-Canning S Shabong
Organic fruits, vegetables, and grains have several measureable nutritional benefits over conventional crops, according to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN). Analyzing 343 peer-reviewed publications, researchers from the United Kingdom with the help of American Charles Benbrook of Washington State University found that organics contain 18 to 69 percent higher concentrations of antioxidants.
|An Organic Tea Garden in Ri-Bhoi District (Photo: C.S.Shabong)|
Since time immemorial, farming in Meghalaya is Organic by tradition and has been practiced by our farmers and the farming community for ages. Our forefather practice a form of shifting cultivation or slash and burn agriculture which is commonly called Jhum cultivation or Rep Shyrti (in Khasi) and A.ba oa (in Garo). This is one of the most ancient systems of farming believed to have originated in the Neolithic period around 7000 B C. This practice has an in-built mechanism of sustenance, conservation and renewable system of resource management.
The need to improve and enhance the natural resource base in a sustainable manner through optimum management, renewing soil nutrients and judicious water management; has evolved into the concept of Modern Organic farming to scale down the use of chemical pesticides, chemical fertilisers and the damaging practices that conventional agriculture has evolved. Such practices would presumably satisfy most concerns about environmental pollutions, human health as well as maintenance of ecological balance and agricultural sustainability.
Traditionally, the farming communities in Meghalaya were self-sufficient and the villages had their own community granaries and seed banks. In conformity with the observance of International Year of Family Farming 2014, which recognizes the importance of family farming in reducing poverty and improving global food security followed by the declaration by the United Nations of the year 2015 as the International Year of Soils, which states that soils are the foundation of family farming, the Government of Meghalaya recognizes the importance of family farming by smallholder and family farmers for sustainable development. The State Government aims to promote new development policies that will help the smallholder and family farmers eradicate hunger, reduce rural poverty and continue to play a major role as stewards who manage and protect natural resources; and as drivers of sustainable development in global food security through small-scale, sustainable agricultural production.
Since farming in Meghalaya is basically organic by practice and therefore there is ample scope for expanding and exploiting the market potential of this sector in the right direction. The Meghalaya Mission Organic will emphasize on the need to build the entrepreneurial capacity of the farmers of the State towards achieving business acumen in the process of organic production and marketing in a strategic manner. Organic Certification programme associated with this Mission will help to link our Organic Products with Organic Markets at National and International level and standards. This Mission also aims to generate multiple livelihood opportunities and employment avenues through various services and interventions in the State and rural communities in particular.
The Department of Agriculture, Meghalaya has successfully initiated pilots during 2010 which began with Tea and thereafter Cauliflower in Ri-Bhoi and East Khasi Hills district. "MEG" Tea is presently marketed as Organic Certified Tea and is available in three varieties - Green, Oolong and Black Tea. All the organic tea varieties are USDA and NPOP certified, which were certified by M/S Control Union India. In Garo Hills, organic certification of Pineapple and Cashewnut are ongoing and are presently in C1 and C2 stage.
Mission Organic was launched by the Hon’ble Chief Minister incharge Agriculture, Dr. Mukul Sangma on 10th January 2015 in Ampati, under South West Garo Hills District. The mission is also being converged with the “Clean and Green Meghalaya campaign” in order to create awareness about the need for safer food and thereby contributing to a cleaner environment. The new policy of the State Government also aims to build brand Organic Meghalaya, which will produce organic certified food and products, link organic food to eco-tourism, cleaner and greener environment through lower carbon regime and build consumer awareness and demand for safe and healthy food.
The Writer works as Agriculture Development Officer(Information), Directorate of Agriculture and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.