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'Sikkim has to overcome challenges to become organic'

Delhi,Business/Economy, Tue, 11 Feb 2014 IANS

New Delhi, Feb 11 (IANS) Sikkim has set for itself the goal of becoming an organic agricultural state by 2015 -- but there are several challenges that it needs to overcome to see the shift, said an ecology expert from the Himalayan state.

"Organic agriculture, as an adaptation strategy to climate change, is a concrete, holistic and sustainable option but has challenges in terms of acceptance and the sustainability of such a move needs critical appraisal," Rajendra P. Gurung, chief executive officer, Ecotourism and Conservation Society of Sikkim, told IANS here.

The foremost challenge is in terms of acceptance by the farmers who are still dependent on fertilisers and traditional farming.

"The financial investment is also huge, especially for the certification process, which is costly and complex. Also in terms of sustainability, financial support will be required even 10 years after the implementation," added Gurung.

Gurung, who is also a member of the Sikkim State Biodiversity Board, said marketing and developing the Sikkim organic brand is also another challenge that needs great attention.

"The state also needs to understand the aggregation problem that it could face due to the geographical distance of the market from the farms," he said while addressing the International Conference on the Eastern Himalayas organised by the Centre for Northeast Studies and Policy Research at the Jamia Millia Islamia here Feb 11-13.

This project was announced in 2003 by the government. However, it is only after 2010 that it has been moving on a fast track. The Sikkim Organic Mission is the nodal agency to implement and monitor the programme for implementation in a time-bound manner.

However, Gurung said that, if implemented, the project will have long-term benefits for the state on climate protection and promoting eco-tourism.

"Organic farming helps in lowering the emission of green house gases, restores water in the soil, increases nutrient, stops use of synthetic fertilizers, decreases soil erosion and helps in improving biodiversity," he said.

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