BY: MARIYA GUZOVA
People living in Sikkim, India don’t have to make a trip to Whole Foods to get their hands on organic produce. That’s because the entire state now only farms organic food, the first in all of India. The country is notorious for its indiscriminate use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers to feed its growing population, making Sikkim’s achievements particularly incredible.
Also known as the Land of the Flower, the land-locked state is home to 6 lakhs, or about 600,000 people. Nestled in the Himalayas, with no train or commercial flight connectivity, the amount of work it took to convert over 75,000 hectares of land into certified organic farms took 13 years. In 2003, Pawan Chamling led government-banned synthetic fertilizers and chemicals in the state, and farmers were forced to join the organic movement.
Aside from the manual labour and research that went into developing the most successful and sustainable holistic farming techniques, the legislative assembly also made serious efforts to ensure that their produce has a place in the market, and allows Sikkim to maintain economic independence. The attention to this part of the process is demonstrative of the state’s commitment to the organic movement, and that it isn’t just a passing health kick, but rather a full, integral change in doing things.
“The roadmap for organic farming should incorporate all aspects from production, certification to marketing and should ultimately aim at economic benefits to farming community in a sustainable way, protecting the ecology and maintaining the environment and resources for future generations,” the Sikkim Organic Mission reads.
The effort paid off, as Sikkim now produces over 8,000 tonnes of organic produce every year, and has turned into a popular tourist attraction. Some of the produce that comes from the state includes cardamom, ginger, turmeric, off-season vegetables, flowers, Sikkim mandarin, kiwi, buckwheat, paddy maize and millets.
Organic farming has a variety of positive effects on the health of consumers as well as the health of the environment. Organic farms are the most sustainable long term, as they have less impact on the soil, water, and air they utilize than commercial farms. Furthermore, studies have shown that organic farming promotes biodiversity, because diverse plant and animal presence optimizes nutrient cycling in agricultural production.
The organic farming efforts in Sikkim have restored and improved the fragile and complex Himalayan eco-systems, as well as greatly improved the soil yielding higher quality crops.
The example set by this small Indian state provides inspiration and guidance for the rest of India and for countries around the globe. Organic farming isn’t a fairytale concept that can never be sustainable or profitable in reality, and we have Sikkim to prove that to us.
*Update: this is how to crate your own eco, organic garden in your own backyard.