BIO-FERTILIZER PROJECTS LIKELY TO REDUCE INDIA’S FERTILIZER IMPORTS

Financial assistance through National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) would be provided by the government for the farmers, towards establishment of bio-fertilizers production units across the country.

In a move to reduce the dependence on imports and further encourage the domestic fertilizer sector, the Government of India (GoI) mulls to promote the use of bio fertilizers across the country.

To this effect, the government has taken various measures for encouraging the farmers, towards usage of bio-fertilizers, informed the Minister of State for Chemicals & Fertilizers, Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, GoI.

Under these measures, the government provides financial assistance for establishment of bio-fertilizers production unit as back ended subsidy, at 25% of total financial outlay up to a maximum of Rs 40 lakh, through National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).

Besides this, a financial assistance of 50% of cost will also be provided for farmers, for promotion of bio-fertilizer units under Integrated Scheme for Oilseeds, Pulses, Oil Palm and Maize (ISOPOM).

Apart from this, the government is also providing financial support for setting up of production units of organic fertilizers, by encouraging the producers of organic fertilizers, across the country, informed the Minister.

Under National Project on Organic Farming (NPOF), a financial support under credit-linked back-ended subsidy, at 33% of total cost of the project up to Rs 60 lakh per unit, would be provided through NABARD, for setting up of fruit/vegetable waste/agro-waste compost unit.

The government also provides 50% financial support for setting up of vermi-compost units, under National Horticulture Mission (NHM).

In view of the constraints in the availability of the Natural Gas, which is important for production of nitrogenous fertilizers, the government is also encouraging the Indian companies to establish joint ventures abroad and enter into long-term agreements with the countries rich in fertilizer resources, for getting fertilizer supplies and inputs to India.

The countries, with which India made similar agreements in previous years, include Oman, Tunisia, Jordan and Morocco.

These moves by the government come in view of India’s near total dependence, to the extent of 90%, on imports of Phosphatic fertilizer and its raw materials, full dependence on Potash fertilizers.

However, these moves would hopefully reduce the Indian dependence on chemical fertilizers and will start bringing back the traditional Indian agricultural practices aimed at production of chemical-free food products.

Retrieved from – https://www.thedollarbusiness.com/bio-fertilizer-projects-likely-to-reduce-indias-fertilizer-imports/

A Sip of Health

Pegged at approximately Rs 150 crore, the green tea market in India is growing strongly and steadily with demand coming in also from Tier II and Tier III cities and manufacturers increasingly focusing on launching new variants

20150315eh87Cheap, affordable and addictive – have been terms synonymous with tea from the time it ceased to be an elite drink of the royals to become an affordable drink of the common man. Green tea is one of the fastest growing segments of the global tea industry. It is prepared from the leaves of camellia sinensis that have undergone minimal oxidation during processes. The concept of green tea originated from China and later spread all over the world. Some of the popular Japanese green teas are sencha, gyokuro, kabusecha, matcha, tencha, genmaicha and hojicha.

The journey of tea in India has indeed been fascinating and interesting. With rising health awareness, Indians who are majorly black tea drinkers, are now showing interest in green tea variants. Green tea is becoming an acquired cultural habit that is being driven by urban India’s urge to stay fit. Though presently green tea penetration in India is less than five per cent, however its demand is not just limited to metros and Tier I cities, but has also come to include Tier II and Tier III cities which have started consuming this drink on a regular basis. As a result of this growing penetration, the green tea market in India which is presently pegged at approximately Rs 150 crore has been growing upwards 50 per cent year-on-year.

With urban Indian consumers buying green tea for its many health-promoting benefits, manufacturers are increasingly focusing on making premium variants available in all retail channels, especially in modern grocery retail outlets. For instance, consumers are spoilt for choice with tea products of companies such as Organic India, GAIA Herbs, Twinings, Typhoo, as well as big FMCG giants like Hindustan Unilever, Tata Global Beverages, who are either launching new variants or re-launching their green tea product range. Moreover, GAIA Herbs has also introduced green tea variants, namely cardamom, and honey and lime, to cater to an increasing number of health-conscious consumers in urban cities. International manufacturers are also expanding their presence in institutional channels, including hotels, to generate awareness of their premium brands.

Tetley, sold across 40 countries and a part of Tata Global Beverages, has six flavours in its green tea portfolio including ginger, mint, lemon, honey and lemon, citrus and spice, and aloe vera. The company enjoys a market share of 35-40 per cent. Though in the total tea revenues of Tata Global Beverages, green tea currently has a very small share vis-a-vis black tea, the company expects the green tea segment to contribute significantly in the coming years. And with the increasing emphasis on health and wellness, the potential for categories within tea is immense.

