We are coming back to old days when there were no chemical fertilizers used in farming. In the last century, world population increased dramatically, and old farming techniques were not able to keep up with ever-increasing demand. Then research in chemical fertilizers came as a savior. It revolutionized the agriculture. All countries from poor to developed adopted chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Over the years, countries managed to feed their people with these modern agriculture methods and fertilizers.
Fast forward a few decades, even this agriculture revolution wasn’t producing enough. Mostly in developed countries, demand for food increased so the wastage too. Same time processed food items were in-trend, it takes more produce to make processed food. Then genetically modified crops were introduced which increased the yield.
At first, there was less impact on the soil quality as people were using it in small quantities. But over the time chemical fertilizers were and are being exploited. Insects are becoming immune to pesticides. This phenomenon is reached to such a massive level that now it is degrading the soil quality, polluting water, increasing the health risks like cancer for human and animals too.
What is Organic Farming?
Organic farming in a method in which crops are grown naturally. It encourages the use of organic or natural fertilizers like compost manure, bone meal, green manure; It also emphasis on techniques like crop rotation, companion planting. Organic farming also advises mixed cropping, fostering in insect predators.
Organic farming strictly limits the use of synthetic or chemical fertilizers, pesticides, genetically modified foods/organisms (GMOs), hormones, plant growth regulators etc. GMO’s make land unusable for other types of crops, the only couple of big companies handle this whole industry. GMO’s are accused of increasing risk of diseases like cancer. Truth is that we must have eaten at least one food item containing fruit or vegetable produced from GMO seeds.
Consumer like you and me are aware of health threats of modern chemical-based farming methods. Informed consumer mostly from urban settings demanding the safe food. In India, we see many news reports on how farmers and using excess fertilizers, chemicals to boost growth, color, the shape of vegetables and fruits. They inject chemicals, powder fruits to grow or ripe it in lesser time. This is a big health issue and it is rampant in developing countries. The modern consumer is demanding the organic produce which forcing farmers to come back to ethical, non-chemical, natural farming.
On top of ethics, the higher margin is also coming up as an impetus for farmers. Organic vegetable and fruits are little expensive than normal ones. It takes more time and effort to grow food organically, which increases the prices.
Importance and Advantages of Organic Farming
- Chemical Free. It gives is safe food which is healthy for us.
- It reduces the health risk of cancer and other diseases caused by consumption of agriculture chemicals and pesticides.
- With sound marketing and sales strategies, it can fetch good margins for farmers.
- Protects the agroecology.
- Reduces soil and water pollution.
Disadvantages of Organic Farming
- Higher production cost.
- Crops are comparatively less immune to diseases.
- Cannot be mass produced to fulfill food demand of the entire population.
Examples: There are two main types, Pure Organic and Integrated Organic.
Organic Farming in Sikkim and Kerala, India
100% organic farming transformation of Sikkim is a commendable achievement but same time it is not a big success story too. Nine Other states like Kerala, Mizoram, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Gujarat also have an organic farming policy. After Sikkim, Kerala is aiming to become 100 percent organic. All these states have a lot to learn from Sikkim story, India’s first 100 percent organic state.
In January 2016, Sikkim became India’s first 100 percent organic state. Now all farming is chemical free and yielding safe produce. Sikkim was already a low fertilizer consumption state, Sikkim government decided to go all organic to preserve its fragile ecosystem in 2003.
At first, they reduced the subsidies on chemical fertilizers and subsidies and ultimately banned it in 2014. Sale and use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides were made punishable by law. With education and training state was able to convince reluctant farmers to switch to organic farming. Thousands of compost and vermi pits were constructed across the state. They achieved their target after 13 years.
But still farmers are not fetching a premium price of organic food, the yield is reduced, pest attacks destroying the crop. This produce is competing with cheaper chemical based produce from West Bengal. Sikkim state did a great job but failed at some places too. Though this organic state tag increased tourism, they ignored the marketing of the products which resulted in lesser sell.
To make story short, the state succeeded in a great initiative, but farmers are struggling. There are a lot of things other states like Kerala should learn from this. Sikkim should focus on marketing and sales of produce, they should cut middlemen, so farmers fetch more margin. They should sell this organic produce to high demand urban markets in major cities. They did a great job but more need to be done to make it a grand success story.
It is easy to say that government should simply ban the chemical bases agriculture and make organic farming mandatory. But as of now, organic farming cannot produce in big quantities which will feed the nation. It’s not about fruits and vegetables only, farmers use chemical fertilizer in every possible crop from flowers, spices to grains. In this case, we don’t have a real option to go completely organic right now, but that doesn’t mean we cannot.
The government needs to be support existing efforts, plus need to set up research and development facilities which focuses on making organic farming a mass production system.
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