of India’s urban population, awareness of the ill effects of inorganic and chemical-ridden food is growing. It is thought that the organic market in India will treble, reaching 1.3 billion dollars. Sustained incentives by the government, private companies’ support, and awareness building on the relationship between food, health and the planet need to be applied not only in Sikkim, but all over the country.

 

India is plagued by thousands of farmer suicides, back-to-back droughts, groundwater contamination, poor biodiversity conservation and grave health effects on humans and animals. Organic farming may be the panacea for some of Indian agriculture’s most pressing problems.

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