For Twinings, India is one of the top five growth markets. The company, that has about 35 per cent market share in the premium and super premium teabag category in the country, is looking at increasing its business in India five-fold in the next five years. India is the third largest tea sourcing country for Twinings after China and Kenya. The company is a big buyer of Darjeeling and Assam teas and is increasingly buying tea from the Nilgiris. Twinings is part of Associated British Foods. Their range of green teas in the India market include green tea, green tea and lemon, green tea and mint, Earl Grey green tea, jasmine green tea and lemon and honey tea.

Also to stay ahead of the race, Wagh Bakri Tea Group has been offering one of the largest green tea ranges in India consisting of green tea, organic tea bags and regular green tea. The company also has different flavours across its green tea range like green tea mint and green tea tulsi and is currently working on expanding its green tea range under its wellness category. Apart from major Indian cities, Wagh Bakri Tea Group is also aggressively marketing its green tea products in Tier II and Tier III cities. Though at present, the company’s green tea revenue compared to normal CTC is negligible but in one to two years the green tea category is expected to comprise of 10 per cent of the company’s overall sales.

Global trend

20150315eh88According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the overweight population is expected to reach 1.5 billion by 2015 and growing healthcare costs in the US alone is expected to cross US$ 117 billion; all this is creating major opportunities for the growth in sale of weight management products such as green tea. Rising consumer awareness about the benefit of green tea in curing various diseases further triggers the global market of green tea.

Asia Pacific contributes the largest market of green tea in the world. Apart from India, countries like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and China are growing markets of green tea in this region. Rising population and healthcare awareness is further expected to boost the green tea market in Asia Pacific. Europe is the fastest growing market for the green tea industry.

Major companies operating in the global green tea market are AMORE Pacific Corp, Arizona Beverage Company, Associated British Foods LLC, Cape Natural Tea Products, Celestial Seasonings, Finlays Beverages, Frontier Natural Products Co-Op, Hambleden Herbs, Hankook Tea, Honest Tea, ITO EN, Kirin Beverage Corp, Metropolitan Tea Company, Northern Tea Merchants, Numi Organic Tea, Oishi Group Plc, Oregon Chai, PG Tips, Pukka Herbs, Qi Teas, The Kent Tea & Trading Company, The Republic Of Tea, The Stash Tea Company, Uncle Lee’s Tea and Yogi Tea.

Retrieved from – http://www.financialexpress.com/article/fhw/cover-story-fhw/a-sip-of-health/50721/

Why organic farming has not caught up yet in India

Development of organic agriculture as an alternative tool to address the ill-effects of chemical-based cultivation practices is a recent phenomenon in India. It had achieved dramatic progress in the beginning but could not maintain the pace. The growth of organic agriculture in India has been accomplished by three categories of farmers.

The first category is from no input or low input use zones, practising it as a tradition or by default with no organic certification such as the tribes of north-east region. The second and third groups are certified and non-certified farmers, who have recently adopted organic farming realising the ill-effects of modern agriculture and benefits under organic cultivation.

International scenario

Demand for organic food products is growing rapidly across the globe and amounted to $64 billion in 2012.

Commercial organic agriculture is now practised in more than 164 countries in an area of about 37.5 million hectare representing approximately 0.9 per cent of total farmland along with 549 certification bodies and 732 affiliates of International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM) from 113 countries.

The leading producers are Australia, European countries, Argentina and the US. Organic agricultural methods are internationally regulated and legally enforced by many nations, based on the standards set by the IFOAM established in 1972.

Exports

During 2013-14, India exported 135 products, realisation from which was to the tune of $403, million including $183 million contributed by exports of organic textile. Major destinations for organic products from India are the US, EU, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, South-East Asian countries, West Asia, South Africa, etc.

Soyabean (70 per cent) lead among the products exported followed by cereals and millets other than basmati (six per cent), processed food products (five per cent), basmati rice (four per cent), sugar (three per cent), tea (two per cent), pulses and lentils (one per cent), dry fruits (one per cent), spices (one per cent).

Certification requirements

Total area under organic certification in India in 2013-14 is estimated to be 4.72 million ha with 15 per cent are certified and the rest under forest area. India has the highest number of organic producers in the world (5,97,873), mainly due to small holdings.

