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22 May 2018

Staff hit farms to help organic goal

RAJEEV RAVIDAS, TT, May 22, 2018, Gangtok: About 700 Sikkim government employees in West district sacrificed their holiday and voluntarily took to the fields on Sunday, ploughing land and planting vegetables to express their support to the state's organic mission.

The farming drive was in held in different government offices with vacant lands. Armed with assorted farming tools, including oxen-driven ploughs, the employees got down to "practice, preach and promote organic farming", the theme of the day-long campaign.

West district collector A.B Karki, who led the team at the Industrial Training Institute in Geyzing, the district headquarters of West Sikkim, said the drive would not be a one-day affair and the district employees had volunteered to work on holidays to show the way to the rest of the state on how to make a success of the organic mission.

"We are in the process of identifying barren government land in the district to prepare a database. Once that is done, all barren and unused land will be utilised to grow vegetables and other crops," he said.

Sikkim became a fully organic state in 2016. Around 75,000 hectares of agricultural land were gradually converted into certified organic land by implementing practices and principles as per guidelines laid down in National Programme for Organic Production. And since April this year, the government has imposed a ban on the sale of non-organic vegetable and fruits, barring a few like potatoes and onions.

The government intends to ban even the exempted items sooner than later.

Back in the fields, the men employees were tasked to plough and till the field, while the women planted seedlings of a variety of vegetables and fruits like brinjal, carrot and orange, among others. The employees also contributed money to procure manures and vegetable seedlings.

"We were excited to be part of the drive. We had prepared beds in advance to plant the seedlings. We have also formed a group to supervise and take follow-up actions," said Bindiya Subba, a range officer in West Sikkim.

Before taking the field, the employees were briefed on the different methods of organic farming by resource persons sourced from the state agriculture department. The resource persons also demonstrated methods of preparing organic manure and ways to keep the crops safe from pests and insects.

The farming drive, the collector said, will be carried at the sub-divisional level in the first phase, and in the subsequent three phases, vacant land of schools, gram panchayats, and even those barren ones owned privately will be used to grow vegetables and other crops.

"Organic farming should be adopted as a culture and a way of life. We should bring fallow and barren lands under cultivation in order to accelerate agricultural growth and make Sikkim self-reliant," said Karki.

Khorlo Bhutia, the secretary of the state horticulture and cash crops development department, lauded the initiative taken by the employees of the West district. "This is a very good initiative and it will help spread awareness," he said.

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