This post is also available in: Italian

By Manlio Masucci, Navdanya International – Lifegate, 14 November 2018 | Source

The Indian state of Sikkim is the first to be certified as fully organic, and is now ready to export its model to the rest of the world. Its delegation told us how all this has been possible.

This journey starts in Sikkim, a small Indian state in the Himalayas, and ends at the FAO in Rome, with an intermediate stop at the Italian Parliament. A journey that promises to go far and last a long time because of the strength of its message and ability to contradict the mantras of the agro-food industry, which has enriched itself by exploiting the environment as well as small and medium-sized local production and citizens’ health: a conversion from traditional to organic agriculture isn’t only possible, but a necessary and more profitable solution for local economies.

The delegation from Sikkim, led by Chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling, aims to move beyond theory and speculation by exporting a model that has been certified and proven first-hand. As the members of the delegation explain, what is at stake aren’t simply the fortunes of an Indian state but those of the entire planet. The message is loud and clear: an alternative is possible, but what we need now is the political will to leave large interests behind for a renewed focus on the needs of people, farmers and our common home.

Sikkim’s organic model, from the Himalayas to Europe

The Sikkim delegation’s journey to Europe began in Dehadrun, in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, known across the world as the home of the organic farm and Earth University of Navdanya, the organisation founded by Vandana Shiva that has actively contributed to Sikkim’s organic transition.

The International Biodiversity Congress was an important milestone in which the Chief minister, alongside Shiva herself, announced the project of converting the Himalayas completely to organic agriculture and safeguarding biodiversity, adding that the aim was to export the “Sikkim model” to the rest of the world. “There’s no time to lose – explains the Chief minister – every government must take responsibility and set out the objective of achieving a fully organic world by 2050”. An ambitious yet realistic target, as is demonstrated by the progress made in the Indian state over the past 25 years, during which it has undertaken the path towards a poison-free model, respectful of biodiversity.

A journey that has lasted 25 years

But who are the architects of the Sikkim model and what path was followed to achieve a fully organic production? We asked Prem Das Rai, Indian scientist and member of the Sikkim Parliament: “To understand the success of the Sikkim model we must begin by stating that our party, the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), has been in government for 25 years. This fact is important because the transition to organic production isn’t the kind of policy that can be implemented in the short-term, but requires many years. Our political project began in 1994 and we began seeing tangible results in 2003, when the Chief minister approved a resolution that contained a commitment to make Sikkim a 100% organic state. At this point we moved to the next stage, that of certification, a process which took another ten years. Today Sikkim can boast the highest human development index levels in India, and this fact in particular demonstrates the success of our journey”.

The secret of success: organic conversion begins in schools

This path has shown positive results in all respects. Even in economic terms, farms that practice organic and biodiverse agriculture are 20 per cent more productive compared to monocultures that use chemical products. “It’s no longer a secret that chemical products in our food are damaging our health – Khorlo Buthia, secretary of Sikkim’s department of agriculture, explains the formula for this success –, so it’s normal that consumers’ desires shift increasingly toward organic produce, allowing citizens to benefit from the conversion”. However, people need to be informed so that they make the right decisions. This information, in the state of Sikkim, is integrated in the educational process, which is free at all levels, from kindergarten to university. “Already at primary school, in fourth and fifth grade, we’ve introduced modules on organic agriculture, to explain its function, the process of certification in the larger context of human development,” Buthia continues.

The Sikkim model at the FAO and Italian Parliament

Research, theory, planning, results. Supported and sustained by a strong political will. A simple recipe that has brought Sikkim to win the Future Policy Award, a prize given to the best global policies in the field of agroecology, organised by the FAO together with the World Future Council and IFOAM Organics International. An experience that has become a model for others to follow, attracting interest from all over the world, including Italy, where the Sikkim delegation met with the press and members of Parliament.

The world looks to Sikkim with interest, but can its model be exported effectively? “Sikkim demonstrates that it’s possible to improve the health of the soil and people, to make agriculture a source of sustenance for farmers, and that chemical pesticides and fertilisers aren’t necessary,” Poudyal Somnath, Minister for Agriculture, replies. “Our model is absolutely replicable, and therefore I’m launching an appeal to the international community to commit to the transition to organic farming”.

Translated by Patrick Bracelli

A 100% organic model is possible: the example of Sikkim

Navdanya International, 16 October 2018 | Source

“Together, we have a different vision, which safeguards biodiversity, territories, farming communities, local economies, democracy, through a transition to an agrifood system that respects the land, the natural evolution of biodiversity and the dignity of people and cultures”, Dr Vandana Shiva.

