Young Indian Farmers Turning Toward Organic Himalayan Crops
Gangtok: The northeast Himalayan state of Sikkim is trying its luck with organic farming, a pull for young, green-minded entrepreneurs who could help get the produce to market. Sikkim was declared 100 percent organic by the Indian government last year and also across the country, organic farming is growing rapidly.
According to the Europe-based Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, India has the world's highest number of organic producers at 650,000, or over a quarter of the global total.
Abhinandan Dhakal, 28, who lives in Sikkim's state capital Gangtok, has invested INR 3.4 million ($50,959) over four years. His time and energy in laying the foundations for an organic business growing and selling Peruvian ground apple, or yacon, a crisp, sweet-tasting tuber.
Dhakal said, "I have always been passionate about rural livelihoods." After finishing his studies in environmental economics he joined an organisation helping farmers in Tanzania. With the ambition of becoming an agricultural entrepreneur he returned to Sikkim two years later.
He decided to focus on yacon, to capitalise on Sikkim's organic status and stand out from the field. Yacon is a high-value product that is often eaten raw or consumed for its health benefits in the form of syrup and powder. Not only this, he has taught other farmers in east Sikkim how to cultivate and sell the tuber.
Renzino Lepcha, chief operating officer of Mevedir, a Sikkim-based company that offers farmers services such as export and processing. Renzino said the shift to organic agriculture could lure back young people who had left for urban centres to find work in recent years.