In­dia plans world’s first or­ganic state

Nes­tled in the lap of the eastern Hi­malayas, Sikkim is sud­denly gain­ing in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion be­cause of its mis­sion to be com­pletely or­ganic by the year 2015.

Element - - World - By Farida Mas­ter

Once known as the land of mys­ti­cal la­mas, Sikkim is well on its way to be­com­ing an eco­log­i­cal hotspot. With its deep-rooted com­mit­ment to sus­tain­able farm­ing, the hilly re­gion that boasts of 82 per cent of nat­u­ral for­est cover is on a fast track to be­com­ing one of the world’s most at­trac­tive travel des­ti­na­tions.

Topchen Lepcha, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Sikkim Or­ganic Mis­sion says they are fast mov­ing to­wards their goal of be­ing com­pletely or­ganic by 2015. “We have been con­sis­tently ed­u­cat­ing and do­ing ca­pac­ity build­ing for the farm­ers. We’ve also been ed­u­cat­ing ex­ten­sion work­ers who are of­fi­cers en­gaged in or­ganic farm­ing as well as un­em­ployed youth to as­sist the farm­ers. As of now 8,128 hectares have been fully cer­ti­fied as or­ganic,” he says, speak­ing from Sikkim. “An­other 18,242 hectares is un­der stage C1 cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and will be at C2 stage by De­cem­ber 2012. There will be 20,500 hectares of land at C1 in De­cem­ber again. This leaves only 12,000 hectares which will be taken over for or­ganic farm­ing in May next year,” he says.

The ini­tia­tive is part of a larger con­cept of mak­ing the en­tire North Eastern re­gion of In­dia an or­ganic zone. Fol­low­ing Sikkim, an­other Eastern state, Mi­zo­ram has also de­clared its in­ten­tion of be a fully or­ganic state. The de­ci­sion of the gov­ern­ment of Sikkim to take the lead in go­ing or­ganic was based on the premise that farm­ing in this hilly state was tra­di­tion­ally or­ganic—this meant that there has been min­i­mal use of chem­i­cal fer­tilis­ers in the rain-fed, hilly re­gion. It makes the job much eas­ier.

It was in the year 2003 that the idea of mak­ing Sikkim an or­ganic state was first ad­vo­cated by the State Gov­ern­ment. ‘Sikkim Or­ganic Mis­sion’, an apex com­mit­tee headed by the visionary chief min­is­ter, Dr Pawan Cham­ling, soon set the wheels rolling.

The use of chem­i­cal fer­tilis­ers was dis­cour­aged by the with­drawal of state gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies on fer­tilis­ers. From 2006 – 07 on­wards, the trans­port and han­dling sub­si­dies were also dis­con­tin­ued. Along­side, the gov­ern­ment al­lo­cated re­sources to ed­u­cate farm­ers and their fam­i­lies, un­em­ployed youth as well as chil­dren in schools about or­ganic farm­ing prac­tises.

A struc­tured seven-year plan to phase out the use of chem­i­cal fer­tilis­ers and sub­sti­tute them with or­ganic ver­sions was put in ac­tion. In the tran­si­tional pe­riod, the resid­ual chem­i­cals were flushed out while the soil was fed with bio-fer­tilis­ers and or­ganic ma­nure.

A Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing signed be­tween FIBL In­sti­tute of Or­ganic Re­search Cen­tre, Switzer­land and the agri­cul­ture depart­ment of Sikkim for a long term part­ner­ship has en­abled them to get reg­u­lar train­ing and tech­ni­cal sup­port.

Get­ting the cer­ti­fied sta­tus of an or­ganic state is a long, drawn-out process. Of­fi­cers col­lect in­for­ma­tion, reg­is­ter and train farm­ers. Apart from the in­ter­nal con­trol sys­tem, the data is painstak­ingly col­lected (in­for­ma­tion about farm­ers, plot sizes, crops, etc) and doc­u­mented. An ex­ter­nal agency con­ducts sur­veys to check if all the bench­marks have been met. A C1cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is only given af­ter the set stan­dards have been met. The same process is fol­lowed af­ter a year be­fore the C2 cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is is­sued.

Get­ting to the root of the mat­ter, the spinoff from the eco­log­i­cal farm­ing mis­sion is to pro­mote brand Or­ganic Sikkim. What nat­u­rally fol­lows is more em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, a bet­ter en­vi­ron­ment for the lo­cals as well as the tourists who have al­ways grav­i­tated to­wards the Hi­malayan beauty. A nat­u­ral step in the right di­rec­tion for the lush land with its sun-kissed peaks and mys­ti­cal flags blow­ing in the wind.

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