The country has internationally acclaimed certification process for export, import and domestic markets which is regulated by National Programme on Organic Production. There are at least 18 accredited certification agencies which are responsible for the certification process. Though Government initiatives such as National Project on Organic Farming, Horticulture Mission for North-East & Himalayan States, National Horticulture Mission, National Project on Management of Soil Health and Fertility, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and also Network Project on Organic Farming of Indian Council of Agricultural Research aims at promoting organic agriculture in the country.

However, there is a wide gap in scientific validation and research compared to the progress in the same for general agriculture. Also, there is a need to aid farmers with advisory services (technical and managerial support to form cluster and adopt best management practices).

Key problems faced by organic farmers during the transition phase are non-realisation of premium . A number of State Governments have already made significant strides in organic farming such as Sikkim, Mizoram and Uttrakhand to turn the States completely organic.

However, to accomplish the desired dream, importance must be given to have a mechanism compensating farmers’ sacrifice during initial year of land conversion. The emerging business opportunity in retailing of organic farm produce has drawn the attention of many private parties. This has led to establishment of direct link between farmers and retailers/exporters.

Institutional initiatives

However, each unit is still working in isolation. The International Centre for Competencies in Organic Agriculture (ICCOA) started a knowledge centre for all the stakeholders in 2004 with a view to establish itself.

According to Mukesh Gupta (Executive Director, Morarka Foundation, Jaipur), ICCOA has played the critical role in bringing all the stakeholders together for over a decade now. So far, initiatives of ICCOA such as workshops, training programmes, conferences, seminars, trade fairs, projects, research studies, publications have proved remarkable for growth.

Strong linkage among the organisations in the sector indeed may be a crucial factor in deciding the pace of growth of organic farming in India.

Retrieved from – http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/markets/commodities/why-organic-farming-has-not-caught-up-yet-in-india/article6933518.ece

Tata Tea goes international

Tata Global Beverages (TGB), the Rs 7,622-crore beverage arm of the Tata Group, has inducted Tata Tea into its global power brand list. With this, the brand has become the second Indian product of the group to achieve this status. The other is mineral water brand Himalayan.

Typically, products with a strong international appeal, such as Tetley, Tea Pix and Eight O’ Clock Coffee, have been part of the list for some time now. TGB had inducted Himalayan into this club four years ago.

Tata Tea’s induction was on the cards but was delayed with the management debating whether such a move would be beneficial because of its strong presence in markets such as India, Southeast Asia and West Asia. However, Ajoy Misra, managing director of TGB, says: “We launched Tata Tea in Canada two-three years ago and it is doing well there. Remember Canada is an evolved tea market, where you have established brands. Tetley is already there, with Unilever’s products.”

TGB proposes to push Tata Tea deeper into the Canadian market, targeting areas beyond where the Indian diaspora is. (Its taste is considered stronger than Tetley’s.) The same strategy will be applied in the UK, where Tata Tea is available in select outlets.

These efforts are tied to TGB’s objective of building a strong portfolio of products that can straddle price points and segments. “Currently, there are white spaces, notably in coffee and water, which could be filled both organically and inorganically. In the UK, the top-end, mid-end and bottom-end are covered with Tea Pix, a luxury tea brand; Tetley, in the centre; and Tata Tea now, at the lower end. We would ideally like to replicate this model in other markets and across our verticals. If that necessitates an acquisition, we will do it. If an in-house product can fill the gap, we would look at that as well,” said Misra.

According to Misra, the acquisition of the Map coffee brand in Australia last year was part of this plan to fill gaps in key markets.

In India, the company might consider introducing one of its international coffee brands such as Eight O’ Clock (available in the US) or Grand (available in Russia) to fill the vacant slot in packaged coffee. The company is also mulling taking Tata Coffee’s packaged brand, Mr Bean, national as an alternative. Mr Bean is a popular packaged coffee brand in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

TGB will also look at co-creating products with Tata Group companies in areas such as ambient beverages.
Misra says it is also talking to “institutes and institutions”, exploring the prospect of jointly developing new products with them.

This aggression by TGB comes with the group and company chairman Cyrus Mistry laying special emphasis on the consumer and retail vertical among three other clusters as part of his Vision 2025 document. The plan here includes achieving a market capitalisation comparable with the 25 most valuable companies in the world in the next decade. Among other things, Mistry proposes to invest $35 billion (Rs 2.1 lakh crore) in the next three years in consumer & retail, defence, aerospace, financial services, realty, and infrastructure.

Retrieved from – http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/tata-tea-goes-international-115013100024_1.html

A festive brew of culture – APPL to honour contributions and traditions of tea tribes

 A woman plucks leaves at a tea garden in Nagaon.

