Sikkim: An organic vision becomes reality
by Karin Heinze (comments: 0)
Welcome to Sikkim Organic State - the government stands completly behind the visionary strategy. Photo © Karin Heinze
Sikkim, a small northeastern Himalayan state between Nepal and Bhutan that boarders China in the North, made an important decision in 2010. Chief Minister Sri Pawan Chamling had a visionary goal: he wanted to place the state’s entire agriculture land under organic management. To achieve his goal, Chamling launched the Sikkim Organic Mission and within 15 years, the entire agriculture process was converted to organic, and Sikkim was declared “Organic State“ in 2016. This is a worldwide lighthouse example for further conversion of lands towards a 100% organic status.
Sikkim’s terrain features rugged hills and deep valleys. A view towards the Kangchendzonga peak (8,586m) from Sikkim´s capitol Gangtok. Photo © Karin Heinze
The former kingdom of Sikkim (from 1643-1975) is now an Indian state with a “glorious history of agriculture where people and nature lived in perfect harmony.“ (quoted from “Sikkim on the Organic Trail,” a government brochure). Although Sikkim’s population of only 600,000 people living within 7,100 square kilometers (2741 mi), the state enjoys a remarkable biodiversity, with 4,500 flowering plants and 500 species of butterflies, 28 mountain peaks, including Mt. Kangchendzonga, which is 8,586 m (28,169 ft) high, and more than 80 glaciers, 227 high-altitude lakes and 104 rivers. The climate ranges from pleasant weather conditions to tropical and cold alpine weather. Around 70% of the rural population, a multiethnic mix, depend upon agriculture and allied sectors.
Budang, an organic village, is growing vegetables and orchids for the local market. Photo© Karin Heinze
Organic vision and wise decision
According to “Sikkim on the Organic Trail,” the way forward to an organic state was not clear at first. But in 2003, Sikkim’s State Legislation Assembly passed a resolution to adopt a state-wide organic farming system. Under Sri Pawan Chamling’s leadership, “the frame was set to maintain nature conservation and support sustainable management for long term benefit to the communities, environment, economy, and finally the country,“ the brochure reads.
In a public address, the Chief Minister said, “I appeal to all my fellow citizens of this beautiful Himalayan State of Sikkim to make this Sikkim Organic Mission a great success. This will not only be beneficial to all citizens of the State in terms of health and wealth, but will also be beneficial for our precious land, water sources and ecology…We have not inherited this earth from our forefathers but have borrowed it from our future generations, it is our duty to protect it by living in complete harmony with nature and environment…I appeal to all my hard working farmers, educated and uneducated youth with full enthusiasm, dedicated officials and my colleagues in the legislature and the cabinet serving the people of Sikkim to accept this challenge for our long term benefit and make Sikkim a leader in the area of organic farming and a source of inspiration not only for the country but for the entire world.“
Chief Minister Pawan Chamling was awarded the 2017 One World Award making the Sikkim people very proud. Pictured beneath the sign are a group of German and Italian entrpreneurs who visited Sikkim in November of this year. Photo © Karin Heinze
Award Winning Concept
Sikkim´s people cherish Sri Pawan Chamling so much that he is now in his 25th year as Chief Minister. He has been recognized many times for his role in creating the Sikkim Organic State. In 2016, he was awarded the “Sustainable Development Leadership Award" by the Energy ans Resources Institute (TERI), and in 2017, he won both the One World Grand Prix Award (sponsored by Rapunzel under the patronage of IFOAM), and the Ambassador of Organic Himalaya and Organic World sponsored by Navdanya (Vandana Shiva).
In the a statement at the video below Sri Pawan Chamling says: "We will work together to change the world into an organic world."
The Sikkim Organic Mission has become a worldwide model
Today, more than 76,000 ha (187,800 acres) is certified organic (India NPOP and USDA-NOP standards) and cultivated organically by more than 66,000 farmers. Although it took tremendous work to make the conversion properly, the mission is not only well-organized, but very dedicated to furthering organic farming, environmental education, and other related activities. The action plan began in 1995 with the people’s participation in “Harit Kranti“— Greening Sikkim. Over the years, the concept grew to include, among others, the ban of non-bio-degradable materials by law (1997), the founding of an Eco-club and a Green Fund for schools and colleges (2000), environmental education (2001), smoke free state (2008,) Sikkim Eco Tourism Directorate (2009), Ten minutes to Earth program (yearly planting event) (2009), Sikkim Organic Mission (2010), and the ban of packaged drinking water bottles at government functions and meetings. And these are just a few of the many steps undertaken to make Sikkim as green as possible.
Organic viillage Budang welcomes visitors warmly. Photo © Karin Heinze
No small challenge
In 2006, after developing the vision and concept, a feasibility study was conducted to identify farmers and likely targets for organic production and marketing. As “Sikkim on the Organic Trail,” states, “Convincing not-so willing farmers was no easy task.” The first step involved registering 7,300 farmers with 8,100 ha (20,015 ac). Soil productivity, pest and disease control, poor packaging and liimited storage facilities, with an almost non-existent marketing channel and little transportation, were all enormous challenges in the beginning. To overcome them, the state initiated an extensive awareness campaign, complete with education and training. To improve marketing issues, the Sikkim State Cooperative Supply and Marketing Federation Limited(SIMFED) was established. With the “Sikkim Organic Mission,” a clearcut timeframe roadmap in hand—the destination was a new horizon. In 2015, the Sikkim State Organic Certification Agency (SSOCA) was established, and in 2017, January 18th was declared “Farmers´ Day“ and was celebrated for the first time.
Traditional drying of maize at the organic Village Budang. Photo © Karin Heinze
Today, Sikkim´s journey from organic vision to reality is a well recognized model. Recently, a group of German and Italian organic entrepreneurs visited Sikkim and discovered a model farm with a research facility, two organic villages featuring eco tourism, and the vast Temi tea estate with its own manufacturing site. The group encountered many friendly and helpful people, enjoyed the rich culture and biodiversity of Sikkim and felt overwhelmed by its beauty and abundance after only a three-day stay. The group also attended the BioFach India Organic trade fair and the IFOAM Organic World Congress held in Delhi, which celebrated the state’s visionary model as an example to the world that an organic transformation is possible when there is a strong collective will to make it happen.
The Ravangla farmer group produces a broad variety of products. Photo © Franziska Geyer
Impressions from Sikkim