Meghalaya Going Organic – Says Senior Govt. Official
Mr. Canning Shabong is passionate about agriculture and not just because he is a senior officer in the Department of Agriculture with over 20 years of experience in this field. There seems to be a further calling, which is evident when you read his informative blog posts on the GOM website.
The Zizira team set up an appointment to go and meet him in early May 2015, to understand more about Meghalaya, one of the seven states of Northeast India, going organic. We share with you what they heard and discussed.
Team Zizira: It is heartening to see that the Government of Meghalaya (GOM) is promoting organic farming.
Mr. Canning Shabong: Yes, our State has made the decision to go organic. We have not made big announcements about it, but we are serious. As a department, we have stopped promoting inorganic farming. We are not giving any subsidies on pesticides and fertilizers. As of now we are going towards organic and there is no turning back. I think even the government of India has realized the same and is encouraging all the states to move towards organic farming. When you look at long term – this is the right way forward.
How Long Will It Be Before We Can Say That Meghalaya Follows Organic Farming?
By 2020 the Chief Minister of Meghalaya wants to cover 2,00,000 hectares under organic farming. Realistically, we cannot convert the entire state to organic at one go. We have to set a target, have goals and move towards them. It’s a process.
After all, the CM is the top executive of the state and he wants to promote Meghalaya as a destination for safe food and for Eco Tourism, where all the tourists will be provided and served with organic food combined with Eco tourism.
Meghalaya is better placed to go organic, as many farmers have been practicing organic farming by default. Whereas other states of India, like Kerala, are finding it a challenge as farmers have been using chemicals to boost productivity for a long time.
But, it is important to see that farmers are compensated adequately for going organic. Organic farming practices will reduce production. Hence farmers need to be compensated with higher price.
What the organic farmers need is a market to engage in – to connect consumer who are ready to pay a premium for organic products with farmers offering organic produce.
Are the Certification for Organic Produce Issued From Meghalaya or Is It Done Outside?
India has a National Program for Organic Certification. Under this there are standard procedures. From our department we are paying the certification agencies to certify farmers’ produce. At the moment we have appointed 10 service providers. They are doing baseline survey across different districts and villages – they talk with the farmers, try to identify which of the crops can be grown organically in their village, they try to motivate them, put them together and help them. Since this is the process which takes around three years, in a matter of 3 to 4 years we should see more organic products in the market.
Once farmers/producers are eligible to get the certificate they can print it. There will be certificate number which the agency will provide with the logo.
Any Success Stories in Meghalaya in the Area of Organic Farming?
Organic tea is a success. Meg Tea of Umsning is a success story.
Besides Tea Leaves What Are the Other Products From the State That Are Certified As Organic?
We have started with Cauliflower in Mawngap and this is the second year running. But what happened was that the people destroyed all this by cutting the hills and the fields are covered with stones and have become useless.
In Garo hills Cashewnuts are being certified and they have started working with Turmeric. We are looking for the produce which has volume because if there is no volume it will be very difficult for us to sell them when there is heavy demand. Another produce is Orange which we are considering at the moment.
We have to identify which produce has a huge market potential, which is produced substantially, which produce is sold outside the country and so on. We also participate in international trade fair every year.
Mr. Shabong Told the Team About Their Plan to Publish a Special Issue on Organic Farming
We are collaborating with Meghalaya Basin Development Authority to bring out the next issue in a magazine on organic farming. This time we are trying to talk to all the stakeholders about Meghalaya going organic so that we get a comprehensive view of farmers, developmental practitioner, service providers, and the government. We gather all the information, the views, then we will try to understand where the gaps are, where the problems are, what are the pain points, because when we want to do any development or any project, we have to identity the pain points. The pain points are those which hinder the progress and its important to get rid of them.
People should come and step in, to bridge those missing links and gaps (for example a market place exclusively for organic produce) that exist and when the entire chain is ready, then you can start moving.
“When you continue to do things sincerely, people will see your sincerity and hard work and you will be able to succeed” were his words of encouragement to the Zizira team as they left.
Do you have any thoughts to share? Or questions about why go organic? or about what the Govt. plans are for Meghalaya going organic? Contact Zizira.