Amalgamated Plantations Pvt Limited, formerly Tata Tea, will host the first-everSirish Festival at the company’s picturesque Hathikuli tea estate near Kaziranga National Park on February 7 and 8 in a bid to promote the unique cultures and traditions of the tea tribes of Assam.

“Sirish Festival, the first ever integrated festival to honour the contribution of the tea tribe community to Assam, is a watershed moment for us. We expect that future editions of this annual festival will provide for not only national but also international recognition for this great community,” Ranjit Barthakur, chairman of APPL Foundation, said.

The foundation looks after the corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities of the APPL and is primarily engaged with local communities in Assam in the areas of education and skill development, environment, healthcare, culture and heritage.

Sirish, a Sanskrit word meaning soul, is the local name for the shady trees in tea gardens. The festival will showcase traditional dance forms, sports, art and literature of the tea community of Assam. Apart from the local population of Hathikuli and its adjoining areas, representatives for all the 25 tea estates of APPL, tea tribe community leaders and icons from various fields will attend the festival.

The high point of the festival would be the recognition and honouring of two icons from the community – one each from the fields of literature and culture. The recognition will be in the form of a citation and cheque, which will be presented by the chief minister Tarun Gogoi at the venue on February 8.

A DVD of a modern rendition of a traditional jhumur songcalled Railgadi Jhumur will also be released during the festival.

The APPL Foundation official said competitions would be held among the participants of the tea community in jhumur dance, pole climbing, archery and other sporting events, which are popular among the community.

“Participants from APPL gardens will take part in this year’s festival but plans are there for participation from other company gardens from the next year’s festival,” the official said.

He said the tea community has made an immense contribution to the lifeline industry of the state and such festivals were necessary to give them recognition.

Although Robert Bruce discovered tea in 1823, the commercial cultivation started only after 14 years, when the first tea garden was established at Chabua in 1837. The British imported thousands of workers, mainly from the Chhotanagpur region, covering the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal and also from Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. These indentured tea garden workers later came to be known as the tea tribe community.

The important constituents are the Santhal, Tanti, Orang, Munda, Bhuiya, Bhumij, Paharia, Proja, Gaur, Kharia, Bheel, Boraik, Ghatowar, Teli, Goala, Rajak, Koya, Telenga and Kamar. The culture of different tribes got intermixed within themselves and also with the existing local Assamese culture, and an amalgamation of tea tribe culture and a new way of living evolved.

Retrieved from – http://www.telegraphindia.com/1150128/jsp/northeast/story_10306.jsp#.VMnDhdKUf-t

Agriculture sector is facing a global challenges in 2015

Agriculture has to produce more raw materials to satisfy the increasing and diversifying demands of a growing world population, which is expected to grow by more than a third (around 2.3 billion people) between 2009 and 2050; these figures are often repeated, and for good reason – the challenge they present to global food production is enormous. Projections show that feeding a world population of 9.1 billion people in 2050 will require raising overall food production by some 70% between 2005 and 2050.

Our demands on agriculture don’t stop at production, the sector must also contribute to economic prosperity and the social well being of rural areas, and help preserve natural resources such as land, water and biodiversity – in the face of pressures from urban expansion, industrialization and a changing climate. There is also a pressing need to protect and restore the quality of existing farmland.

Highly productive and resource efficient agriculture mitigates the problems associated with all of these challenges, because it enables us to have more of everything – more crops, and more biodiversity and natural habitats.

Agriculture is a major contributor to land use change, which often implies the destruction of natural habitats – the single most important driver of biodiversity loss. By protecting crops from pests and disease, farmers can optimize yields on the existing agricultural land base, make efficient use of resources (inc. fuel, time, and capital) and prevent the loss of natural habitat that occurs when agricultural land expands to compensate for crop losses.

Without crop protection, losses for certain crops can exceed 80% of potential yield, and low input farming – as typified by organic agriculture – is estimated as averaging up to 34% lower yields than productive agriculture within the EU.

If we wish to maintain and improve yields and make efficient use of natural resources, the use of plant protection products must continue; there are currently no viable alternatives to pesticide use in either conventional or organic farming. Efficient production technologies are imperative to allow us to close yield gaps; however, society must use these technologies in an appropriate way to ensure that agriculture plays a central role in delivering sustainable solutions.

Pesticides are formulated to protect crops by discouraging, confusing, altering the behaviour, or killing target pests, diseases and pathogens. When we consider biodiversity protection, this raises questions about the impact on non-target species that may be unintentionally exposed to pesticides.

