Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DAC&FW), Government of India is working to identify traditional organic areas to transform them into certified organic farming hubs. The Government of India has certified 14,491 hectare of such area under Car Nicobar and Nancowry group of islands in the union territory of Andaman & Nicobar Islands. This area becomes the first large contiguous territory to be conferred with organic certification under the ‘Large Area Certification’ (LAC) scheme of the PGS-India (Participatory Guarantee System) certification programme.
Car Nicobar and Nancowry group of Islands have been traditionally organic for ages. The administration has also banned the sale, purchase and usage of any chemical inputs or genetically modified organism (GMO) seeds in these islands. The administration of A&N Islands in collaboration with local communities prepared the island-wise and farmer wise database of land holding, practices being adopted, input usage history among other farming behaviours. An expert committee has verified their organic status and recommended for declaration of the area as certified organic under the PGS-India certification programme. Based on these reports, the Government of India certified 14,491 hectare area under Car Nicobar and Nancowry group of islands in UT of A&N Islands.
Besides these islands, agriculture areas in states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, North Eastern states and tribal belts of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, desert districts of Rajasthan which are essentially free from the use of chemical inputs can be transformed to certified organic. Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DAC&FW) in consultation with states is working to identify such areas, transform them to certified organic and facilitate the marketing of area-specific niche products through branding and labelling.
Additionally, to bring isolated individual farmers to the certified organic fold, DAC&FW has also launched an organic certification support scheme under Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY). Under the scheme, individual farmers can avail financial assistance for certification under any of the prevailing certification systems of National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) or PGS-India. Assistance will be available as reimbursement of certification cost directly to certification agencies through the states.
After A&N Islands, UTs of Lakshadweep and Ladakh are proactively taking steps for the transformation of their traditional organic areas to certified organic. Armed with organic certification these hitherto unexplored areas will have direct access to the emerging organic food market of the country.
Targeting Traditional Agricultural Area to Organic through Large Area Certification
Despite deep inroads of modern agricultural practices, still, there are large contiguous areas in hills, tribal districts, desert and rained areas in India that continue to remain free from chemical input usage. With little efforts, such traditional and default organic areas can be brought under organic certification almost immediately. Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare under its flagship scheme of Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) has launched a unique quick certification programme ‘Large Area Certification’ (LAC) to harness these potential areas.
As per the established norm of organic production systems, the areas having chemical input usage history are required to undergo a transition period of minimum 2-3 years to qualify as organic farming. During this period, farmers need to adopt standard organic agriculture practices and keep their farms under the certification process. On successful completion, such farms can be certified as organic after 2-3 years. The certification process also requires elaborate documentation and time to time verification by the certification authorities. Whereas under LAC requirements are simple and the area can be certified almost immediately. LAC is a quick certification process that is cost-effective and farmers do not have to wait for 2-3 years for marketing PGS organic certified products.
Under LAC, each village in the area is considered as one cluster or group. Documentations are simple and maintained village-wise. All farmers with their farmland and livestock need to adhere to the standard requirements and on being verified get certified en-mass without the need to go under conversion period. Certification is renewed on annual basis through annual verification by a process of peer appraisals as per the process of PGS-India.
Organic farming has been identified as a viable option promising safe and chemical residue-free food and long-term sustainability of food production systems. COVID-19 pandemic has further augmented the importance, need and demand. World over the demand for organic food is growing and India is no exception. Realising the importance of environmental and human benefits of chemical-free farming, the Government of India through the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has been promoting organic and natural farming through various schemes like Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, Organic Mission in North East among others. India now has more than 30 lakh hectare area registered under organic certification and slowly more and more farmers are joining the movement. As per the international survey report (2021) India ranks at 5th place in terms of area and is at the top in terms of total number of producers (base year 2019).