It seems Manipur Agriculture Minister Th Biswajit has finally come to terms with the realities of chemical fertilisers in agriculture practice and the need for encouraging organic farming in the state.
For lack of a sound and sustainable agricultural policy, today’s farmers heavily depend on chemical fertilisers. The Imphal Free Press has been questioning the priorities of the government with regard to chemical fertilisers and going organic all the way.
In a world where climate change is slowly taking control, the farmers are often left at the mercy of the erratic weather and unpredictable seasonal rains. Add to that, the government’s apathy or say indifference towards the plight of the farmers during the season.
The season for planting of seeds and transplanting paddy begins in June with the onset of monsoon.
Earlier we were taken aback when the Agriculture Minister Th Bishwajit should speak about chemical fertilisers at a function related to sustainable organic farming.
Today, he seems more inclined to encouraging organic farming in the state.
The other day, he called upon on the farmers of the state to start adopting the method of natural farming concerning the various health hazards arising out of using chemical fertiliser in agriculture.
He said, to encourage natural farming the government is planning to introduce nano fertilisers and reduce the allocation of urea (chemical fertiliser).
Biswajit was delivering his speech during the launching of assistance for off-farm inputs through DBT to 7,000 registered organic farmers of Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER) Phase-III (2020-23) amounting to a total of Rs 2,62,50,000 at New Secretariat in Imphal West.
MOVCDNER, which is a central sponsored scheme, aims at development of certified organic production in a value chain mode to link growers with consumers and to support the development of entire value chain starting from inputs, seeds, certification, to the creation of facilities for collection, aggregation, processing, marketing and brand building initiative.
Despite the state government initiative to encourage organic farming, there are still monumental tasks ahead of us. Manipur’s soil had long been known for its fertility and distinctive flavour in agricultural produce be it in rice or vegetables.
Now, that has become a thing of the past and the soil has become quite addictive to chemical fertilizers and it will take a long process and time to revert to organic farming and bio-fertilizers.
One has to be alive to the present realities of agriculture practices and the woes of the poor farmers, who had been harassed enough with the effects of climate change and erratic rainfall pattern in recent times.
For the present, the state government needs to formulate a policy where fertilizers reach the farmers in time and also adequately without any hassles.
There is an urgent need to de-politicize fertilizer distribution which should involve the district administration and district level agriculture officers.
It is imperative for the minister and the department concerned to understand the woes faced by the farmers in this poor state of ours.
First, most of the agricultural lands belong to the rich folks either in Imphal and other urban areas while the farmers are poor and depend on investments by the landowners. There is always the problem of cash shortage or lack of capital for beginning agriculture activities.
Manipur farmers are mostly poverty stricken and indebted. So, they depend on investments from the urban people in the form of ‘Phoudamshel’ and the landowners.
In a word, agriculture in the state is still practicing at a subsistence level as a survival for the poor and landless farmer. This important factor had to be taken into account while framing any agricultural policy, be it in terms of distribution of seeds or fertilizers besides irrigation facilities.
There were problems when the distribution of seeds or fertilizer is based on production of patta copies of ownership of the paddy fields they are tilling.
Perhaps, a complete overhaul of the directorate is needed and we should begin by entrusting agriculture professionals with the leadership of the directorate instead of non-technical persons who simply does not understand the intricacies of agriculture.