Sikkim, a small Indian state nestled in the Himalayas, has always been known for its scenic beauty, dramatic landscape, and rich biodiversity. This landlocked state in the North-Eastern part of India doesn’t score high on connectivity or infrastructure – no commercial flights, no railways, and nearly 50% of its land area is covered with forests. However, Sikkim has achieved something that even the most developed states couldn’t dream of. Back in January 2016, it officially became the first 100% organic state not just in India but in the whole world! Sounds like a nearly-impossible and remarkable feat, right? Here’s how Sikkim, the second-smallest state in the country, is spearheading the organic farming revolution, setting an example for the entire nation to follow.
What does a “100% organic state” mean?
First things first – what does it mean when we say Sikkim is a “100% organic” state? The answer is simple – every single agricultural farm in the state is certified organic by accreditation agencies. Of Sikkim’s total land area, only 10% is available for cultivation, which amounts to about 75,000 hectares. Organic farming practices and methods are being followed in each and every farm across the state. These organic-certified farms also follow the guidelines prescribed by the National Programme for Organic Production.
A journey that started in 2003
Sikkim’s transition into a 100% organic state didn’t happen overnight – it took over 12 years, comprehensive policies, and a strong commitment from the state government to achieve this extraordinary status. It started in 2003 when the then-government led by Pawan Chamling took the first step and made a declaration about making Sikkim an organic farming state. Subsequently, the government framed policies on organic farming and came up with initiatives to help farmers adapt to this phenomenal transition. Though the initial focus was on five crops namely large cardamom, ginger, buck wheat, turmeric, and orchid, the plan was later expanded to include all crops cultivated in Sikkim.
Ban on chemical fertilisers, pesticides, and other external inputs
One of the defining characteristics of organic farming is that it doesn’t use chemical fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, etc. Even though the traditional farming practices in Sikkim didn’t rely on external inputs, chemical fertilisers and pesticides slowly took over the scene. As it was difficult to eliminate the use of such products instantly, the state formulated a phase-out plan to gradually stop their use and sale. With this in mind, Sikkim formed its State Policy on Organic Farming which banned the import of chemical fertilisers in 2003. This prompted all farmers to switch to organic manure over a period of time.
Key features of the Sikkim Model
In addition to banning chemical fertilisers and pesticides, the state also launched a series of initiatives as a measure to promote organic farming practices. Support and incentives were given to farmers so that they stayed motivated in the path of organic revolution. These included:
- Sikkim Organic Mission: A factor instrumental in making the state 100% organic was Sikkim Organic Mission, an action plan launched in 2010. Its objective was to convert the whole state organic by 2015. In addition to defining various measures to be taken, Sikkim Organic Mission also proposed initiatives to support the endeavor.
- Bio-villages: The government also implemented bio-villages to train farmers in various organic farming practices including the production of compost and natural fertilisers. Sikkim invested heavily in the construction of vermicomposting pits to ensure that the gap created by eliminating chemical fertilisers was adequately filled by its natural counterparts.
- Market linkage: The government launched special market complexes called Sikkim Organic Market where organic products are sold at a higher price than non-organic varieties. This helped in the promotion of organic products cultivated in the state and also served as an effective market linkage between farmers and buyers.
A holistic model for an organic lifestyle
The model followed by Sikkim is much more than cultivating organic crops. It is a holistic approach towards creating an organic way of life, which includes health, education, consumption, market expansion, sustainable tourism, and rural development, among others. The policies of the state have also bagged the award by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations for promoting sustainable food systems. Sikkim provides an excellent model for other states in the country and elsewhere in the world to adopt and implement. Taking cues from Sikkim, other Indian states such as Kerala, Mizoram, and Arunachal Pradesh are already on their way to transform their agricultural practices.