In 2016, the Indian state of Sikkim became the first 100 percent organic state in India. But, the process towards organic farming began much earlier.
Today, all farming activities there are done without usage of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and allow for safer food options and make agriculture eco-friendlier.
However, when the non-profit from Delhi, the CSE, visited the 16 farms over the 4 districts in the state back in November of 2016, not all of the farmers were satisfied with the organic farming.
Indian State Bans Usage of Chemicals in Agriculture
One of those disappointed farmers was the 85-year-old Nar Rai who grows maize, ginger, and cardamom together with his son on a two-hectare farm.
As of 2011-12, they stopped using pesticides and their production of ginger increased to only a third of the amount they grew when the usage of chemicals was allowed in farming.
Their ginger crop was also affected by a fungal disease and impeded the crop growth. Unfortunately, these two farmers didn’t receive help from the government.
They asked why the government doesn’t give them medicine for the crops, but only manure for a short-period of time.
Execution of Organic Farming Wasn’t Easy
The state of Sikkim decided to transform their farming in 2003 to help keep the fragile ecosystem safe.
During that time, the officials claimed that the per-hectare usage of fertilizers in the state was already among the lowest in the country.
Their farmers also never used chemicals for the growth of cardamom, one of the state’s main crops. So, they were already close to organic farming.
This is where the government saw the immense potential for high-value crop trade. As of 2003, the state started lowering their subsidy on pesticides and fertilizers by 10 percent per year and then entirely banned their usage in 2014.
The sale and usage of these chemicals was made punishable by law with prison time of up to 3 months or a fine.
In the beginning, a lot of farmers were apprehensive about the decision and some didn’t want to take up organic farming.
However, the state’s ongoing training and education helped change their mindset, claims the additional director of the SOM, M K Pradhan.
Availability & Access of Organic Manure Was Lacking
The removal of chemicals hasn’t been complemented by an increase in the access to organic manure.
Even though the government-owned farms are properly stocked with bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides, some interviewed farmers said they didn’t get these inputs from the government.
Also, the government spent very little to help farmers make their organic input.
But, in the Long Run, It Will Pay Off
As of 2003, the state began seeing the fruits of their investment, according to the Washington Post.
Within three years, their harvest returned to what it used to be. The yield for most of their crops is higher than it was during the time of conventional farming.