“Anand pattern” to drive Organic farming growth in North East

To put on the fast track the growth of organic farming in north eastern states, central government has designed a scheme based on the principles inherent to the Anand pattern for milk development in the country. The scheme will be accordingly followed in all the seven states of the region to make the tools for development including the knowledge of scientists, etc available to the farmer-participants. It will also

integrate knowledge systems and lead the professionals required to ensure best possible outcomes for the village communities and their natural environments. For implementation of the scheme nodal agency for development of North Eastern Region Ministery of Development of Ne Region (DONER) has set aside a fund of Rs 100 crore for the current year. Anand pattern as an organizational structure was a huge success, able to rapidly increase milk production in India which followed over 100 years of economic, social and political dynamics.

Based on similar lines taking into account the demographic pattern, cultural diversity and other factors the organic farming schemes has been designed to expedite the tepid growth process of the promising sector. Integration of farming system (IFS) approach with emphasis on two-four main commercial crops in combination with other crops under multi-cropping, rotational cropping, inter-cropping, mixed-cropping practices with allied activities like horticulture, livestock, animal husbandry (diary, goaterry piggery, poultry, duckery), apiculture, sericulture etc, the report said.

Many north eastern state governments are promoting organic agriculture . Sikkim has already brought 64,296 ha area under certification process. Nagaland and Mizoram have also drafted and adopted policies to promote organic farming, but they are yet to implement necessary strategies to under certification.

The scheme also envisages development of dedicated seed production cluster under each council/ federation which will be formed based on the Anand pattern of development followed in Gujarat under scheme Flood for the speedy development of dairy industry.

To implement the scheme a project management unit consisting of professionals will be set up in Guwahati by the DONER Ministry and placed under the administrative control of the North Eastern Council.

Retrieve from – http://news.webindia123.com/news/Articles/India/20151011/2699460.html

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For a second Green Revolution in India

In an effort to tackle sluggish long-term agricultural growth in India, Prime Minister Modi is calling for a second Green Revolution. One in every two Indians relies on agriculture for livelihood, yet India still has the second highest number of undernourished people in the world. It is not surprising, therefore, that our government wants to promote a return to that golden era of the 1970s and 80s, which saw record yields thanks to the technologies made available at the time — we had improved high yielding varieties of rice and wheat, better irrigation, fertilisers, and pesticides.

But the agricultural landscape has changed drastically since this intervention, that a second Green Revolution is going to need an entirely new approach, and an entirely new set of technologies. Climate change is tightening its grip and threatening food supply, not just in India but worldwide. It has never been more important to protect the scarce natural resources that are essential to agriculture.

Focus on precision

A new approach, termed “precision agriculture”, will be key. We now have a wealth of data at our disposal, which, if harnessed appropriately, can help farmers make the most efficient use of vital inputs such as water and fertiliser by applying them in precise amounts. A new mobile phone application called MITRA, for example, is being developed in Tamil Nadu, that will give site-specific recommendations to farmers on the correct fertiliser dose, based on data from the local department of agriculture. It is able to operate offline for farmers in remote areas who do not have internet access. This prevents the farmer from wasting important inputs, and also reduces agriculture’s impact on the environment.

The correct type of fertiliser is, in fact, as important as the correct quantity, which should be an important consideration in any plan for a second Green Revolution in India. Modi’s call to reopen fertiliser plants in Sindri (Jharkhand) and Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh), and open new ones in West Bengal must take into account that India’s soil is diverse, and fertiliser requirements will vary greatly across the country. Just like humans, soils need a balanced diet of the right kind of nutrients in order to be healthy; this is a fact that has been overlooked by government subsidy programmes that only favoured urea for a long time. The right kind of nutrients for a specific soil area needs to be applied, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place for optimal soil health. This is called the 4Rs or nutrient stewardship.

Testing of samples of soil from agricultural fields is vital for achieving nutrient stewardship. India has a vast network of 661 soil testing laboratories including 120 mobile vans operating in 608 districts that can carry out 7.2 million tests annually. Farmers will soon be able to access these reports online. Besides soil-testing, gadgets such as leaf colour charts and optical sensors are becoming popular with farmers to guide the application of urea. This nitrogen fertiliser, if used incorrectly, can affect groundwater reserves and contribute to emissions of the greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide.

