Plight of organic farmers

Plight of organic farmers
Dr. M. Chuba Ao inaugurating the Farmers’ Market. Organic produce for sale in the market. (NP)
Staff Reporter DIMAPUR, NOV 12 (NPN) | Publish Date: 11/12/2018 10:46:31 AM IST

In October this year, the tiny Himalayan State of Sikkim was declared as India’s first organic State by United Nations for its farming policies that benefitted over 66,000 farmers. According to World Future Council, tourism in the State had also increased by 50% between 2014 and 2017.

Like Sikkim, Nagaland is also predominantly hilly and blessed with favourable conditions, but the picture is a stark contrast as local farmers continue to fend for themselves. Though there is a thin silver lining with cooperative societies like Green Shelves Agri Produce and Marketing Cooperative Society trying to ameliorate the condition of local farmers, there is still a lot left desired on various fronts.

Talking to Nagaland Post after the brief inauguration of a farmers’ store by Green Shelves Agri Produce and Marketing Cooperative Society at Lhomithi village on Monday, society chairman Bumo Chang underlined the following challenges that needed to be addressed for local farmers to gain a better a foothold in the market.

Lack of transport: One aspect that has been a major deterrent is lack of proper transport facilities. Very little has been done to enable local organic farmers from far-flung areas to transport their agricultural produce. To address this, Bumo suggested that the government could consider transporting around 300 kg of their produce via NST buses every day. He added that his cooperative society was also contemplating to initiate transportation to help farmers.

Inadequate storage facilities: As organic produce generally last for about two to three days, lack of cold storage facilities resulted in tonnes of agricultural produce getting decomposed, thereby leading to huge losses for the farmers. Cold storage was imperative for storing in case produces were not sold out on a given day, he stressed.

Pathetic roads: Citing Peren as an example, Bumo said a distance of around 70 km should ideally take about one-and-a-half to two hours to cover, but bad roads had made transportation cumbersome, time-consuming and very expensive for farmers. He said the distance should not take five to seven hours like now.

No sufficient patronage from locals: Calling for more patronage to local farmers, Bumo quipped “We should not blame the government but ourselves.” He urged locals to support the farmers by “eating local, buying local and supporting local.” Earlier in the day, the farmers’ market housed at a building provided by MARCOFED was inaugurated by Nagaland State Co-operative Marketing & Consumers Federation Ltd (MARCOFED) chairman Dr M Chuba Ao. 

The store at Lhomithi Colony would be run by eight volunteers, who would approach local farmers and help them sell their produce at a competitive rate to be fixed by the farmers themselves. The farmers will be made to check price tags on the crates to ensure transparency. Also, all agricultural produces will be organic and procured from various parts of the State, as far as Tuensang and Kiphire.

In his speech as special guest, Dr. Chuba said the State government had 7,990 registered cooperative societies, out which only 926 societies were audited in 2017 and the remaining were either non-functional or on the verge of collapse.

Referring to the Nagaland State Cooperative Societies Act that mandates a minimum of 15 persons to constitute a cooperative society, he said around two lakh people were engaged in agricultural activities. Stating that many societies only await subsidies from the government, he urged those present not to wait for grants and subsidies, but to work hard and make contributions.

Dr. Chuba lamented that nobody had come forward to seek help, while encouraging those present to buy local and keep the economy generated circulating within the State.

Speaking on the occasion, Bumo said the main objective behind the farmers’ store was to help farmers sell their produce. He said the Green Shelves Agri Produce and Marketing Cooperative Society had tied up with farmers across the State and, with the help of MARCOFED, launched the store.

Pointing out that local farmers had sufficient produce but often could not market them, he explained that the store would give them space to sell their agricultural produce at their own price.  

The programme was chaired by Y Asen and the dedication prayer was delivered by Asola.

Nagaland Post had earlier reported on the dwindling number of stalls at Dimapur’s first organic market in Super Market area on September 24. When its reporter visited the market again on Monday, the number of stalls had further depleted with barely five to six women farmers selling their produce.

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