While only 1.3% of the farmers in India are registered to do organic farming and a mere 2% of India’s net sown area is organically farmed, says a report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) released on in an online webinar.
The report "Organic and Natural Farming in India: Challenges and Possibilities" , has been released by Niti Aayog Vice Chairperson Rajiv Kumar in the presence of a panel which included Director General, CSE Sunita Narain, Principal Secretary, Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment, Odisha Saurabh Garg, Secretary and Agriculture Commissioner, Agriculture Development and Farmer Welfare and Bio-technology, Chhattisgarh M Geetha; Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture GV Ramanjaneyulu and Programme Director, Food and Toxins, CSE Amit Khurana. The report presents a grim picture of the crisis in Indian agriculture.
The share of agriculture and its allied sectors in the country’s Gross Value Added has steadily declined.
In 2018, over 10,000 farmers committed suicide in the country – this comes to more than one farmer or farm worker every hour! Over 50 per cent of farm households in India are in debt.
Added to all this is the rapid degradation and pollution of natural resources of land and water, declining soil fertility, pesticide pollution and the problem of pest-resistance, among other things.“It is clear that the time has come to reimagine agriculture, and organic and natural farming can provide us that platform for reimagination,” said Sunita Narain, welcoming the panelists and participants at the webinar.“But to be able to do that, the Governments at the Centre and States will have to play a much bigger role to upscale organic and natural farming.
They must drive this change towards sustainable agriculture practices which will help our farmers, people, climate and the environment,” she added.
Amit Khurana told, “What we have today is a reluctant political support, minuscule budgetary allocations compared to chemical fertilizer subsidies, an extension system with limited expertise, a group certification system that is not farmer-friendly, and negligible Government support to farmers to link them with the market.”Releasing the report and echoing CSE’s proposed line of action, Rajiv Kumar said, “I congratulate CSE for this first-of-its-kind publication. Niti Aayog is committed to promoting chemical-free agriculture in the country.
“India has arrived at a stage where upscaling is very much possible, opined G V Ramanjaneyulu in his address. However, the country, he felt, needs to move from "a technology-centric approach to a livelihood-based approach.”
In the report , the CSE recommends to develop a targeted, ambitious and well-funded nation-wide programme to drive the change towards organic and natural farming; bring together different ministries and diverse programmes; establish strong drivers that willbenefit farmers, such as a vibrant market.
It recommends to promote organic and bio-fertilisers and promote and make available city compost as an organic fertiliser, encourage organics by transferring the huge ongoing subsidies allocated for chemical fertilisers to chemical-free farming.The CSE recommended to develop a comprehensive research agenda to understand the complete set of benefits.
It suggested enabling agriculture extension systems to lead and support the transition on ground; leveraging technology to bridge gaps in information exchange and last-mile connectivity, and integrating practitioners in the community, improving the organic certification processes, making them farmer-friendly and affordable.
The States can play an instrumental role in helping farmers sell their organic and natural produce by developing organic value chains, procuring organic produce and helping farmers get remunerative prices.