Himalayan Haven: Organic Farming Finds a New Patron.
Organic farming seems to be a buzz-word in the green circles these days. It has become a movement with its own sustainable strength and the ability to convey its message to thousands (if not millions) of people around the globe. Although the movement did start gaining momentum in the more developed countries, developing countries are vying to catch up as well. The primary reason for this is that health organizations are finally realizing the incredible toll that pesticides and insecticides are inflicting on the population of their country. From farmers who refuse to eat their own produce that is sprayed with these chemicals to mothers miscarrying because of the large amounts of pesticides in the environment, the truth is dawning upon the conscience of the world’s largest democracy. This was demonstrated when a new Indian show titled ‘’Satyamev Jayate’’ which translates ‘’Truth Alone Triumphs’’ chronicled the rise of pesticide use in India and its effects. After intense research, stories are finally being produced to show how a nation is being poisoned by the same food that is supposed to keep it healthy.
To give the reader a bit of hindsight, India has had a huge boost provided to its crop yield due to the Green Revolution of the 1970s, where new chemical pesticides and insecticides along with GM crops were introduced to India. Today, the country is largely self-sufficient in terms of its agricultural output. Yet, the toll that is being exacted on its populace by a continual spike in pesticide use is causing a wide array of health concerns from cancer to birth defects in new born children. This large incidence of health concerns can only be tackled with the use of one solution: organic farming.
The solution has already taken root in this country in the small Indian state of Sikkim that lies nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. Sikkim was once a small princely state that was then absorbed into the Indian Union post-independence and is an ideal state filled with tea estates, extremely warm people and vistas bursting forth with exuberant natural beauty. But these days souvenirs from this state don’t include yak-woolen blankets or a recipe to the delicious momo dumplings. Instead, buying a packet of organic paddy or ginger is all the rage promoted by the State’s Tourism Ministry.
Organic farming is essentially an eco-minded way of agriculture that utilizes traditional practices such as crop rotations, green manure and biological pest control (either through predators or natural pest repellers) and marrying them with more modern methods of pest control (entrapment of male pests using female pheromones as bait, etc) to reduce or eliminate the use of chemical pesticides and insecticides.
This tiny state has taken huge strides in making itself a haven for organic farming. Almost 90% of all arable land has been already converted to organic farming which was started as early as 2003. The state government has already expedited the process of introducing a blanket ban on pesticide and insecticides along with striking down the subsidies on chemical fertilizers.
However, this idealistic organic utopia has a few obstacles to overcome. Firstly, it will be food deficient for the first while and will have to import food from other states until it is self-sufficient again. Additionally, natural manure is not found readily in Sikkim and so it needs to be imported from southern Indian states like Maharashtra and Karnataka. Yet, as daunting as the task ahead seems taking an initiative to declare that the state of Sikkim will be completely organic certified by 2015 does take a certain level of concern and love for the land and its people. And for this, one needs to appreciate that government when put to the right use can work wonders. It can be a place where people come together and no one is left behind.