Modern pesticides are characterized by their high efficacy and targeted modes of action; the biologically active characteristics of pesticides that pose risk to non-target species are acknowledged and accommodated in European pesticide regulations. Pesticides are one of the most regulated product classes on the European market, and the real drivers of the large scale loss of biodiversity (including land use change) are not subject to regulation as rigorous as that applied to pesticides.

Science, research and development have given us sophisticated crop protection solutions. While their use is certainly not without risk, a sensible, risk-based approach to EU legislation ensures farmers have access to products that when used correctly have no unacceptable effects on their health or the environment. This same stringent legislation allows European consumers a high degree of confidence in the safety, availability and affordability of their food.

Our industry is committed to providing sustainable crop protection solutions; we believe that for agriculture to be sustainable, it must be efficient, productive and contribute to a resilient natural environment. We are acutely aware of society’s demand that crops be produced with minimal environmental impact – and we know that this can only be achieved if farmers have access to appropriate tools and knowledge of best management practices.

As society embraces the challenge of sustainable agriculture, there is growing consensus on the need to combine high agricultural productivity with well-considered environmental protection; however, Europe’s full potential will only be realised with ambitious science-based policy and political support for innovation. The combined challenges of agricultural production and biodiversity protection require that we exploit proven technologies whilst continuing to invest in the research and development of solutions for tomorrow.

Strong public support for biodiversity protection, a knowledgeable and passionate community of famers, and the engaged expertise of industry can be combined to make the rural environmental more biodiversity friendly and more productive.

Retrieved from – http://agri.eu/agriculture-sector-is-facing-a-global-challenges-in-2015-analysis–news6323.html

Meghalaya CM launches Mission Organic

Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma officially launched the Mission Organic in South West Garo Hills district during the day-long Conclave on Clean and Green Mission under IBDLP held at Betasing Block Friday based on the theme “Promising an organic revolution for transformation of Meghalaya.”

The conclave is a convergence programme of the Horticulture, Agriculture and C&RD departments in collaboration with FDS Mission Organic to create awareness among the farmers of the region on organic farming through deliberations and interaction.

Addressing the gathering on the occasion, the Chief Minister dwelt at length on the number of problems brought on by poor planning by certain departments, destruction of catchment areas, unscientific farming and excessive use of chemical fertilizers and said that it was to offset these problems that the government had started Clean and Green Mission, “so that we can relook at our approach to life.”

However, the effort will go in vain even if the government spends crores of rupees if there is no community engagement, he said and called for synchronized activities of all the line departments along with aggressive engagement of the community.

Referring to the high incidence of cancer caused by excessive use of non-organic chemical fertilizers and pesticides in Bathinda in Punjab, Sangma asked the Department of Horticulture to send a delegate of farmers so that they can see with their own yes and learn the detrimental effects of chemical fertilizers. He also said that the Mission Organic programme will be driven to every village in the district where land is available and announced that the first 100 villages in all the districts to become fully organic would be awarded with special schemes. “South West Garo Hills must strive to be the first district to declare itself as the first organic district,” he said.

The Mission will open up multi-faceted opportunities opportunities to the people, he added.

Informing the gathering that a project Rs 4500 crore have been approved for taking care of water scarcity in the State, to harvest water and create water bodies, he said that the original idea of IBDLP itself was to create water bodies in the State. He also asked the Horticulture department to prepare a programme for bamboo plantation, which can create sustainable livelihood and also lead to sustainable ecology.

The Chief Minister also interacted with the farmers who came up with their problems and cleared their doubts by patiently replying to the queries raised by them on certain issues like problem of water, use of seeds.

Minister for Sports & Youth Affairs, Zenith Sangma also spoke on the occasion and dwelt on the health and economic values of organic farming, while Deputy Commissioner Ram Singh presided over the function.

Retrieved from – http://zeenews.india.com/news/sci-tech/meghalaya-cm-launches-mission-organic_1527536.html

Organic Farming in India Points the Way to Sustainable Agriculture

Standing amidst his lush green paddy fields in Nagapatnam, a coastal district in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, a farmer named Ramajayam remembers how a single wave changed his entire life.

The simple farmer was one of thousands whose agricultural lands were destroyed by the 2004 Asian tsunami, as massive volumes of saltwater and metre-high piles of sea slush inundated these fertile fields in the aftermath of the disaster.

