Organic farming, evolved on the basic theoretical expositions of Rodale in the United States, Lady Balfour in England and Sir Albert Howard in India in the 1940s, has progressed to cover about 23 million hectares of land all over the world. Howard's magnum opus,'An Agricultural Testament' has a special significance to us in India as it is based on an analysis of the environment friendly farming practiced here for centuries. However, it is another matter that we lag behind a majority of agriculture based countries in the world in the practice of organic farming in spite of the fact that we have been one of the sufferers of the conventional farming system.
The relatively high success of organic farming in some countries are due to the high awareness of the health problems caused by the consumption of contaminated food products, the ill effects of environment degradation, appropriate supports by the government
and organisations like the European Union and International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). The financial support for organic farming extended by various national and provincial governments in these countries is very substantial to push
up the spread of organic methods. Strong marketing networks linking the farms, processing and distribution and the organisation of production u n d e r the NGOs with stringent certification programmes were other fa6ts, which contributed to the growth of
organic farming. The growth rate of market values of organic p r o d u c ts is about 20 per cent per a n n um in some of these countries.
The conventional farming had helped India not only to produce enough food for own consumption but also generated surpluses for exports. However, the increasing population and income will lead to further increases in demand for food and also for raw materials for
industry. The modern system of farming, it is increasingly felt, is becoming u n s u s t a i n a b l e as evidenced by declining crop productivities, damage to environment, chemical contaminations, etc.The necessity of having an alternative agriculture method which can
function in a friendly eco-system while sustaining and increasing the crop productivity is realized now. Organic farming is recognized as the best known alternative to the conventional agriculture.
The progress of organic agriculture in India is very slow. We are able to convert only 41,000 ha of area so far, which is a mere 0.03 per cent of the cultivated area. These figures should be compared to 2,58,500 ha (11.30 per cent) of Austria, 1,02,999 ha (9.70 per cent)
of Switzerland, 1,83,000 ha (7.94 per cent) of Italy, 6,32,165 ha (3.70 per cent) of Germany and 9,50,000 ha (0.23 per cent) of USA.
The production of organic farms came to about 14,000 tonnes in India during 2002 and 85 per cent of it was exported. Domestic consumption is marginal and is concentrated in the metropolitan cities in the country. NGOs are spearheading the organic movement
in India as in other countries. The major weaknesses of organic agriculture in the country are absence of linkages between the farmers and markets and absence of financial support from the governments. India has the potential to become a major organic producing country given the international demand for our farm products, different agro-climatic regions for the cultivation of a number of crops, the size of the domestic market and above all the
long tradition of environment friendly farming and living. Experts have identified the areas suitable for the introduction of organic farming. However, an appropriate policy framework is yet to be laid down by the government. The only progress made in this direction
appears to be the implementation of National Standards for Organic production (NSOP) in 2000 and the founding of a National Institute of Organic Farming. A few agencies with the a s s i s t a n c e of international bodies have entered the field of inspection and
An appropriate national agriculture policy, giving a prominent place to organic farming addressing the issues related to its coverage, financial support during the conversion period, creation of linkages among the farmers, processors, traders and consumers, inspection
and certification of organic products and increasing the public awareness of the benefits of organic agriculture along with the ill effects of the conventional system, should be designed. This must be followed by concrete action on the ground if we do not want to miss
the far reaching changes all over the world heralded by the organic farming movement.
Hahnemann Charitable Mission Society
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