In recent years, global health consciousness has had a major impact on organic farming, organic products, and organic foods. But organic agriculture is new in the Indian agriculture scene with many challenges. Smart strategy, scientific planning, and responsible public activity will help in overcoming those hurdles in the near future.
The Green revolution led to the introduction of chemical fertilizers, modern farming techniques, and better seed management that boosted the country’s food production. But after that- chemicals, synthetic pesticides, weed killers, herbicides, and Genetically Engineered (GE) seeds became the norm, and natural farming methods were almost forsaken by Indian farmers.
The chemicals and new farming techniques started polluting the whole food supply chain and severely impacted the environment. In light of these causes, children were born with disabilities, and lands became unproductive.
Thanks to growing awareness of such issues- people are slowly migrating to organic farming. This conversion faces many challenges that can be resolved by implementing proper countermeasures and policies. The major challenges are below:
Challenges to Natural Farming in India
Convincing the Farmer
The cost of organic farming involves constant expenditure. Because most farmers cannot afford the cost of organic farming, they continue to rely on chemical fertilizers. Organic seeds cost more, take more time to cultivate, and for long periods seeds need to be stored in low temperatures. Farmers may lose money if they switch to organic farming.
An integrated and community-based approach is necessary, similar to “Swachh Bharat” for “Swachh Food.” Government participation is also important to provide security where needed.
One is convincing the farmers, but what about their training to imbibe this change? Talking to a few farmers from Sonegaon village, Nagpur, it was noted that for many of them multi-cropping through the organic system is a new concept. Having close to only 1-2 acres of land, they never thought of growing profitable agri-businesses. Self-consumption has always been their priority. They need a lot of handholding support, as well as skill development and smart business techniques in order to tap profitable markets. Initially, small farmers need motivation and support to adapt to this change. (Farmer comments from- Sumitra Madhukar Gosavi, Parashram Mahagu Mahade, Parvata Janba Arikar)
The disparity between Supply and Demand
Unlike non-perishable grains that can be grown anywhere and also can be transported anywhere, fruits and vegetables must be grown locally. There must be willing producers, aggregators, and farmers in the area where the demand is coming from.
However, in general, the demand is coming from metro cities that do not have farmlands to grow organic produce. So smart transporting and proper supply channels are necessary to bridge this gap.
Shortage Of Organic Seeds
Government policies regulate and govern organic seed production. The government provides subsidies for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Still, it does not provide such subsidies for organic inputs. And though organic seeds are certified, they do not receive recognition from the government.
Due to a lack of certified organic seeds, farmers are compelled and advised to only use conventional seeds, as they could be treated with chemicals. Thus, governments should develop a separate policy framework for organic farming that covers seed production and input supplies.
Confused Certification Framework
A set of rules or standards do not govern the industrialization of agriculture in India. As a result, anyone could sell anything, under the label of ‘organic,’ resulting in a deficiency of trust. For customers to develop trust, there must be a proper regulatory framework, compliance with the requirements, and communication of that information.
Towards this end, FSSAI has developed the Jaivik Bharat framework- a globally acknowledged third-party certification process that is under the control of APEDA.
High Input Costs:
There is a partially active organic farming system in India for small and marginal farmers, where they use local and farm resources. But for fertilizers, pesticides, and other inputs they rely on industrial produce. Organic inputs are more expensive than industrially produced chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
The High Price of Organic Produce
Organic produce prices in India are higher than conventional. Indian consumers always opt for cheaper products. This has a profound impact on the organic produce market in India which has consequential effects on costly organic farming methods, limited production, supply chain irregularities, storage, preservation, and market competition. The cost control with government support and a proper supply chain mechanism will attract more farmers to shift to Organic farming.
In order to promote organic and natural farming on a nationwide basis, we need a streamlined, targeted, ambitious, and well-funded national program which unites different ministries and programs and outlines the relationship between Centre and State (funding, accountability, coordination). Establishing strong drivers that benefit farmers while addressing existing barriers.
