Organic farming: Let’s cash in on the demand
25 March 2010
The world is going gaga over organic farming. Growing organic, consuming organic and selling organic.
The value of organic vegetables has increased in the past few years. People have increasingly come to understand the ill effects of vegetables grown using chemical pesticides, fertilizers and other allied chemicals.
Because organic vegetables are grown using local organic farm yard manure and traditional farming practices they are sustainable, farmer friendly and helpful to the poor. Organic vegetables have zero residues of pesticides or other chemicals in them and therefore safe for all ages to consume.
Besides the high health value associated with organic vegetables, they are soil friendly. Farm yard manure used to grow organic vegetables help organisms in the soil enhance and rejuvenate its fertility.
However, for vegetables to be organic in its true sense needs to fulfill a set of conditions. Were the seeds used to grow the vegetables organic, was the farm yard manure prepared using excreta from animals fed strictly organic feed, was the land used for cultivation free from fertilizers, was the water used free from chemicals like chlorine and other disinfectants, and was the packing materials used free from chemical contaminants are some of the conditions to be taken into account. If these conditions are fulfilled the vegetables can then be called organic.
In Bhutan, from time immemorial, our farmers have practised traditional farming using farm yard manure for fertilizing soil prior to cultivation of crops and vegetables.
Farmers have always preferred organic farming because of the unavailability of chemical fertilizers, cost factors and transportation problems. But today, these reasons have come as a ‘blessing in disguise’ for Bhutanese farmers.
Having realized the benefits accruing from consumption of organic vegetables and the huge market demand, farmers have taken to growing organic vegetables en masse. The trend of organic farming has indeed picked up momentum in the country.
But there are bottlenecks associated with it. There is no access to ready market for farmers in remote pockets of the country. We have not been able to export our organic vegetables beyond India or Bangladesh. We still have not been able to get our vegetables certified as truly organic.
The government, however, realizing the huge demand for organic vegetables in the neighbouring countries and overseas has plans to cash in on the demand. National Organic Programme under the aegis of MoA has been established to promote, encourage and support organic farming in Bhutan.
The huge demand for organic vegetables, fruits, and cereal crops overseas has partly been fuelled by high scientific literacy. Organic farming can be economical for Bhutanese farmers with small land holdings.
It makes lot of sense for our farmers to grow organic vegetables that will fetch them higher price in the market. Further, the hilly terrain does not permit mechanized farming.
Organic farming is sustainable in the sense that it uses local green wastes which would otherwise be useless, creates no residual harmful effects in the soil, and products. It gives a better value for the products to the farmers who in turn will be motivated to go for it in the long run.
Rural-urban migration can be controlled. The paradox of having fallow land on one hand at the same time the need to rely on imported food stuffs will die down. Regional airports in the future can help mitigate transportation problems for farmers involved in commercial organic farming.
Then will not everyone get a pie from this organic revolution?
By Netra Binod Sharma
From: Bhutan Observer