By: Dr. T M Chanu
Asstt Professor, College of Horticulture and Forestry, Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh
Organic farming, which is a method of agricultural production that relies on natural and sustainable practices without the use of synthetic chemicals, has been gaining traction in Northern Eastern states of India. Some of the main crops grown in this region are rice, maize, wheat, pulses, and vegetables. The states of Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, and Tripura have huge potential for organic farming due to their favourable climatic conditions, fertile soil, and abundance of water resources.
These states are rich in biodiversity and are home to many indigenous crops that are well-suited for organic farming practices. The prospects for organic farming in North East India are bright due to the increasing demand for organic food products in both domestic and international markets. The region’s diverse agro-climatic conditions, availability of organic inputs, and the presence of a large number of small and marginal farmers make it an ideal location for organic farming. Sikkim, a small state in the region, has already achieved 100% organic farming status in 2016.
The government has provided incentives to farmers to switch to organic farming and has also set up a certification agency to regulate and promote organic farming practices. Other states in the region are also making efforts to promote organic farming. In Assam, the government has launched a program to convert 100,000 hectares of farmland to organic farming by 2022. Similarly, Tripura has launched a program to convert 33,000 hectares of farmland to organic farming by 2022.
Conditions Suitable for promotion of organic farming in North East India:
- Rich Biodiversity: Northern Eastern states of India, including Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura, are known for their rich biodiversity. These states have diverse agro-climatic conditions, including hilly terrains, dense forests, and fertile plains, which are conducive to organic farming. The region has a wide range of indigenous crops and traditional farming practices that can be harnessed for organic farming.
- Increasing Demand for Organic Products: There is a growing demand for organic products both domestically and internationally. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the harmful effects of chemical residues in food and are opting for organic products for their health and environmental benefits. The Northern Eastern states, with their unique agro-ecological conditions, have the potential to tap into this growing market for organic products.
- Government Support: The governments of Northern Eastern states have been promoting organic farming through various initiatives and policies. The government of India has launched several initiatives to promote organic farming in the region. For example, the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) and Organic Value Chain Development in North Eastern Region (OVCDNER) are two such schemes aimed at promoting organic farming in the region These include setting up organic farming clusters, providing financial incentives, training farmers on organic farming practices, and creating marketing channels for organic produce. These government efforts are expected to boost the prospects of organic farming in the region.
- Soil Fertility: The soil in these states is rich in natural nutrients and has not been exposed to chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Organic farming methods preserve the natural fertility of the soil, making it more sustainable and productive in the long run.
- Climate Resilience: Organic farming is more resilient to climate change as it promotes biodiversity and uses natural inputs that are less affected by weather variability.
- Certification agencies: There are several certification agencies operating in the region that certify organic produce. These agencies include Control Union, IMO Control, and Ecocert.
- Export potential: Organic farming in the region has huge export potential due to the increasing demand for organic produce in international markets. The states of Assam, Meghalaya, and Nagaland are already exporting organic tea and spices to countries like the USA, Canada, and the UK.
- Farmer training: The government and non-government organizations are conducting training programs for farmers to promote organic farming practices. These programs help farmers in understanding the principles of organic farming, use of organic inputs, and certification procedures.
Status of Organic Farming in North East India:
Sikkim: Sikkim is the first state in India to become fully organic, and its farmers have successfully adopted organic farming practices. The state has a dedicated department for organic farming, which provides technical support to farmers.
Arunachal Pradesh: Arunachal Pradesh has a vast potential for organic farming due to its unique agro-climatic conditions. The state government has launched various schemes to promote organic farming among its farmers.
Assam: Assam has a considerable potential for organic farming, and its farmers have started adopting organic practices in recent years. The state government has also launched various initiatives to promote organic farming and provide market linkages to organic farmers.
Manipur: Manipur has been traditionally following organic farming practices, and its farmers have started adopting new techniques to improve their yields. The state government has launched various schemes to promote organic farming, including the establishment of organic villages and the implementation of the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), a central government scheme that promotes organic farming
Meghalaya: Meghalaya has a considerable potential for organic farming, and its farmers have started adopting organic practices in recent years. The state government has launched various initiatives to promote organic farming and provide market linkages to organic farmers.
Mizoram: Mizoram has a vast potential for organic farming, and its farmers have started adopting organic practices in recent years. The state government has also launched various initiatives to promote organic farming and provide market linkages to organic farmers.
Nagaland: Nagaland has a considerable potential for organic farming, and its farmers have started adopting organic practices in recent years. The state government has launched various schemes to promote organic farming and provide financial support to farmers.
Organic farming in North East India has been gaining momentum with an increasing number of farmers adopting organic practices. Many farmers have transitioned from conventional to organic farming, while others have adopted organic practices from the outset. Several farmer groups and organizations are also promoting organic farming through training programs and capacity building. Organic certification is an important aspect of organic farming, as it helps farmers gain access to premium markets.
However, organic certification has been a challenge for some farmers in Northern Eastern states due to the lack of awareness, technical know-how, and infrastructure. Nevertheless, efforts are being made to streamline the certification process and create market linkages for organic produce. Despite the prospects and increasing adoption of organic farming, there are several challenges faced by farmers in Northern Eastern states.
These include the lack of infrastructure for organic inputs, limited access to credit and markets, pests and diseases management, and changing weather patterns due to climate change. Additionally, there is a need for capacity building and awareness programs to educate farmers about organic farming practices and its benefits.
In conclusion, organic farming in North East India has promising prospects with increasing adoption by farmers and government support. However, challenges related to certification, market access, and infrastructure need to be addressed for the widespread adoption and success of organic farming in the region. Continued efforts from stakeholders, including farmers, government, and other organizations, will be crucial to promote and sustain organic farming practices in the Northern Eastern states of India.