Substantial increase of acreage under organic cultivation in some districts

Amid allegations that a project conceived in 2010 to phase out agriculture driven by synthetic fertilizers and pesticides by 2025 has fallen by the wayside, acreage under organic agriculture is showing promise as more and more farmers are taking up the cause of getting rid of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides.

Numbers from some of the districts show that there is substantial acreage under organic cultivation (both certified and uncertified).

A senior official of the department of agriculture said Kasaragod district, where pesticide endosulfan has caused major health problems, has 3,482 hectares (involving more than 6,000 farmers) under organic cultivation.

Fifty-two farm clusters and 30 demonstration plots have been established to help farmers understand organic farming.

However, the achievement of Kasaragod appears to be at the cost of other districts in the state, alleges R. Sreedhar of Thanal, a Thiruvananthapuram-based voluntary agency involved in promoting organic agriculture and in training farmers.

There was nothing wrong in focussing on the problems of Kasaragod. But the organic farming thrust should be aimed at the entire

State, he says as he felt that the funds for other districts are now being directed to the Kasaragod programme.

An official at the department of agriculture says the government has allocted Rs. 10 crore for the organic agriculture drive in the district and provided another five crore for setting up eco shops in six blocks of the Kasaragod district.

The other programmes in the district include certification of farms as organic through the Internal Control System, where farmers inspect each others’ farms to ensure that the good agricultural practices are followed.

Mr. Sreedhar says that the push to give Kerala agriculture a new direction through the 2010 Kerala Organic Farming Policy appeared to have been forgotten. The only step that has been taken is the ban on 20 pesticides, which came in 2010, as part of the organic agricultural policy. There has been no follow-up action.

Regardless of government intervention, Wayanad district has seen considerable progress in bringing agriculture under organic practices. Around 5,000 hectares have come under organic agriculture, most of it uncertified, in the district, involving around 10,000 farmers.

An official of the department of agriculture says that Wayanad had 7,569 farmers and 990 hectares certified as organic. In two to three years another 5,338 hectares will be certified.

Wayanad farmers’ march into the big league of organic cultivation has been helped by voluntary agencies like Wayanad Social Service Society. John Choorapuzhayil, director of the agency run by the Catholic Church, says the society has been involved in organic cultivation and export of produces since 1999.

He says that the number of farmers, who have registered for organic cultivation with the society, has gone up to 10,000 now, nearly 7,000 of them over the last two to three years. This has been because the society has been engaged in buying organic produces like coffee, ginger and turmeric at a premium.

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