Governments around the world are looking to the Indian state of Sikkim to see if going organic is viable. So far, all signs are pointing to yes. The state banned the import of all pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers and GMOs in 2003, becoming the world’s first fully certified organic state in 2016.
At first farmers struggled with the transition, with steep declines in crop yields, but the government promised things would get better in the long run and to compensate for their losses in the short-term.
Within three years their harvest returned to what it used to be. And now the yield for most crops is actually higher than it was during the days of conventional farming, according to the Center for Research on Globalization. Fruit yields are up 5%, and the state’s cash crop cardamom has increased a whopping 23%. That’s in part thanks to rebounding pollinator populations. Since pesticides have disappeared, wildlife of all sorts is returning.
The region boasts 500 species of butterflies, 4,500 types of flowering plants, and rare wildlife like the red panda, Himalayan bear, snow leopards and yaks. Tourism is also on the rise, increasing 70% since the state went all organic. Tourists travel from far and wide to see the natural beauty and bounty of the ancient kingdom of Sikkim, which became an Indian state in 1975.
Anyone caught using pesticides in Sikkim could be fined $1400 or spend three years in prison.
Why does the government take organic agriculture so seriously? To “keep the good health of the soil, provide quality food to the people, provide chemical-free air and water to the people, and also to conserve the rich biodiversity of the state,” Sikkim’s agriculture secretary says in the video above. The densely populated country of India has had to learn the hard way what industrial agriculture does to the rivers, soil, air quality and general health of its people.
The government of Sikkim wants to try another way. The government of India plans to replicate the organic model in Sikkim in other parts of the country, according to the BBC report.