Organic farming

Organic Cultivation- A Boon for Small Farmers


Organic cultivation is a form of farming that does not introduce any synthetic elements into crop habitats. All the inputs utilized in this form of cultivation are organic i.e. elements that form part of biochemical inputs that are utilized by crop plants. As such it can be said to be a form of farming based on a symbiosis between humans and nature.

Organic farming uses natural processes as the model for growing crops and is based on an intimate knowledge of natural methods based on preserving the natural quality of foundations such as water and soil. The advantage this offers is that the quality of natural resources such as the nutrient content of soil does not degrade. Instead of chemical fertilizers, bio-fertilizers such as microbes and organic wastes are incorporated.

India and China have about 40 centuries of organic farming as legacy, and statistical data shows that presently organic farming is carried out in 154 countries, with an ever-growing area of land under certified organic cultivation. Globally Falkland Islands has the highest percentage share of land under organic cultivation – 36.9 per cent. Since 2003-04, when 42,000 ha of land in India was under certified organic cultivation, the area under certified organic cultivation had grown to 5.71 million ha in 2015-16 (Annual Report,MoA&CF, 2017). India presently has the highest total area of arable land under organic management, as well as the highest total area under organic wild harvest collection. However, the majority of farmers involved in organic cultivation are small and marginal farmers (A.K. Yadav, 2010).

The largest area under organic cultivation among the states in India in 2013-14 is Madhya Pradesh. The following is the state-wise distribution of ‘total’ area under organic cultivation  –

State Total Area (in hectares)
Andaman & Nicobar Islands 321.28
Andhra Pradesh 12,325.03
Arunachal Pradesh 71.49
Assam 2,828.26
Bihar 180.60
Chhattisgarh 4,113.25
Delhi 0.83
Goa 12,853.94
Gujarat 46,863.89
Haryana 3,835.78
Himachal Pradesh 4,686.05
Jammu & Kashmir 10,035.38
Jharkhand 762.30
Karnataka 30,716.21
Kerala 15,020.23
Lakshwadeep 895.91
Manipur 0
Maharashtra 85,536.66
Madhya Pradesh 2,32,887.36
Mizoram 0
Meghalaya 373.13
Nagaland 5,168.16
Odisha 49,813.51
Pondicherry 2.84
Punjab 1,534.39
Rajasthan 66,020.35
Sikkim 60,843.51
Tripura 203.56
Tamil Nadu 3,640.07
Uttar Pradesh 44,670.10
Uttrakhand 24,739.46
West Bengal 2,095.51
Total 7,23,039.00

 Source –  Ministry of Agriculture. Data for financial year 2013-14. 

Various programmes have been initiated by the Government of India in recent years to promote organic farming in the country. These various schemes / programmes fall under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) / Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), National Mission on Oilseeds and Oilpalm (NMOOP), and Network Project on Organic farming of International Committee for Animal Recording – ICAR (PIB, Ministry of Agriculture, 2015).

The Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) is a cluster-based programme of the government that encourages farmers to adopt organic farming. The PKVY targets groups of farmers, such as a cluster made up of about 50 farmers encouraged to adopt organic farming for land with an area spanning about 50 acres. The plan involves forming 10,000 clusters over a 3 year period adding an area of about 5 lakh acres under organic farming. In the three year period, each farmer is to be provided a credit support of Rs. 20,000 for procurement of seeds, crop harvesting and transitioning the produce to the market. The resources utilized are to be traditional resources, and the produce is to be linked to the market (PIB, Ministry of Agriculture, 2015). The aim is to engage more and more farmers with the processes of production and certification of organic farming. The government allocates a budget for the scheme every financial year.

The National Programme for Organic Production was initiated by the Government of India in 2001 as a national programme dealing with organic farming. The programme includes an accreditation programme for certification agencies, providing guidelines for organic cultivation, carrying forward promotional efforts at organic farming, etc. The states in India which have been actively promoting organic farming are Sikkim, Nagaland, Mizoram, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Demand for organic crops exist mostly in markets in developed countries, especially for tea, coffee and cotton. Demand in India, though mostly limited to major cities, is slowly picking up as the concept is popularized. (International Committee for Animal Recording, ICAR, 2015).

During the Xth Five Year Plan, the Agriculture Ministry under the Government of India launched a scheme entitled the ‘National Project on Organic Farming’ (NPOF) and includes a variety of policy guidelines for organic farming. These include financial support for entities involved in the production of bio-fertilizers, capacitation of the organic cultivation economy, and developing human resources for the organic cultivation economy by providing services such as certification and inspection and assistance with production techniques (D.K. Charyulu, S. Biswas, 2012).

Food from conventional crops have higher toxicity than organic food, due to the use of various chemicals in the form of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, etc. Organic crops do not have any significant advantage over conventional crops but some studies suggest that organic crops have a higher vitamin and mineral content. Due to the application of microbes in organic crops however, there are chances that organic produce could cause food poisoning. Organic produce can also contain fungal contaminants like phytotoxins and mycotoxins as fungicides are not used (A.K. Yadav, 2010).

Although organic farming improves soil fertility, opponents of organic cultivation raise doubts over its sustainability and its capability to meet overall food requirements. The variance in rainfall, availability of groundwater, water retention, deficiency in energy inputs, a higher requirement of labour (by 35 per cent), and the ability to resist diseases cast doubts over the viability of organic farming (A.K. Yadav, 2010). However the margins for profits are extremely high as compared to conventional crops. Also, there is minimal disturbance to the ecosystem as compared to conventional crops. As of now, organic farming is carried out mostly by small and marginal farmers. It is healthy for the environment, but the challenge really is its suitability for commercial cultivation, even though it produces high yields. With the current tilt towards agricultural technologies, it is important that agriculture remains a self-sufficient exercise at a certain scale such that the quality of traditional foods is preserved and the small cultivator enjoys a high rate of profit along with high productivity.

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