The state government is set to embark on a mission to popularise organic farming. Once the monsoon gets over right now the state is witnessing only pre-monsoon showers the agriculture department will identify 30 bighas of land in each of the 126 Assembly constituencies across Assam and encourage people to take to cultivation of organic crops in a big way.
We are initially looking at creating role models and success stories in every Assembly segment. This will not only spread the message but also engage the respective legislators to get involved in the initiative, says Agriculture Minister Nilamani Sen Deka. For this,Dekas department has already earmarked Rs 20 crore,which will not only take care of the necessary inputs but also provide Rs 15 lakh as financial assistance against every 30 bighas of land.
Plans drawn up by the department have a three-pronged strategy encourage younger people to take up farming,give them good returns and create role models,and discourage farming that uses a lot of pesticides and fertilisers.
We want to encourage groups of youth,say farmers cooperatives,to grab this opportunity. It will also help check exodus of rural youth to the urban centres. And most importantly,we can also look at the export market in order to send out premium items like bora (sticky) and joha (aroma) rice, says Deka.
Other items identified for promotion as part of the organic farming mission include turmeric,ginger,potato and lemon and various kinds of vegetables. Assam is one of the major producers of ginger in the country.
Interestingly,between 20 and 25 per cent of Assams farmlands are already organic by default,thanks to shortage of chemical fertilisers as also due to the Brahmaputra and most of its tributaries leaving behind rich alluvium in the fields after the floods recede.
With organic farming now on the official agenda,the Assam government is looking at how to check the rampant use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides in agriculture. We also intend to create a general awareness among the people about the dangers of consuming such products,particularly vegetables. A special market exclusively for organic products is being opened soon in Guwahati,which will help make people aware, hopes Deka.
Lauding the Assam government initiative,Dr K M Bujarbaruah,Vice-Chancellor of Assam Agricultural University,says organic farming would also help boost the agricultural output. If the state can achieve a record 50.8 lakh tonnes of rice production during 2001-11 and set for itself a target of 54.7 lakh tonnes for the current year,it can also produce more through the organic route, he adds.
Dr Bujarbaruah has suggested identification of land in the high-production zones where different areas could be categorised for organic and hybrid farming. With soil mapping already done for 13
districts,it is now not difficult to know the deficiencies in different areas. Accordingly,we can take steps to tackle the area-specific problems, he says.