Sikkim Organic Farming: For Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, Millets, Crops, Livestock, and Aquaculture

According to the World Book of Records London, Sikkim is the world’s first organic state. A World Book of Records London cataloging and verifying extraordinary records worldwide. With this recognition, the state has become the world’s first to implement a 100% organic policy. Organic farming has been promoted because of its adverse effects on the environment.

Sikkim is the first-ever state to be 100% organic, setting an example for the rest of the world. As a result of this immense success, Sikkim received the Oscar Award for Best Policies from the United States. A total of 75,000 hectares of land were converted into organic land to make Sikkim an organic state. Rather than using chemical pesticides, organic pesticides were used. The Sikkim government’s action plan includes a ban on chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Violations of this law can also result in three months of imprisonment and a fine of one lakh. Village panchayats were developed as organic farming clusters by the government. About 4 lakh farmers benefited from organic farming in Sikkim, which covered  35 thousand hectares. There was a goal of covering 50 thousand hectares of land, and about 2500 farmer groups were formed, involving about 45 thousand farmers. Let’s check out more information on Sikkim organic farming below.

Major Crops in Sikkim

In Sikkim, agriculture is the main occupation. The socio-cultural pattern of Sikkim seems to be based on agriculture. It was a land where nomads hunted for food, and Sikkim’s locals were nomads. Bhutias gradually started practicing semi-pastoral farming in Sikkim when they settled there. Within Sikkim’s territory, the Bhutias practiced economy or sedentary farming. It can only be done by infiltrating the Nepali immigrants’ agriculture in Sikkim.

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Sikkim Organic Farming

Cardamom is the most abundant spice in Sikkim. Sikkim is also known for being home to the world’s largest area of cardamom fields. In addition to potatoes, cardamom is one of Sikkim’s two cash crops. Tea is another important aspect of Sikkim’s agriculture. The tea that is produced in Sikkim is known around the world for the quality and taste of its tea.

In Sikkim, tea estates are an integral part of the agricultural industry. As a result of its fertile land, Sikkim is heavily dependent on agriculture. Agriculture in Sikkim is made possible by the topography and climatic conditions of the region. As a result, Sikkim experiences high yields every year. Sikkim grows the following crops:

WheatBuckwheat
PaddyCardamom
MaizePotatoes
BarleyTea

Sikkim Organic Farming

Organic Vegetable Farming in Sikkim

Horticulture in the State mainly comprises vegetables such as beans and garden peas; exotic vegetables like tomato, cole crops, radishes, and various types of cucurbits, including chayote; tuber crops, mainly potato; spice crops like large cardamom, ginger, turmeric, and cherry pepper. The significance of horticulture in improving land use, promoting crop diversification, generating employment, and providing nutritional security to people has increased.

The realization of the same by the cross-section of the people has further increased its importance. The emergence of organic farming, protected cultivation, etc., has added a new paradigm to the development strategy. Through the use of polygreen houses, a breakthrough has been achieved in vegetable and flower cultivation.

The Horticulture Mission is the most important development program in the northeast and Himalayan states. Programs under RKVY, TSP/SCSP, BADP, and State Plan/Non-Plan are also taken up to support and integrate other initiatives. The people of Lachen–Lachung have plenty of vegetables for their consumption. They sell the surplus – organically grown potatoes and cabbages – to neighboring villages.

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Organic Tomato Farming

After becoming fully organic, Sikkim produced about 80,000 metric tonnes of organic vegetables in 2016-17. As part of the first year of the Mission Organic Value Chain Development (MOVCD) in the North-East region, these vegetables were grown on 14,000 hectares of certified organic land out of 76,392 in the state.

Over 24,000 farmers from 28 farmer’s organizations in 41 clusters produced various crops organically. Also, 100 metric tons of Cherry Peppers (Dalley) and 100 quintals of organic Kiwi fruit have been produced in Sikkim under the pilot project, along with large cardamoms, ginger, turmeric, buckwheat, and Sikkim mandarins.