“The general perception is that organic farming takes years to yield good results and revenue. But during post-tsunami rehabilitation work […] we proved that in less than a year organic methods could yield better results than chemical farming.” — M Revathi, the founder-trustee of the Tamil Nadu Organic Farmers’ Movement (TOFarM)

On the morning of Dec. 26, 2004, Ramajayam had gone to his farm in Karaikulam village to plant casuarina saplings. As he walked in, he noticed his footprints were deeper than usual and water immediately filled between the tracks, a phenomenon he had never witnessed before.

A few minutes later, like a black mass, huge walls of water came towards him. He ran for his life. His farms were a pathetic sight the next day.

The Nagapatnam district recorded 6,065 deaths, more than 85 percent of the state’s death toll. Farmers bore the brunt, struggling to revive their fields, which were inundated for a distance of up to two miles in some locations. Nearly 24,000 acres of farmland were destroyed by the waves.

Worse still was that the salty water did not recede, ruining the paddy crop that was expected to be harvested 15 days after the disaster. Small ponds that the farmers had dug on their lands with government help became incredibly saline, and as the water evaporated it had a “pickling effect” on the soil, farmers say, essentially killing off all organic matter crucial to future harvests.

Plots belonging to small farmers like Ramajayam, measuring five acres or less, soon resembled saltpans, with dead soil caked in mud stretching for miles. Even those trees that withstood the tsunami could not survive the intense period of salt inundation, recalled Kumar, another small farmer.

“We were used to natural disasters; but nothing like the tsunami,” Ramajayam added.

Cognizant of the impact of the disaster on poor rural communities, government offices and aid agencies focused much of their rehabilitation efforts on coastal dwellers, offering alternative livelihood schemes in a bid to lessen the economic burden of the catastrophe.

The nearly 10,000 affected small and marginal farmers, who have worked these lands for generations, were reluctant to accept a change in occupation. Ignoring the reports of technical inspection teams that rehabilitating the soil could take up to 10 years, some sowed seed barely a year after the tsunami.

Not a single seed sprouted, and many began to lose hope.

It was then that various NGOs stepped in, and began a period of organic soil renewal and regeneration that now serves as a model for countless other areas in an era of rampant climate change.

The ‘soil doctor’

One of the first organisations to begin sustained efforts was the Tamil Nadu Organic Farmers’ Movement (TOFarM), which adopted the village of South Poigainallur as the site of experimental work.

The first step was measuring the extent of the damage, including assessing the depth of salt penetration and availability of organic content. When it became clear that the land was completely uncultivable, the organisation set to work designing unique solutions for every farm that involved selecting seeds and equipment based on the soil condition and topography.

Sea mud deposits were removed, bunds were raised and the fields were ploughed. Deep trenches were made in the fields and filled with the trees that had been uprooted by the tsunami. As the trees decomposed the soil received aeration.

Dhaincha seeds, a legume known by its scientific name Sesbania bispinosa, were then sown in the fields.

“It [dhaincha] is called the ‘soil doctor’ because it is a green manure crop that grows well in saline soil,” M Revathi, the founder-trustee of TOFarM, told IPS.

When the nutrient-rich dhaincha plants flowered in about 45 days, they were ploughed back into the ground, to loosen up the soil and help open up its pores. Compost and farmyard manure were added in stages before the sowing season.

Today, the process stands as testament to the power of organic solutions.

Organic practices save the day

Poor farmers across Tamil Nadu are heavily dependent on government aid. Each month the state government’s Public Distribution System hands out three tonnes of rice to over 20 million people

To facilitate this, the government runs paddy procurement centres, wherein officials purchase farmers’ harvests for a fixed price. While this assures farmers of a steady income, the fixed price is far below the market rate.

Thus marginal farmers, who number some 13,000, barely make enough to cover their monthly needs. After the 90-135 day paddy harvest period, farmers fall back on vegetable crops to ensure their livelihood. But in districts like Nagapatnam, where fresh water sources lie 25 feet below ground level, farmers who rely on rain-fed agriculture are at a huge disadvantage.

When the tsunami washed over the land, many feared they would never recover.

“The microbial count on a pin head, which should be 4,000 in good soil, dropped down to below 500 in this area,” Dhanapal, a farmer in Kilvelur of Nagapatnam district and head of the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Association, informed IPS.

But help was not far away.

A farmer named S Mahalingam’s eight-acre plot of land close to a backwater canal in North Poigainallur was severely affected by the tsunami. His standing crop of paddy was completely destroyed.

NGOs backed by corporate entities and aid agencies pumped out seawater from Mahalingam’s fields and farm ponds. They distributed free seeds and saplings. The state government waived off farm loans. Besides farmyard manure, Mahalingam used the leaves of neem, nochi and Indian beech (Azadirachta indica, Vitex negundo and Pongamia glabra respectively) as green manure.

