Is organic farming the next big thing in Tripura?
Agartala: With Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb announcing to give importance to organic farming and promote rural livelihood by increasing land under organic farming from 2,000 to 9,000 hectares in phases, farmers and entrepreneurs are eyeing organic farming as the next big thing.
EastMojo travelled to Bhajendranagar village in Sepahijala district to meet farmers who are engaged in organic farming for the past 15 months.
Jharna Roy, an organic farmer, recently bought her first smartphone after making a profit of over Rs 40,000 selling organic vegetables in the local market. “I have been a housewife with no source of income. But last year, the biotechnology department selected our village as the first bio-village and soon we received support from them to start organic farming and that changed our lives,” she said.
The bio-technology department selected 40 beneficiaries, mostly women from Bhajendranagar bio-village, to receive all kinds of facilities to start organic farming and promote green technology for sustainable development.
Jharna said that she on a daily basis she has been using bio-fertilizers and the kits which were provided to her for farming.
“I have sold lau (bottle gourd) worth around Rs 25,000 in the local market in addition to brinjal worth Rs 8,000 and bitter gourds worth Rs 7,000. I purchased a mobile phone out of the money I made after selling the vegetables,” Jharna said.
While she praises the bio-technology department, she also hopes that its support will continue in the years to come.
The bio-technology and agriculture departments have been working hard, separately, but with the same target to boost the rural economy in the state.
Anjan Sengupta, a senior scientific officer, said that the bio-village project has been implemented by the directorate of bio-technology under the financial assistance of the ONGC Tripura asset.
The project was taken with the objective of the socio-economic development of rural community using eco-friendly technology. The department had taken two things into consideration, social side, and financial and environment side.
“The success of the project is based on four pillars. The participation of the whole family in the project, skill development and getting confidence, use of right technology and regular monitoring and providing technical assistant which are the keys to success,” Sengupta said.
The department has provided bio-fertilizers, bio-pesticides, bio-fungicides, yellow sticky trap and kits so that they can make a habit of going for organic. This not only has got a very good market demand but the ecology also plays an important role.
“During the survey, the beneficial insects have increased to the tune of 70% compared to 20% earlier. The habit of organic farming has also increased. Now, they are using 75% of organic inputs in the villages compared to 25% earlier,” Sengupta added.
The department also has two more bio-villages in the state that include Amtali village council under Charilam RD block and Echamua in AMC Agartala.
Nani Gopal, another farmer, said farming is the only source of income for his family and the demand for organic farming vegetables has increased in the market.
Bapan Saha, who is a supplier of organic vegetables, said that the demand for organic vegetables is very high in the capital city, Agartala, and customers are ready to pay more for these organic vegetables.
Bimal Das, scientific assistant and the supervisor of Bogendranagar village said for the past 15 months the villagers under the bio-village project have received support from the department.
“The farmers were trained and kits were also handed over to them for growing mushroom, beekeeping, chick, fish and use of biogas. They are saving Rs 500-700 using the bio-gas every month,” Das said.
Speaking with EastMojo, Dr DP Sarkar, director of agriculture and farmers’ welfare, said that organic farming is a standardised process by the ministry of agriculture in India and there are some international community outside in European countries that follows the process to make sure that products of identified areas does not have any chemical molecule or compound in it.
“There are accredited certifying agencies in India who after thorough checking give the certificate to assure that the products are purely organic. There are no chemical residues that can harm any person or animal in any way,” Sarkar said.
He also said that Tripura started organic farming in a very small way in 2016-17 in the first phase only on 2,000 hectares of land in some upper catchments where even if there is rain, there would be no chance of contamination with the progressive area.
“In different clusters of 24 blocks, we have given some thrust on local plantation which includes ginger, chilly, aromatic rice like kalikhasa and haria rice and also pineapple. The first phase of cultivation has been completed and they all have got the final ‘organic’ certificate. So far, more than 2,000 farmers have been benefited. We have started to plant in more 4,000 hectares of land and we plan to take up in 10,000 hectares maybe from the next year,” Sarkar added.
He also said that the organic farmers are getting the premium price and the department has developed the organic brand for Tripura in the name of ‘Tripura Organic’ with the tagline ‘Mantra to healthy living’.
The agriculture sector contributes roughly 24% of the GSDP in the state and if we go in the bigger way in the production then I am sure it will increase significantly and give a big push to the state’s economy, Sarkar added.
The government started organic plantation under the mission organic and value change and development for the north east region (MOSCD-NER), a central scheme under national mission for sustainable agriculture launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare and the state government is also planning to help them in every possible way and providing market for their products.
When asked to explain organic farming in two lines, the director said that consumers are increasingly becoming very aware of their health, and the food quality.
“I am sure organic farming is the future of all agricultural farming, because it can give very good quality products from agriculture, horticulture and all primary sectors. It will help us maintain good and healthy living throughout our life, so I think this is the future in the state, country and also in the whole world,” Sarkar added.
The CM is encouraging us tremendously to arrange good marketing for our produce throughout the country and maybe in future will arrange to send our produce, particularly the queen pineapple of the state to outside country also. Within the country now, they are getting three times more than the normal regular crop. So the farmers will get huge benefit out of it.
Sabita Bhowmik said she has been provided with bio-fertilizers and after using the bio-products the crops and farming has become better and the support has increased the income of the family and the production was earlier affected and now the crops are better.
Now we are earning Rs 5,000-7,000 every month and she is producing potatoes, tomato and rice fields.
She and her husband have been working in the field and they have provided employment to five people in the field. We have become self-empowered here, Bhowmik added.
Kananbala Sarkar, who has been cultivating mushroom, said that she has been producing 5-7 kg of mushroom every month and they are earning Rs 1,500 every month sitting at home.
Beekeeping is another thing that the department has initiated for the farmers.
Earlier on January 30, state law minister Ratan Lal Nath said that in the last two financial years, the farmers in Tripura adopted different crops like paddy, ginger, turmeric, maize and mustard in 2,000 hectares of land under 60 gram panchayats of 24 RD blocks across the state.
These crops were cultivated in the first phase with a cumulative production and the government spent Rs 19.43 crore.
In the second phase, the state government has taken a target of cultivating organic crops in 4,000 hectares of land with a set target of 1 lakh mt in a period of three fiscal years. The land is located under 130 gram panchayats of 35 RD blocks across the state. The crops include paddy, turmeric, chilly and pineapple,” he added.
Agriculture and farmers’ welfare director Debaprasad Sarkar told EastMojo that a total of 2,000 farmers from 60 gram panchayats have cultivated in the first phase of organic farming, while 4,233 farmers of 130 gram panchayats will get chance in the second phase.
Under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PMKSNY), over 1.95 lakh farmers received Rs 139 crore while 77,523 farmers received over Rs 85 under Kisan Credit Card (KCC).