VegetableAreas growing in Sikkim
BeansPakyong, Yuksom, Dzongu and Jorethang
TomatoRangpo, Soreng, Namchi and Kabi
Cole cropsMangan, Jorethang, Namchi, and Dzongu
RadishYangyang, Ravongla, Mangan, and Gangtok
PotatoGyalshing, Kabi, Ravongla, and Rongli

Major vegetable clusters

Kharif Season
  • North – Ringhim, Gor, Chawang, Kazor.
  • East – Sawney, Duga, Samsing, Burung, Malangthang, Luing, Singbel, Amba, Pacheykhani, Dalapchen, Basilakha, Priklakha, Assam-Lingzey, Nandok.
  • South – Kateng, Bokrong, Wok, Mamley, Kamrang, Tinzir, Dong, Samatar, Kitam, Belbotey, Salleybong, Rabitar, Possi, Khairbotey, Legship, Hingdam, Bermiok, Gangla.
  • West – Middle Geyzing, Kabirthang, Toyang, Bangten, Lower Chumbong, Rungdu, Omchung, Arigaon, Nasa, Singling, Daramdin, Chakung.
Rabi Season
  • North – Uppor Phodong, Nampatam, Toong, Naga, Hee-Gyathang.
  • East – Beliman, Marchak, Thangsing, Beng, Samasivik, Sirwani, Lingdum, Salghari, Chalisey, Tarpin, Rungdung, Aritar, Subhaneydara, Dalapchen, Chujachen, Dugalakha, Basilakha, Amba, Tareythang.
  • South – Bul, Salleybong, Ruchung, Sadam, Samatar, Dong, Denchung, Chalamthang, Yangyang, Lingmoo, Ben, Tarku, Lingee, Rabitar.
  • West – Upper Lasso, Mukrung, Karmatar, Begha, Naku, Bhaluthang, Onglop, Toyang, Arigaon, Lingchom, Kyongsha, Arithang, Chumbong, Yuksam, Budang, Tharpu, Lungchok, Rumbuk, Buriakhop.
Off-season
  • North – Lachen, Saffu, Lachung, Menrongong.
  • East – Central Pandam, Cheuribotey, Sumin, Salghari, Berbing, Regu, Dalapchan, Chujachen, Salley, Nimachen, Dugalakha, Tirkutam, Raigaon, Mamring, Thekabong, Litgolai, Chenthang, Kerabari, Luing, Phadamchen, Pachak, Upper Sumin, Naya Busty, Karthok, DalapchanPhadamchen, Chuzachen and Nimachen.
  • South – Jaubari, Chemchey, Pakchey, Sadam, Gupti, Alley, Bakhim, Deythang, Temi-Daragaon, Ganchung, Chuba, Khop.
  • West – Nesa, Dokothang, Chungdubdi, Upper Mukrung, Sinkharga, Upper Martam, Yangsum, Bhaluthang, Hee-Patal, Ribdi, Hilley, Okhrey, Tikpur.

Organic Fruit Farming in Sikkim

The important fruits grown in the state include Sikkim mandarin, pear, guava, and other new introductions like kiwi and Asiatic pear variety, papaya, and banana as filler crops in lower altitudes. Apple cultivation was a traditional practice in some pockets of North Sikkim, which dwindled after the decline hit the orchards during the late seventies. With the introduction of European cultivars, apple growing is on the upswing, and interest has been rekindled among farmers.

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Organic Apple Farming

Sikkim mandarin is the traditional fruit of the state, which has made major progress in terms of area coverage and production. Disease-free planting materials and rejuvenation programs have been the two critical interventions for orange development. Nurseries in the private sector and two automated greenhouses have made large-scale contributions in orange.

The new concept of high-density orchards in guava is becoming popular amongst farmers. This concept is highly suitable in a hilly state like Sikkim, where land is limited. Even small and marginal farmers can allocate a certain portion of their land for guava cultivation. Bananas and papaya are on the rise as filler crops in the lower belts. The advantage of these two fruits is that they give very quick returns, increasing their popularity. 

Litchi and kiwi are other fruits that have vast potential in the state’s lower and upper belts, respectively. Delayed ripening of litchi due to climate is a great advantage, with fruits coming to market one month after the main litchi season, commanding good prices. This provides ample scope for area expansion under litchi in all suitable belts.

Mandarin (Orange)

Sikkim Mandarin represents Sikkim’s most important commercial fruit. In Sikkim, mandarin is cultivated in an area of about 6,300 hectares, with a total average annual production of about 17,190 tonnes.

  • Tashiding, Gyalshing, Omchung, Lingchom, Bermiok, Barthang, Rinchenpong, Chinthang, Chakung, Zoom, Timberbong, Karthok in the West district,
  • Kewzing, Lingmoo, Sangmoo, Yangang, Payong, Rateypani, Namthang, Tarku, Tokal- Bermiok, Turuk, and Sumbuk in the South district,
  • Nazitam, Sang, Simiklingy, Khamdong, Sirwani, and Samdong in the East district and 
  • Hee-Gyathang and Dikchu in the North district of Sikkim are Sikkim’s main orange growing areas.
Banana

In Sikkim, it is the fourth most important fruit and cultivated (hill banana) throughout the state in the kitchen garden, boundaries of fields and farms, etc.

