Sikkim, the northeastern Indian state in the eastern Himalayas, announced in January that it had transitioned completely in to organic agriculture. Sikkim is the first state in the South Asian nation to do so.
The process of shifting to organic agriculture was initiated by the state government 13 years ago when it launched the Sikkim Organic Mission. Sikkim is able to shift to the organic agriculture because it has far less cultivable land compared to other agricultural states in India.
Sikkim had a leg up in this regard, given that farmers in this difficult terrain were already pursuing traditional farming with minimal use of chemical fertilizers and the fact that the state has far less cultivable land (only about 76,000 acres).
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the news about Sikkim being full organic but many agricultural experts say that a lot more needs to be done before agricultural practices in this mountain state can be held up as a role model for the rest of India.
The rampant use of pesticides and fertilizers is a serious issue and Sikkim deserves to be commended for deciding to go organic. However the effort hasn’t paid much attention to production side of things, says GV Ramanjaneyulu, agricultural scientist with the Hyderabad-based Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.
Sikkim, he points out, has long been a food-deficient state. Existing food production meets only 30 % of the local population’s dietary needs. The rest has to be imported from neighboring states.
Rajeswari Sarala Raina, senior scientist at the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies says, “For a state to shift to organic production it is not enough to do certification.”
“The state has to begin with a policy goal of food sovereignty and minimizing nutritional inequality; and then build the organic agriculture mission to cater to these overarching policy goals,” she added.
Ramanjaneyulu pointed out that Sikkim’s organic mission does not talk about the integration of non-timber forest produce of the highly forested Sikkim state with its organic production goals. “For example, Sikkim can easily use its locally available biomass for compost,” he says.
Transportation of produce is also very expensive and many small scale farms have a hard time covering their costs and finding a fair price for their produce.