Organic farming is a way of farming which excludes the use of chemical fertilizers, insecticides etc. and is primarily based on the principles of use of natural organic inputs and biological plant protection measures. Properly managed organic farming reduces or eliminates water pollution and helps conserve water and soil on the farm thereby enhances sustainability and agro-biodiversity.
Organic farming has become popular in many western countries. There are two major driving forces behind this phenomenon: growing global market for organic agricultural produce due to increased health consciousness; and premium price on organic produce fetched by the producers.
India has comparative advantage over many other countries because of the vast cultivated area, which has remained free of contamination from chemicals, spread over distinctly varying agro-climatic conditions. For example, large areas in north-east region, northern hills and rainfed regions with very low or nil use of agro-chemicals to organic farming.
In India, a National Programme for Organic Production is being implemented by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA). Ministry of Commerce, with major responsibility for developing standards for organic farming and regulatory mechanism for export purposes.
Organic Uttarakhand: A Success Story
The Uttarakhand Organic Commodity Board (UOCB), a nodal agency of the Government of Uttarakhand for promotion of organic farming, was registered under the Societies Act in May, 2003. A project called Center for Organic Farming (COF), "Himotthan Pariyojna", funded by the Sir Ratan Tata Trust was anchored with in the Board for providing technical and marketing expertise for product development, supply chain management, market linkages, certification etc.
Crop certification is being facilitated under the internal control system supported by COF, Regular training is being provided by the field staff available with different programmes. The certification is done by a team of field staff, internal inspectors and Quality Managers in coordination with an External Certification Agency.
Initially, a pilot programme of demonstration of certain technologies was taken up in 16 villages of Uttarakhand. Later, it was expanded to 212 villages. The term bio-village has evolved along with the development of demonstration villages to 100 per cent saturation villages where commodity production, certification and market linkage has been established. Presently, 1,200 bio villages are covered under the organic programme and 20,000 farmers have been sensitized.
The tangible results are export of 100 tonnes of organic rice to Germany and a product expansion plan for 400 tonnes of commodities like kidney beans, lentils, buckwheat and millets. An increase of 35-40 per cent in unit price has been realized for the farmers. The groups logged domestic market sales to the tune of Rs. 35 lakh in 2004. Organic producer groups have been trained to semi-process and package the products at the village level itself. A total of 40 organic commodities have been developed, including organic detergents.
A number of farmer groups are actively engaged in exploring organic opportunities and some NGOs are also active in linking farmers with health food activitie