Interactive applications

Mobile-based applications for farmers will form an important part of the data-driven precision agriculture approach. But it is important to ensure this meets the needs of the farmer. Research carried out by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Mexico, found that these applications need to be interactive; the farmer must have a way of asking questions and giving feedback, either through a helpline or via “field scouts” who visit the villages receiving the mobile-based information. The research also showed that a wider range of issues needs to be tackled in addition to input use, such as how to deal with pests, and new climate-resistant crop varieties. This signals an important area where governments and NGOs can intervene and offer this kind of detailed advice on an ongoing basis. It will also be key to ensure that applications are affordable and accessible.

Another major challenge is the evidence that groundwater stocks are rapidly depleting. Groundwater sustains around 60 per cent of agriculture in India, while 80 per cent of the people living in rural areas use groundwater for their domestic needs. Laser levelling is a technology that can grade an agricultural field to a flat surface by using a laser-guided scraper. Laser levelling has been shown to improve crop yields, reduce labour time spent weeding, and, in particular, reduce water use for irrigation by up to 20-25 per cent.

Although the challenges to bringing a second Green Revolution to India are immense, it is not impossible. India has led the charge before, and yielded phenomenal results. But we must recognise that success will be just as much about using resources efficiently, as about increasing yield. If we consider these two equally, we will succeed.

Retrieved from – http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/for-a-second-green-revolution-in-india/article7554316.ece

Organic food business grows four-fold in 3 years

Growing health consciousness and awareness about harmful pesticides has nearly quadrupled the size of organic foods in India in the last three years. Organic foods, which started out by occupying fewer shelves at retail stores, is now a Rs 300 crore business in the domestic market. The export market from India is even bigger at Rs 700 crore, according to industry experts.

Consumers are opting for healthier eating habits which is driving entrepreneurship in organic foods, prodding retailers to offer greater shelf space to brands in this category. As per industry estimates, the category is currently growing at 50 per cent per annum.

Industry experts believe with growing talk about the bad effects of chemicals and pesticides used in the food industry, products that are believed to be free of such substances will grow exponentially.

“Three years back, this market was approximately Rs 70 crore. We are growing at a very healthy rate year on year. In the last 5 years, shelf space given to organic foods has tripled. However, retailers are yet to realize the full potential,” said N Balasubramanian, CEO, Sresta Natural Bioproducts, who claims its brand 24 Mantra is the largest player in organic foods in India.

The company is present in key categories like atta, brown rice, honey, tur dal, turmeric, juices and breakfast cereals in organic foods.

Given the growth of this market, 24 Mantra, which is present in more than 125 cities across India, is planning to extend to ready to cook traditional products like pongal, poha, khichdi and millet dosa as well.

Mohit Khattar, MD & CEO, Godrej Nature’s Basket said awareness around polluted ground water near industrial area, increasingly chemical laden environment in general or the harmful impact of chemicals in day to day food has added to the consciousness of consumers. “It definitely makes them want to change simple things around them. And one of the things they can change easily is adopting a healthier and more sustainable way of life. It is this context that organic products are seeing increased acceptance and growing popularity,” said Khattar.

Godrej Nature’s Basket, which has been a pioneer in bringing and selling organic products like tea, pasta, sauces, across its stores, plans to enhance the range of organic options further and making the availability of these more consistent.

Organic packaged food comes at a premium to the regular variety of packaged commodity. If the monthly household expense for a family of four on grocery is in the range of Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000, a switch to a brand of organic food would cost Rs 1,200-1,500 more per month. “This is almost the same as what a family would spend on a movie outing over a weekend,” said Balasubramanian.

Retrieved from – http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/Organic-food-business-grows-four-fold-in-3-years/articleshow/48646912.cms

‘God’s gift’ from spice plant – Tea company sets up largest facility in Kaliabor

Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL), the second largest tea-producing company in the country, will be offering its spice products under the brand name Anshi.

Anshi means “God’s gift” in Sanskrit.

Amalgamated Spice Park

The company commissioned Amalgamated Spice Park, the largest spice-processing plant in the Northeast which is housed at a state government industrial facility at Kaliabor in Nagaon district on July 29.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi inaugurated the project. Besides this, he also inaugurated three more projects of the company.

A senior official of the APPL said in order to be more customer-centric and offer some of its products directly to end-consumers, it has decided to market them under the umbrella brand Anshi.