Subsequent rains also helped remove some of the salinity. The farmer then sowed salt-resistant traditional rice varieties called Kuruvikar and Kattukothalai. In two years his farms were revived, enabling him to continue growing rice and vegetables.

NGO’s like the Trichy-based Kudumbam have innovated other methods, such as the use of gypsum, to rehabilitate burnt-out lands.

A farmer named Pl. Manikkavasagam, for instance, has benefitted from the NGO’s efforts to revive his five-acre plot of farmland, which failed to yield any crops after the tsunami.

Remembering an age-old practice, he dug trenches and filled them with the green fronds of palms that grow in abundance along the coast.

Kudumbam supplied him with bio-fertlizers such as phosphobacteria, azospirillum and acetobacter, all crucial in helping breathe life into the suffocated soil.

Kudumbam distributed bio-solutions and trained farmers to produce their own. As Nagapatnam is a cattle-friendly district, bio solutions using ghee, milk, cow dung, tender coconut, fish waste, jaggery and buttermilk in varied combinations could be made easily and in a cost-effective manner. Farmers continue to use these bio-solutions, all very effective in controlling pests.

Using bio-fertilizers, farmers in Tamil Nadu are reviving agricultural lands that were choked by salt deposits in the aftermath of the 2004 Asian tsunami. Credit: Jency Samuel/IPS

Using bio-fertilizers, farmers in Tamil Nadu are reviving agricultural lands that were choked by salt deposits in the aftermath of the 2004 Asian tsunami

“The general perception is that organic farming takes years to yield good results and revenue,” TOFarM’s Revathi told IPS. “But during post-tsunami rehabilitation work, with data, we proved that in less than a year organic methods could yield better results than chemical farming. That TOFarM was invited to replicate this in Indonesia and Sri Lanka is proof that farms can be revived through sustainable practices even after disasters,” she added.

As early as 2006, farmers like Ramajayam, having planted a salt-resistant strain of rice known as kuzhivedichan, yielded a harvest within three months of the sowing season.

Together with restoration of some 2,000 ponds by TOFarM, farmers in Nagapatnam are confident that sustainable agriculture will stand the test of time, and whatever climate-related challenges are coming their way. The lush fields of Tamil Nadu’s coast stand as proof of their assertion.

Retrieved from – http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/01/organic-farming-in-india-points-the-way-to-sustainable-agriculture/

NE leads in organic farming

Sikkim and Mizoram are leading the country in organic farming while Meghalaya is weaning out chemical fertilisers and pesticides and providing free bio-pesticides and bio-agents to farmers.

The two states – Sikkim and Mizoram – found special mention at the meeting of the parliamentary consultative committee of agriculture ministry, chaired by Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh, in New Delhi where a threadbare discussion on organic farming took place.

Singh said the total organic production in the country was 1.24 million tonnes while the total area under organic farming was 0.723 million hectares under certification.

At present, organic farming is practised mainly in 12 states, of which two states of the Northeast – Sikkim and Mizoram – are likely to become fully organic in the next few years.

The Sikkim government had advocated the idea of making it an organic state in 2003. It was part of a larger concept of making the entire Northeast a wholly organic zone of India. Sikkim Organic Mission 2015 aims to convert 50,000 hectares of farmland by next year. In 2010-2011 and in 2011-2012, the target was 18,000 hectares each while in 2012-2013 it was 14,000 hectares.

The decision to go organic was based on the premise that farming in Sikkim was traditionally organic and it would benefit not only the 62,000 farming families of the state who own an average of 1.9 hectares of farmland, but also maintain the quality of environment of the state.

Mizoram’s agriculture department had introduced organic farming in 1996 and ran a trial at Lungmuat village. To promote organic farming vigorously, the Mizoram Assembly unanimously passed the Mizoram Organic Farming Bill in July 2004.

At today’s meeting, Singh assured the committee members that all necessary efforts would be made towards simplification of the certification process for organic farming, to encourage research on organic farming at Krishi Vigyan Kendras, agriculture universities and ICAR and proper utilisation of crop residue.

To mitigate the negative effects of chemicals and pesticides, the Meghalaya agriculture department has taken up alternative methods through the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Integrated Nutrient Management (INM). These are being popularised through an integrated plant health management system, which will produce food that are safer, nutritionally more acceptable and that adhere to the National Programme of Organic Production standards.

