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Meghalaya puts 25 villages and 500 acres under ‘natural farming’

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Shillong, Sept 22: Nearly 500 farmers have been trained and are practicing ‘natural farming’ in 25 villages even as the State government is waiting for the Centre’s approval to scale up the area under the natural farming in the state.

This was informed by the Minister in-charge Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Ampareen Lyngdoh while replying to a short duration discussion tabled by UDP’s Nongpoh MLA Mayralborn Syiem on the last day of the Assembly’s autumn session on Friday.

Lyngdoh said the Meghalaya State Rural Livelihood Society (MSRLS) has initiated training on national farming across the state. They have entered into an agreement with experts from Andhra Pradesh and have established 18 farmer field schools and have also trained over 35 community resource persons (CRPs) who are further promoting and training farmers in their areas to practice natural farming.

She informed over 475 farmers have been trained, so far, in natural farming and are practising the same in 500 acres across 25 villages. Under the program, MSRLS has also set up 380 multi-cropped kitchen gardens.

Lyngdoh also said that the department has submitted the annual action plan for natural farming to the Government of India for approval.

“If approved, the department will implement the scheme as per the National Natural Farming Guidelines and scale up the area under natural farming in the state,” she added.

Stating that organic farming is the other alternative which is being promoted at a large scale, the minister said currently 32,000 ha is under organic farming and the government has plans to bring in an additional 50,000 ha by 2030.

“Much like natural farming, this farming system is also harmonious with soil and local biodiversity, increases productivity, is good for the health of the consumers and producers, and also fetches better remuneration for the farmers,” she said.

On the initiatives to promote organic and natural farming in the state, Lyngdoh said that the department is implementing the centrally sponsored Mission Organic for Value-chain development – North East Region (MOVCDNER), under which 28 FPOs have been set up and are practicing organic cultivation.

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The Cabinet endorsed the Meghalaya State Organic and Natural Farming policy on January 11, 2023. This comprehensive policy aims to foster organic farming as a viable income generating activity for farmers. It outlines crucial objectives, including capacity building, technology development and augmenting farmers’ income through training, value addition and market linkages.

She said the establishment of Meghalaya’s Natural and Organic Society for Livelihood and Innovation in Agriculture (MEGNOLIA) marks a pivotal step in our journey to being a leader in organic cultivation in the country.

MEGNOLIA will act as a dedicated entity, synergizing efforts across departments to propel organic and natural farming. This society is set to play a pivotal role in realising the objectives set forth in the state’s organic and natural farming policy.

The minister said while the state believes in the principles of organic and natural farming, it is also cognizant of the challenges faced by other North Eastern states that have taken drastic steps towards promoting organic farming.

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Asserting that a blanket ban on use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers puts farmers who are using chemical inputs at a disadvantage, Lyngdoh said, “Therefore the government’s approach is to first set in place systems that help farmers transition to organic and natural farming and simultaneously phase away the use of chemical farm inputs.”

“We are building the state’s capacity in production of bio-inputs so that our farmers are not reliant on costly inputs from outside the state and don’t compromise on yields. This will ensure lower cost of production and thus farmers will be able to compete with in-organically farmed produce from outside,” she added.

At present the state has the capacity to produce over 70MT from 3 bio-input plants and the same is being scaled up.

Through various extension services and state and central schemes, the farmers are being trained in good agricultural practices for natural and organic farming. The objective being to build the capacities of the farmers to transition and adopt these systems to agriculture without compromising on yield and quality of the produce.

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