US - INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW

40 US-INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW JULY-SEPTEMBER 2018 plates fashioned from leaves. The transition, which took more than a decade, has not been easy. Some farmers say their income has decreased or have quit farming all together. One farmer, Pem Dorjee Sherpa, who grows potatoes and cardamom, said his income decreased dra- matically since he switched to pesticide-free farming, and he complained that farmers need bet- ter access to markets, organic manure and training. "The benefit of going organic has not reached us," he said. Sonam Taneja, the program manager for food safety and tox- ins at the Centre for Science and Environment, a research and advocacy organization in New Delhi, received similar feedback when she visited 16 farms across the state for a report that came out last year. "The information I was getting was that farmers are struggling, fighting with pests, and yields are lower, and therefore they're upset," Taneja said. Productivity of most crops remained the same, except oranges, but the state will likely continue to have to rely on conventional produce from other states to feed itself, the study said. In April, state officials opened two markets where farmers can sell their products directly to con- sumers and have added more than two dozen transport vehicles help them move their goods to markets more easily. Officials say that the switch to all-organic has health benefits for Sikkimese, who are getting more nutritious food, and has rejuvenat- ed the health of its soil as well as wildlife and dwindling bee popula- tions. The country's yield of large cardamom - dependent upon cross-pollination from bees - has increased more than 30 percent since 2014. The country's move to all- organic also has been a boon to its tourist industry, with a growing market for eco-tours and farm vacations. The Lonely Planet trav- el guide named it the world's top destination in 2014, and the num- ber of foreign visitors has more than doubled since 2011, the state's tourism department says. As a consequence, tourism is a growing force behind the state's gross domestic product, rising from 5 to nearly 8 percent by 2016-2017. "It's had a huge impact," said Khorlo Bhutia, Sikkim's secretary of horticulture and cash crop development. "It's because of the good environment - chemical-free air, water, food - all these factors." Experts say that India's organic product market has been driven by health-conscious, middle-class urbanites alarmed by the overuse of pesticides. But that's changing. India is encouraging farmers to engage in a self-regulating organ- ic certification process that is cheaper than outside consultants and will make organic food more accessible for the domestic mar- ket. Choitresh Kumar Ganguly, an organic farmer from India who sits on board of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, said Sikkim can be a model for other states, such as Kerala and Meghalaya, that are planning to go all-organic. Sikkim's neighbor, the kingdom of Bhutan, aspires to do so by 2020. "Sikkim is of course way ahead, and their political will is much stronger than any other state," Ganguly said. "They've done a good job. They did not use so many pesticides to begin with so it was easier for them to move out than it will be for many other states. Still, there's huge aware- ness, and it's growing slowly." A tree grows on a hill as residential properties in Gangtok are seen in the background near an organic farm in Rumtek, India, on May 3, 2016. Photo: : Bloomberg photo by Prashanth Vishwanathan Annie Gowen | The Washington Post

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