Under the IPM, the department promotes the use of bio-pesticides and bio-agents, which are safer for consumers and the eco-system. Under the INM, farmers are trained in the production of on-farm compost, vermi-compost and green manures and the use of bio-fertilisers to improve soil health.

Moreover, the government has substituted the subsidy sale of chemical fertilisers and pesticides by providing free distribution of bio-pesticides and bio-agents through various demonstration programmes to create awareness and acceptability among farmers.

To capitalise on the inherent advantages that organic farming brings, the state government has taken up a policy to introduce a safe system of organic production, certification and marketing.

Earlier this week, a two-day conclave under the Integrated Basin Development and Livelihood Programme on the theme, Promising an Organic Revolution for the Transformation of Meghalaya, was held at Ampati in South West Garo Hills.

It was organised by the Basin Development Unit, Ampati, in collaboration with Clover Organic Pvt Ltd, a Dehradun-based NGO, and C&C Mission Organic, a Tura-based NGO. It was aimed at creating awareness and training agro and other allied-based farmers of the region on organic farming. There were 180 participants, including farmers from 15 villages and several NGOs.

Chief minister Mukul Sangma, who attended the conclave, said after such trainings are completed, the farmers’ plot of lands, where synthetic fertilisers and pesticides have not been used, will be assessed, accredited and certified as organic farms after three years. He urged upon the people to compete to make the district the first one to be officially declared 100 per cent organic.

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India’s northeast is Natural Economic Zone: PM

Describing India’s northeast as a “Natural Economic Zone”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a slew of packages to develop the region that included a special scholarship for 10,000 students and development of rail, air, road, and digital connectivity.

“In India, the word SEZ (special economic zone) is very popular but after visiting this area (Assam, Manipur and Nagaland) for the last three days, I found that it is not only SEZ but it is NEZ. When I say NEZ, I mean ‘Natural Economic Zone’,” Modi said while inaugurating the annual Hornbill festival at the Naga heritage village in Kisama.

“In other parts of India, we will find SEZ, a man-made economic zone. In this region it is NEZ, but unfortunately it is untapped. It is my priority now to nourish this NEZ for NE (North East). NE is meant for NEZ and NEZ is meant for NE,” he said.

After becoming prime minister, Modi said his government has taken a number of initiatives for the development of the eight northeastern states.

“I am sure this is the proper time when we are celebrating the Hornbill festival and preparing for Christmas. We have decided to start a scheme called Ishan Uday, a special scholarship for 10,000 northeast students,” he announced.

“Another scheme called Ishan Vikas will help in internship and exposure to visit IITs, NITs and NIFTs in other parts of India during their vacation. Every year, we will take 2,000 students and 500 teachers from this area to other parts of the country. This exposure will benefit this area.”

Modi said his government will set up six more colleges, especially in the field of agriculture, in the northeast.

“The northeastern states can be the capital of India’s organic agriculture. Only the northeastern states can provide organic food to the humanity and to the world, and that’s why we have decided to set up six new colleges in these areas,” he said.

Acknowledging India’s rich heritage in the field of textiles, Modi also announced the setting up of modern garment manufacturing centres in each northeastern state, beginning with Nagaland, Assam and Sikkim.

“We have a rich heritage in the textile field. We have master weavers and our women have this art in their fingers. We have to utilise this art for the development of the region. The government will spend Rs.20 crore each on these centres,” he said.

Modi recalled the decision by then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to allocate 10 percent of the annual budget for the development of the region.

“My government too has made a provision of Rs.53,000 crore for the development of the eight northeastern states and Rs.28,000 crore for starting 14 new railway lines to boost connectivity in the region.”

Modi said many tourists arrive here from various parts of India and other countries.

“This area is the best tourist destination. But before that, we require railway, air, road, and digital connectivity for its all-round development. That is why we have decided to have 14 new railway lines in the region,” he said.

To improve power and digital connectivity, the prime minister said an amount of Rs.5,000 crore has been earmarked for six states to strengthen intra-state power transmission and distribution systems.

A similar amount has been allocated for boosting 2G mobile connectivity for the eight states.

Recognizing the potential of the youth of the region in sports, Modi announced the setting up of a national sports university in Manipur.

“The people of northeast will be the best beneficiaries of this sports university,” he said.

Expressing his eagerness to develop tourism in the northeast, he said: “There is tremendous scope for India in the field of tourism. However, it is still untapped in these areas. But we are now focusing on it.”

Retrieved from – http://zeenews.india.com/news/north-east/indias-northeast-is-natural-economic-zone-pm-modi_1507742.html