Silbhanus Lugun from Samdega village, Jharkhand says that he is still exploring organic ways of farming. There is less production in this system and thereby low income as the market is filled with hybrid varieties which cost way less. People deny giving extra money when the hybrid is available at a low price. However, income flow will be maintained which has already begun. Silbhanus has sold Bhindi that was planted in 10-12 decimal land for 2500/-( approx.) in one month. For an additional hold at the market, he is planning to go for organic certification in the future.
*100 decimal is 1 acre
We should promote the use of organic and bio-fertilizers instead of chemical fertilizers
The objective should be to produce and make available quality organic fertilizers and bio-fertilizers at low cost. The promotion of and access to city compost utilization as an organic fertilizer and local bio-inputs needs to coordinate. Farmers should have the choice between chemical and organic fertilizers facilitated by transferring the huge subsidy allocations for chemical fertilizers to chemical-free farming.
Farmers like Priti Devi from Samdega village, Jharkhand share another layer to the issue of producing organic fertilizers at home. For a 3 acre land, scarcity of cow dung is a major issue for her as it does not suffice the need. She has 5-6 cows/ox of different sizes at home. But still gathering enough cowdung for manure (Vermicompost)/ pesticide production is a challenge for her as regular supply is required at different intervals. Also collecting Gaumutr (cow urine) is a challenging task as she does not have a proper pit where this can be stored. She says,” I am managing to collect Gaumutr as much as I can, but it’s hard to keep cow and sheep in separate places due to lack of space for sheds. I require more livestock otherwise have to purchase cow dung from outside. I also need financial support to buy more cows and need proper vessels to store Jivaamrit after production”.
In order for the agriculture extension team to be capable of leading and supporting the transition on the ground: –
We need a systematic approach to build capacity and ability in the agriculture sector so that they can be catalysts for change. It is imperative to integrate practitioners in the community to bridge information exchange gaps and promote last-mile connectivity in the process of organic farming. Natural farming has to be mainstream in agriculture education and research.
A comprehensive research agenda needs to be developed and implemented with multiple sectors and stakeholders. A complete picture of the benefits of organic and natural farming will be clear to understand. Factors related to biodiversity, water conservation, climate resilience, soil health, and preventing desertification, as well as increased productivity, incomes, and health should be looked into. We should also collect and share best practices from the practitioners.
Asking about water and irrigation issues, Silbhanus says that for good organic production, irrigation support is a must. Bora Bandh is a viable option as the river is nearby or deep boring is possible for watering the farm. This would help 10-12 farmers to cultivate 15-20 acre of land together. Hopefully, with the technical support of CNI SBSS this would be possible he says.
The organic certification process need to improve to make it farmer-friendly and low cost: –
Improve the farmer-friendliness of PGS-India’s certification system. Simplifying the system and making it more trustworthy for consumers is imperative. Alternative certification that is simpler and more credible for consumers can be explored to appeal to well-connect local markets.
Actively work on marketing strategies for organic/natural farming food
Incorporate procurement for mid-day meals into PGS. Integrate PGS into food procurement programs (Karnataka; Odisha model). Make sure farmers get quality compensations for this high-value crop (high on nutrition, good for health)
For India to become truly self-reliant, Indian agriculture needs to change. Improve profitability for farmers by using less pesticides and chemicals. And providing them with healthy foods that conserve natural resources. We need to transform agriculture for the coming decade. This is our chance to address multiple challenges while improving economic growth and sustainability in an increasingly climate-exposed world.
CNI SBSS works to improve the nutritional status of young children and women of reproductive age; by ensuring access to benefits under Government schemes like ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme). Also helping communities develop kitchen gardens to provide nutritious food to families.
With your help, we ensure that our rural communities are empowered, healthy and moving towards sustainable and organic farming. Your help will ensure small- marginal farmers get engaged in natural integrated farming for increased income.