| A woman works at a maize field in a Garo hills village. Picture by Saidul Khan |
Tura, July 27: The Meghalaya government is working out modalities to declare horticulture and agriculture yields as “organic certified”.
Farmers are being encouraged in organic production and the government is assisting in the certification process.
Director of the horticulture department Daniel Ingty told The Telegraph, “Nearly 90 per cent farms in Meghalaya are organic by tradition. However, these are yet to be certified. The government has embarked an ambitious programme on mission organic and in the next five years, 2 lakh hectares in the state will be certified as organic.”
He said the process for identification of farmers on a cluster basis is being given the top priority for promotion of “organic” tag and “organic value chain” for promotion, branding and marketing of the produces.
Ingty said the department is in the process of implementing the special programme in 20,000 hectares to begin with, where farmers would be encouraged to concentrate on organic farming.
“It is a Herculean task before the government, as we will make all efforts to ensure that no pesticides or chemicals are used. The department has already discarded schemes on fertilisers and pesticides. We are encouraging bio-manure and bio-fertilisers,” he added.
On the organic mission of the government, Ingty said, “The concept paper of the projects is ready. The identified farmers would be encouraged to exclusively go for organic farming. The government has sanctioned Rs 13.5 crore for organic mission for the year 2013-14 and an additional amount of Rs 20 crore has been earmarked for the current year.”
Elaborating on mission organic, he said, “We have designed a blueprint for five years to promote tea, oranges, cashew nuts, pineapples, ginger and other indigenous fruits. We are working with farmers at cluster level of 50 hectares each. It is a great opportunity to provide better option to our farmers. It will also generate enough avenues for youths to set up enterprises.”
On convergence, he said, “We are making efforts to promote the state through our products and link it with tourism”. He said organic tea of Umsining from Khasi hills, Lakadong turmeric from Jaintia hills and cashew nut from Garo hills has already made their mark in different markets in India and abroad. Three years ago, the Central Union Certification has certified 150 hectares of tea plantation in Umsining as organic. “Ginger from Ri Bhoi and Nongstoin is not organic certified, yet it has a premier market in Siliguri in Bengal. It is known for its special taste,” he said.
Other premier products of the state include oranges of Mawlu village from Sohra, pineapples of Chibinang in the West Garo Hills, squashes of Nongstoin, which has a market even in Bangladesh, pumpkins (small) of the Arbela-Nokrek range from Rongsak in Garo hills, chini champa banana of Resubelpara from Garo hills, among others.
The government under this programme of mission organic is providing farmers high-yielding varieties by improving the productivity of the existing orchards by rejuvenation of senile plantation, introducing proper management practices and replacing the low-grade varieties with high grade. The government is looking at the feasible agro-climatic factors to tap the opportunity.
Under integrated basin development and livelihood promotion project, horticulture mission has been given a special importance. The mission was launched in 2012. “We are working to expand the area under horticulture sector by 36,000 hectares in five years covering nearly 90,000 farmers, which will add 20 per cent to the existing area under horticulture,” said the officer. The department of horticulture and agriculture is already holding consultation with different countries for promotion of the sector.
On several platforms, chief minister Mukul Sangma has said, “The intention of the government is to ensure that agriculture and horticulture is made attractive for our youths. People practicing agriculture and horticulture are considered to be less fortunate when it comes to gaining access to white-collar jobs. We want to reverse this thinking, we want to change the mindset of the people and make them believe that farming is one of the most attractive options for sustainable employment.”
“The tremendous potential for the development of horticulture to generate income and employment for the farming community is being looked at. The horticulture department and Integrated Basin Development and Livelihood Promotion Programme is trying its best to achieve the desired goal,” he added.
The government has also initiated talks with Indo-Israel Chamber of Commerce to work out strategies to introduce high-valued crops, which can be adopted in Meghalaya using advanced technology. “We are adopting holistic approach for the development of horticulture by providing support for irrigation, technology transfer and post harvest management,” a horticulture officer said.
Under the horticulture mission, the government has laid emphasis to develop farmers’ organisations to derive the benefits of higher prices through export. “In the plan we have put up proposal for developing a cold storage chain for perishable crops,” he added.
Meghalaya has also inked an understanding with the Netherlands for technology transfer and training. An expert team has been frequenting Garo hills for setting up of Practical Innovative Training Centre at Tura, and its satellite branch at Shillong, which is named Integrated Agriculture Training Centre.
The government has also inked a tie-up with Leibniz University of Hannover, Germany, for various training programmes and research in the field of agriculture and horticulture.