  • North – Gyathang.
  • East – Ralap, Dalapchen, Sirwani, Amba, Thakchang.
  • South – Arigaon, Salley, Chumbung, Budang, and Lower Kamling.
  • West – Arigaon, Salley, Chumbung, Budang, and Lower Kamling.
Papaya

Fruit crops are growing in Sikkim’s foothills below 900 meters elevation due to their increasing importance as fruit crops. Namli garden, Majitar farm in East District, and Kaijeley farm in West District, the State Department of Agriculture produce seedlings. For the rapid development and growth of this fruit crop, it is distributed to farmers yearly on a large scale. As a commercial fruit crop, papaya can be cultivated in some areas of the state, including the south district, the west district with lower elevation, and the eastern district with less rainfall.

  • North – Hee-Gyathang, Tingvong, Lum and Gor.
  • East – Sazong, Pachak, basilakha, Ralap, Chandey, Burung, Kadamtam, Chota Singtam, Saureni, Tirkutam, Rewalakha, Gangyap, Zingla.
  • South – Sumbhuk, Pabong, Dong, Sadam, Tingley, kamrang, Legship, Hingdam. 
  • West – Nerdang, Lower Arithang, Lower and Upper Hathidunga, Boomtafel, Chisopani, Zeel, Karthok, Lower Sangadorjee
Guava

In Sikkim, it is the third important fruit crop. Until 1976, it was cultivated in a limited area, as in a kitchen garden or as a border tree. It is cultivated in orchards below 1200 meters elevation in the states’ hills.

  • North – Lower Dzongu.
  • East – Ankuching, Kerabari, Titiribotey, Kamerey, Lingzey, Ralap, Singbel, Reshi, Tarpin.
  • South – Mellidara, Turung, Lingzey, Chalamthang, Lingmoo, Pakzor, Dong.
  • West – Arigaon, Chongrang, Khaniserbong, Suntaley.

Organic Herbs Farming in Sikkim

The National Mission on Medicinal Plants, a CSS, was launched in the state during 2009-10. The scheme is funded by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, GOI, through National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB). The Horticulture & Cash Crop Development Department Government of Sikkim is the implementing agency in the state. The following activities were taken up during the year 2010-11.

  • Cultivation of medicinal plants on a commercial basis requires producing elite planting materials in public and private nurseries. However, due to fund constraints, the department could establish only two public sector Model nurseries and one private nursery with an investment balance of 2009-10.
  • The Public sector Nurseries are located at Lachung Government farm in the North district and Rabongla Government farm in the South district. 
  • One nursery has been set up under the private sector at Yuksom called Sewalung Nursery.

The department had identified only five species for cultivation during the year 2010-11. Limited areas have been covered under high-value medicinal crops such as Nardistachys jatamanshi, Swertia chirata, and Picrorhza kurroa. However, about 130 Ha areas are covered under Gloriosa superba, mostly in the Turuk – Sumbuk in the south district and Timberbong in the West district.

Organic Millet Farming in Sikkim

The cultivation of finger millet is widespread in Sikkim. Among the leguminous crops intercropped with it are maize, ginger, and others. Finger millet is known as ‘Kodo’ in Sikkim because of the state’s economic and social conditions. In this region, the grain is used for malting and preparing ‘Jansu’ or ‘Change’ The powder is also used for making bread or ‘Dhainro.’

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Organic Millets Farming

The stalk is considered good fodder. In the state, it is a Kharif crop grown across 5000 ha regardless of elevation, producing about 4713 tonnes of grain. In terms of gross cultivated area, the crop occupies about 4.11%. It is harvested between November and December, and finger millet has a high nutritional value.

Organic Livestock Farming in Sikkim

In Sikkim, livestock production is the endeavor of smallholders, and over 80% of all the households in the state have livestock of one species or the other and income from them. Animal husbandry, Livestock & Fisheries department is engaged in supporting the production of milk, meat & egg by providing requisite infrastructure in the state for improving the productivity of livestock and birds, preservation and protection of animals through preventive and curative health care facilities, and developing the skill of farmers in modern and scientific methods through adequate training on organic animal husbandry practices.

