Sikkim has been experimenting with scientific organic farming for more than a decade now. But its skill in the field came into the spotlight only recently, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the state in January. PM Modi presented a certificate to Sikkim chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling and praised the state for promoting 100% organic farming state in India.
Remote resorts in Sikkim seek guests by promoting its organic green patches, from where the city people can pick their own veggies.
But are we missing the point? Is the organic drive benefitting Sikkim at all?
The entire northeast, including Sikkim of course, has been practicing organic farming for ages now. While the northern states of Haryana and Punjab were reaping huge benefits from India’s Green Revolution, the northeast was still stuck to the primitive way of cultivating crops.
Sikkim, that shares international borders with Bhutan, China and Nepal, has only 75,000 hectares of agricultural land, and a population of 6.11 lakh as recorded by the Census 2011. Add an estimated 6.11 lakh tourists that visited the state in 2014, and we have a situation. The plain mathematics will show the food peril of the state: Sikkim had to feed double of its population while the food yield from organic farms was much below par.
Unlike the chemical fertilizers and pesticides, bio products used in organic farms do not have the ability to produce quick yields. While battling with the unpredictable Himalayan weather, farmers struggle to keep pests away. Given this, it is then only so much that can be produced… resulting in the proverbial hand-to-mouth condition of the Sikkimese people.
The success stories of Sikkimese farmers shared on the state-owned organic farming website throws some light on the economic condition of the state. The agricultural land the farmers use is minimal, sometimes a mere .5 hectare, and the highest being 3.5 hectare, with one of them earning an annual profit of Rs 2.5 lakh only. These are isolated and small success stories, and when you contrast this with the success a farmer in Haryana enjoys, it pales in comparison.
If you happen to visit Gangtok, you will recognize the food shortage predicament. Most of the dishes are meat-based. Regular veggies like cucumber and spinach is limited. The salads are exorbitantly priced in most restaurants, and unlike most of the Himalayan states in the north, Sikkim lacks local greens.
What may seem like a success story of a small state appears to have certain undercurrents that hint at poverty. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. With PM Modi’s promise to build an airport in Sikkim, the logistics issue of food supply could end.