Organic Farming in India

These notes form a part of sanjeev shankar's research, which is summarised in his research report

The term “organic” is best thought of as referring not to the type of inputs used, but to the concept of the farm as an organism, a system in which all the components - the soil minerals, organic matter, microorganisms, insects, plants, animal and humans - interact to create coherent, self-regulating and stable whole. Reliance on external inputs, whether chemical or organic, is reduced asfar as possible. Organic farming is thus a holistic production system. The main principles of organic farming are:

  • To work as much as possible within a closed system, and draw upon local resources.
  • To maintain the long-term fertility of soils.
  • To avoid all forms of pollution that may result from agricultural techniques.
  • To produce foodstuffs of high nutritional quality and sufficient quantity.
  • To reduce the use of fossil energy in agricultural practice to a minimum.
  • To give livestock conditions of life that confirm to their physiological need.
  • To make it possible for agricultural producers to earn a living through their work and develop their potentialities as human being.

The four pillars of organic farming are: Organic standards, Certification/Regulatory mechanism, technology packages and market network. Indian Agriculture is traditionally organic and farmers were following organic cultivation till the middle of the last century (1950). The Green Revolution, ushered in India during the 1960's is often seen as the cornerstone of India's agricultural achievement,transforming the country from the stage of food deficiency to self-sufficiency. During the period, the production of food grains has increased four fold, from 50.82 mt in 1950-51 to 212.05 mt on 2003-04. But indiscriminate and excessive use of chemicals during this period has put forth a question mark on sustainability of agriculture in the long run calling attention for sustainable production which will address soil health, human health and environmental health and eco-friendly agriculture. Organic farming appears to be one of the options for sustainability. Starting of organic agriculture in India in 1900 by Sir Albert Howard, a British agronomist in North India, Development of Indore Method of aerobic compost (Howard, 1929), Bangalore method of anaerobic compost (Archarya, 1934), NADEP Compost (ND Pandari Panda,Yeotmal, 1980)initiated organic agriculture in India.

The year 2000 was a very important year for India from organic point of view. The major happenings during this year were:

  • The Planning Commission constituted (2000) a steering group on agriculture who identified organic farming as National challenge and suggested it should be taken in the form of a project as major thrust area for 10th-plan. The group recommended organic farming in North Eastern Region, rain fed areas and in the areas where the consumption of agro chemicals is low or negligible.
  • The National Agricultural Policy(2000) recommended promotion of traditional knowledge of agriculture relating to organic farming and its scientific upgradation.
  • The Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC), Ministry of Agriculture constituted (2000) a Taskforce on organic farming.
  • The Ministry of Commerce launched the National Organic Programme in April 2000 and Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) is implementing the National Programme for Organic Production(NPOP).

Vast stretches of India and its farmers continue to be organic by default. Organic fertilizer and natural pest control are the only tools available to most of these farmers, who have always lacked the financial resources to explore chemical solutions. Further, a significant number of them have chosen to farm organically, as their forefathers have done for thousands of years. This has been a concious decision after seeing the impact of the use of chemicals in agriculture. Recently, even though chmicals have been used extensively through out India, eastern and north eastern parts of India still continue to use older traditional methods.1)

Global statistics do not reflect this fact about India! As per the study (2004) of the Foundation Ecology and Agriculture (known as SOEL), the global organic area is 24 million ha. The major part of this area is located in Australia (about 10 million hectares), Argentina (almost 3million hectares. Australia /Oceania holds 42% of the world's organic land, followed by Latin America (24.2%) and Europe (23%). In Africa, more than 3,20,000 hectares and 71,000 farms are managed organically, representing about 0.04% of agricultural land. The total organic agricultural area in Asia is now about 8,80,000 hectares, corresponding to 0.07% ofthe agricultural area. The number of organic farm is more than 61,000. In 2004, India's share was only 0.001 per cent of the global organic market of $31 billion. Certification is the weakest link here. Currently the export of organic products is allowed only if “the produce is packed under a valid organic certification issued by a certifying agency accredited by a designated agency.” in October 2003, the Indian Central Government set up a National Institute of Organic Farming in Ghaziabad. The purpose of this institute is to formulate rules, regulations and certification of organic farm products in conformity with international standards. The major organic products sold in the global markets include dried fruits and nuts, cocoa, spices, herbs, oil crops, and derived products. Non-food items include cotton, cut flowers, livestock and potted plants.

The fees for registering a farm as 'organic' and getting international certification is extremely high for small farmers. Further the process is time consuming. Under the government policy in 2005, it took four years for a farm to be certified as organic. The cost of preparing the report was a flat fee of Rs. 5000, and the certificate itself costs another Rs. 5000. While these costs are bearable for the new industrial organic greenhouses, they are equal to or more than an entire year's income for the average small farmer, if the costs of travel and inspection are included. For those farmers who want to make a switch to organic farming, the intermittent 3 year transition period, during which the crops may be less plentiful than with conventional fertilizers and pesticides, and yet the higher price for organic products won't yet be possible because the certification will take time. This is also a deterrent. Further, almost all bank loans are for pure crop farmers, that is, monoculturalists. While many of these big-business farmers use harmful chemicals and processes, small farmers fertilizing their soil with recycled organic wastes are usually ineligible for insurance, much less state subsidies.

For detailed and comparative analysis please click on the document below:

For details about Bhaskar Save's natural farming methods, please click on the document below:

  • organic_farming_in_india.txt
  • Last modified: 2008-05-18 11:43
  • by sanjeev