by Khagendramani Pradhan,*Journalist
The North-East is very rich in horticulture and floriculture. There is also a rich variety of medicinal plants which are grown here. With funds from the Central Government Horticulture Mission, State like Mizoram, Sikkim and Meghalaya have established Centres of Excellence in Horticulture which have started spreading the idea of fruit and vegetable cultivation among farmers successfully.
‘Converting weakness into strength and success’ is the motto through which the Technology Mission on Horticulture is vying to attain self sufficiency in seasonal and off season vegetables. By providing technical inputs, high yielding seeds and training to progressive farmers, the Department of Horticulture, Government of Sikkim has set the ball rolling for the farmers willing to undertake production of horticulture produce. This is a paradigm shift from the traditional method of farming both for personal economic sustenance and reducing dependency on other states.
Within a span of just one year, after the department took a serious approach, the result has been surplus production, beyond the scale generated by local market that it now has decided to cross the border for marketing.
Taking cognizance of limited land holding of the farmers, the Department of Agriculture, Horticulture and cash crop development, has been laying emphasis on per square metre production module and cluster approach giving an opportunity even to marginal farmers to reap the benefit under Technology Mission.
High yielding varieties of seeds are being provided to progressive farmers along with training on cultivation and care of the plants, besides regular follow up during cultivation period by the departmental personnel.
Since the local market is now being flooded with surplus produce, the Department has further taken the initiative to provide better marketing outreach, in particular for tomatoes, by way of guiding the farmers to constitute village level marketing committees. They are being trained to segregate and grade the produce as a part of value addition before it reaches the market. Officials in the department of agriculture, horticulture and cash crop development inform that in order to facilitate the farmers and growers to get better price support, cold storage facilities and integrated packaging unit is under process of construction on war footing.
Sikkim being the land of climatic vagaries has its own limitations, but these facts are being converted into advantages. Methods are being adopted that are most suitable in terms of making the farmers economically self sustained and self reliant. For example, rain shadow areas with comparatively lesser rainfall in South and West district have been selected for cultivation of hybrid tomatoes.
Nearly 631 beneficiaries and an area of 56.67 hectare have been selected in West district for tomato cultivation. With an average of 3.5 kg yield per plant with approximate 11,33,400 numbers of plants, the production has been estimated around approximately 3966.90 tonnes. With an average consumption demand of roughly 25 tonnes per day in the whole of Sikkim in contrast to the supply of 125 tonnes per day, the department is trying to explore the market beyond the state.
Similarly large scale production of radish, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and other vegetables of gourd family, eggplant, lady finger, spinach and cucumber along with kharif crops is being emphasized under the technology mission.
In order to improve livelihood opportunities and to bring prosperity to the North Eastern Region, including Sikkim, by doubling the horticulture production by 2010, Technology Mission (TM) for Integrated Development of Horticulture was launched by Government. The Mission is based on the “end-to-end approach” taking into account the entire gamut of horticulture development, with all the backward and forward linkages, in a holistic manner.
Together with the support of technology mission along with the State Government’s objective of going organic, success of the mission lies on the progressive farmers determination to attain self-sufficiency in horticultural produces. As long as the marketing support is provided, the era of change is destined.