“It would encapsulate and connote everything that the APPL’s products would offer. Its place of origin and the resultant goodness in health and taste that only natural foods can promise,” he said.

The unit is spread across 6.2 bighas with a built-up area of 30,000 square feet.

“The Spice Park aims to promote the indigenous spices of the Northeast through fair price, value additions and creating market linkages in domestic and international markets for the spice-farming fraternity,” the official said.

It will have three processing lines – one for tuber spices like ginger and turmeric, second for seed spices like black pepper, coriander, mustard and the third one for chilli processing.

Many of the spices have been sourced from spice-specific clusters identified at various locations in the region.

The company at present grows only black pepper and has planted over three lakh trees.

“In the next two years, this figure will be approximately seven lakh trees. The current production is 40 tonnes and on maturity this figure will exceed 600 tonnes,” the official said.

Black pepper is the most-traded spice in the world. It is known as the king of spices for its hot, biting flavour and pungent aroma.

The plan at present is to sell spices to manufacturers across the country. Spices would be available at its kiosks in Assam and the Dooars. Exports will be planned at a later stage.

“The unit has been designed to address sustainability issues through initiatives in water and waste management, use of alternative sources of energy and landscaping for improving air quality,” the official said.

Retrieved from – http://www.telegraphindia.com/1150727/jsp/northeast/story_33857.jsp#.VbsVUvOqqko

*Edited

Cementing a new track in growing pepper

Traditionally pepper is grown as an intercrop in plantations. However, a farmer from Enmakaje village, bordering Karnataka and Kerala, has begun growing pepper on a trial basis as a mono-crop with cement poles as support.

Some three years ago when there was a rumour on the likely ban on arecanut, B Gopalakrishna Bhat from Enmakaje village in Kerala’s Kasaragod district thought of diversifying his crop. He felt that pepper plantation was the ideal choice then.

He, along with his neighbour K Mahesh Bhat, approached IISR (Indian Institute of Spices Research) in Kozhikode and got Thevam, Shakti, Srikara and Panchami varieties for planting two years ago.

Cement poles
Gopalakrishna Bhat finalised to grow it as a mono crop and decided to install cement poles as a support for the vines. (Traditionally farmers use arecanut or other trees as a support for pepper vines).
Bhat told that he planted around 100 pepper saplings on a trial basis in his plot.
BP
To a query if using cement poles would be a costly proposition, he said he invested around ₹1,000 for a single sapling, including the cost of the cement pole with 4-inch diameter. The hollow cement pipes have been filled with concrete to make it strong, he said. The height of the poles in his trial plot ranges from 8 ft to 15 ft.

P Chowdappa, Director of the Kasaragod-based Central Plantation Crops Research Institute, told that cement poles can be used for support in pepper plantations. However, people normally do not venture for that as it involves additional investment.

Investment details
Farmers will get more income from multiple crops in same unit area if pepper is cultivated as inter-crop, he said.

Agreeing with him, Gopalakrishna Bhat said the investment will be one-twentieth of his trial plot in the case of pepper as an inter-crop. Highlighting the advantage of pepper as a mono-crop, he said harvesting takes a longer time when it is grown as an inter-crop.He is hopeful of getting around 4 kg of pepper a year from a single plant in this model. He has maintained a spacing of 8×8 ft in his plot.

Yield & disease
On the average yield as an intercrop, he said he got around 5 kg a plant as in intercrop in arecanut plantation, because the plant can go up to a height of 20 ft with arecanut plant as a support. That is not the case in this trial plot, he said.

Stating that this is the 13th month of pepper cultivation as a mono-crop, Bhat said some plants of Thevam variety have begun to bear the berries. The result is not replicated in other varieties, he said.

Narrating his experience, he said around 1,000 saplings can be planted on an acre of land in this model.

On diseases in the plantation, Bhat said he did not face any issue of disease in the last 13 months. He follows the package of practices being suggested by the IISR.

Mahesh Bhat – who planted IISR saplings as intercrop in his farm – said that one of the reasons for disease-free growth in Gopalakrishna Bhat’s plot could be the plain land where the mono-crop cultivation is being taken up. There is no scope for water logging in such a land unlike the arecanut plantations, he said.

Retrieved from – http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/agri-biz/cementing-a-new-track-in-growing-pepper/article7198283.ece

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/

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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