On 15 October 2018, a press conference was held at the Italian Chamber of Deputies Press Room, with Pawan Kumar Chamling, Chief Minister of the Indian state of Sikkim, who converted 100% of his State’s agricultural production to organic farming, Vandana Shiva, President of Navdanya International and member of the executive committee of the World Future Council, together with Italian Parliamentarians: Hon. Rossella Muroni, LeU group leader in the Environment Committee, the president of the Montecitorio Agriculture Committee, Filippo Gallinella (M5S), Federico Fornaro, president of LeU and group leader of the Agriculture Committee, Maria Chiara Gadda, Pd group leader of the Agriculture Committee, Sara Cunial (M5S) and member of the Agriculture Committee, as well as Lucio Cavazzoni, former president of Alce Nero.

The Chief Minister of Sikkim is in Rome on the occasion of of the conferring of the prestigious  Gold Future Policy Award to the State of Sikkim for the best global policies for agroecology, jointly presented by FAO, the World Future Council and IFOAM Organics International. The Indian Chief Minister commented: “Since the resolution was announced at the Legislative Assembly to convert the entire state to organic we have met with various resistance from the opposition and from the farmers themselves, but we have continued with determination. We are pleased that others want to take inspiration from our work, such as Kerala and other states in north-east India. To achieve these results we have always been at the forefront with various public policies, such as waste management, protection of forests, glaciers and climate, as well as education. You are curious to know our experience, but we also have a great interest in knowing other experiences in this field in other parts of the world. A 100% organic world is possible and there is no reason why farmers, communities and institutions should not continue to engage in this direction”.

Dr Vandana Shiva, also member of the Future Policy Award experts jury,  commented on the success of the 100% organic conversion of Sikkim to which her organization, Navdanya, has actively contributed: “It is a well-deserved prize, but it is also a lighthouse for our future. The only possible future we have is to create a world free from dependence on fossil fuels, free from poisons and plastics, where healthy and biodiverse food is produced. We have destroyed our soils, created forced migrations from looted lands, which basic resources have been wiped-out, also because of the climate crisis. We are facing the sixth mass extinction of all living species, added to drought crises and floods all over the world. In addition, small farmers are abandoning their land, while our food system is creating a global health crisis. Despite this, false solutions are still being proposed with the same ideological paradigm that created the crises we are facing: for example, the vision of agriculture without farmers, fully digitized and controlled by large agrochemical companies, as well as new GMOs. It is a vision without a future. Together, we have a different vision, which safeguards biodiversity, territories, farming communities, local economies, democracy, through a transition to an agrifood system that respects the land, the natural evolution of biodiversity and the dignity of people and cultures.

The conference was moderated by Lucio Cavazzoni, former president of Alce Nero, who said: “It is possible to bring farmers back to many of our hills and mountains thanks to a widespread and capable network of people who love their territory. It is a new work that aims at the health of humankind and the planet. Organic is a hymn to life! Sikkim is not only the first 100% organic country, but for more than 10 years it has also created a transformation in the role of farmers and inthe role that healthy agriculture can play in addressing climate change”.

Sikkim’s organic model has received recognition and attracted the attention of Italian politicians, as confirmed by the presence of the President of the Agriculture Commission of Montecitorio, Filippo Gallinella (M5S): “Our commitment to safeguarding the environment concerns us all”. Maria Chiara Gadda, Group Leader of the Democratic party in the Agriculture Commission, then said: “We must combine the needs of modernity with sustainability, not only environmental but also social. Local rural economies can have a strong impact and change the way we produce and give back to agriculture that role of multifunctionality that it has always had. For example, in corporate social responsibility for social sustainability, for the dignity of work and disadvantaged people”.

Sustainable and organic agriculture is also essential for environmental sustainability. Rossella Muroni, LeU group leader in the Environment Commission, was present at the press room: “The sustainability of agricultural production is one of the most urgent and unavoidable recipes for tackling the challenge of climate change. At the same time, producing food in a fair, clean and just way is synonymous with social justice. Organic farming and Ecological Districts, as demonstrated by the experience of Sikkim, represent the future of agricultural production with territories and communities at the center of virtuous processes that combine work and environment”.

Hon. Sara Cunial (M5S) and member of the Agriculture Commission,  underlined: “Today we are here with a revolutionary lesson. We can no longer waste time and too many compromises have already been made. The community has the right, but above all the duty, to start again from small farmers who are the guardians of the territory, of life and of seeds”.

Concluding, the Hon. Federico Fornaro, president of LeU and head of the Agriculture Commission declared: “There is a whole sector of agriculture that is suffering a lot, that of marginal areas, of the poor hills, and that could find an answer in organic farming. It would also be a response to the problem of climate change, to the occupation and depopulation of these territories, in which new generations of farmers could settle”.

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