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Organic Certification Process

Some of the major initiatives for the development of Animal Husbandry started by the government of Sikkim are as follows:

Organic animal husbandryPoultry development program
Cattle development programLivestock sector policy
Piggery development programTrout fish seed production program
Feed & fodder development programCarp seed production program
Dairy development programPropagation of mahseer
Animal health servicesConservation of riverine fisheries program
Livestock insurance
SpeciesEastWestNorthSouthTotal
Cattle472664162514305374941,40,690
Sheeps212123423410042684
Goat3425937640941029561110870
Pig807799873793846030317
Farm Poultry 18722100514004200063127
Backyard Poultry11893911180931122175775437645

Organic Aquaculture Farming in Sikkim

The water resources of Sikkim contain 48 fish species belonging to 9 families under 23 genera. Most of the species belong to the Cyprinidac family. The most important fish spices are Mahaseer (Sahar), Snow trout (Asla), Catfish (Ther, Gandi), some carps (Budana, Nak Kauta), etc. Culturing carp fishes like grass carp, silver carp, common carp, and other species are suitable for cultural purposes in the lower belt of Sikkim.

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Fish Farming Pond

The total fish yield from the riverine resources is 120-150 tons annually. Earlier, in Sikkim, trout fishery was confined to the production and stocking of brown trout fish seed in the coldwater streams and lakes for promoting angling, and later it was extended to rainbow trout farming as an economic activity in the private sector due to the growing population and demand of trout fish in the state.

Farming rainbow trout is a profitable alternative to conventional agriculture that can be practiced within very limited land. There are vast water resources in the state which are virgin and unutilized. The perennial springs and streams in the state are flowing from the uplands to low lands, ultimately going to waste.

In the hill, the fisheries sector is facing the problems like poor accessibility, difficulty in hilly terrain, lack of transportation and proper market, lack of infrastructure for aquaculture, etc. As a result, this sector could not foster to the extended level. Even though the above problems exist in the hill state, the following are some strategies that could be undertaken to increase production and bring resources to proper utilization.

  • The state’s water resources could be brought into fish farming and aquaculture development by bringing these resources efficiently and properly rather than going to waste.
  • Awareness of the importance and role of fisheries and aquaculture in rural development and nutritional value can motivate the younger generations. As a result, more people can get opportunities in fish farming.
  • Fish is a highly perishable product, so accessibility, cold storage, proper transportation, and marketing facilities in rural areas can foster this sector so that local fish can be easily available in the market.
  • The use of modern technology and training for farmers can increase the level of production.
  • Local fish market centers in the market could encourage the farmers to do extensive farming and make it available for urban people.

How to Get Organic Certification in Sikkim

  • For organic crops to be certified as organic, operators (farmers, groups of farmers, processors, and traders) need to follow the standards set by NPOP (National Programme for Organic Production).
  • To qualify, they must submit the required application format with the fee and a field verification as outlined by the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP).
  • A list of general organic crop production standards is available on the SSOCA website, provided by the Sikkim State Organic Certification Agency (SSOCA).
  • All the information requested by the Sikkim State Organic Certification Agency (SSOCA) in the application must be provided, such as the name, addresses, details of the contact person, field location, and group details, must be completed, signed, and submitted to the office for registration.
  • Once the evaluator reviews and accepts the application, the evaluator will send the operator the offer letter (approximate inspection and certification fees) and the agreement. The same will be communicated to the client in cases where the client cannot be certified for technical reasons.
  • Operators are registered on Tracenet.
  • The requested person should pay a registration fee, field inspection fee, one-time travel cost, and application form.

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Organic Certification Process
  • In consultation with the operator, fix the inspection date and send the inspection notification letter along with a copy of the farm records and the NPOP standard.
  • The operator will receive a signed copy of the agreement on the day the agreement is finalized. The operator will receive a copy of the inspection report during the inspection. An evaluator receives a detailed inspection report.
  • In the tracenet, individual operators enter their detailed crop list, major and minor non-conformities, and corrective action deadlines.
  • As a group farmer, the CB verifies the data entered in the tracenet by the group and enters major and minor nonconformities, along with the deadline for correcting them.
  • Once the evaluator receives the full payment, the operator file is reviewed by the evaluator and submitted to the Certification committee. According to the inspection report, the certification committee makes a final decision based on the corrective measures taken by the operator
  • A certificate will be generated and sent to the operator by the Quality Manager through the tracenet.
  • A request for the certification agency logo or India Organic Logo should be sent to the office, after which approval by the certification committee will be sent to the operator. Label drafts must be sent to the certification agency office for approval and verification.

Conclusion

Currently, Sikkim is the only state in the world that is 100% organic. Its entire farmland is organically certified. On more than 76,000 hectares of land, more than 66,000 farming families practice organic and agroecological farming. As a result of the policy, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides were phased out, and chemical pesticides were banned in the state. Additionally, Sikkim’s approach has proved transformational for citizens and the state beyond organic production.

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