Uttarakhand government wants farmers to go organic to keep Ganga toxin-free
To keep the Ganga free of toxic chemicals, the Uttarakhand government is executing a centrally funded scheme, under which hill farmers in the catchment area of the river are being encouraged to adopt organic farming. The scheme would also help augment their income substantially, officials said.
“Under the first phase of the centrally funded project, all poor and marginal hill farmers inhabiting the 42 villages in the catchment area of the river Ganga are being given full support to adopt organic farming”, said Gauri Shankar, director, agriculture referring to Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojna (PKVY). The scheme is being implemented under the aegis of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project, Namami Gange or National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG).
According to Shankar, the project is one of the several schemes being implemented to keep the Ganga free of chemical pollution. “The move also aims to augment hill farmers’ income because the organic crops they will be growing will fetch them good price”, Shankar said. The scheme is also being implemented in four other states—Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal-- under the PKVY.
Shankar said the residues of chemical fertilizers and pesticides used by farmers in the catchment area of the Ganga are among the various factors causing chemical pollution in the river.
“The initiative to encourage farmers to go for organic farming came from the Centre”, he said adding that it (Centre) approved 42 villages out of a list of 139 (villages) in the catchment area of the Ganga, which was forwarded by the state government.
“The 42 villages (in the catchment of the Ganga) selected for promoting organic farming fall in five districts”, Shankar said referring to Chamoli, Uttarkashi, Pauri, Rudraprayag and Tehri.
Under the plan, farmers will be encouraged to create clusters of different organic crops like millets, pulses, kidney beans apart from vegetables like Amaranthus etc. “The emphasis is on cluster based farming because if a crop is grown in clusters its volume goes up, which will fetch hill farmers good price”, said the official.
“Such mode of farming could be remunerative in the hills where farm produce fetches farmers hardly any income”, Shankar said. He attributed the invariably low farm yield hill farmers get owing to different types of crops they grow in their small, terraced agricultural holdings.
“Volumes of crops are high when grown in clusters, which will also fetch small and marginal hill farmers good price as the agricultural produce can be marketed in bulk”, Shankar said. According to him, a cluster each spread over a 20-hectare area each would be created in all the 42 villages selected under PKVY. Organic crops to be grown in clusters would be far more remunerative owing to their increased demand among the health conscious consumers, the official clarified.
All organic farming inputs, from fertilizers to seeds to pesticides, required for organic farming would be provided to farmers free-of-cost. “Besides, they will also be issued certification for their organic produce, so good buyers are easily available to buy it”, he said adding the state government would also ensure marketing linkages for hill farmers.
In that connection, two Memoranda of Understanding were signed between the state government and two prominent corporate houses—Adani group and Home Burpp during the Investors Summit held in Dehradun last year, according to officials.
“Both the groups agreed to market the locally grown organic produce under the local brand”, Shankar said referring to ‘Uttarakhand Organic.’ According to him, the state government will also help hill farmers to change their agricultural practices from non-organic farming to organic farming.
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